Bugle Boy: The Life Story of Glenn Miller at the Leicester Square
It’s no secret that there has been a major surge in writing of the bio-musical in the last five years. Not quite the fictional jukebox musical, but the telling of the true story of a given figure associated with – or in this case the composer/arranger of – the musical soundtrack. Bugle Boy: The Life Story of Glenn Miller hits the West End with some of the most well-known wartime tunes in history as its selling point.
Spanning from Millers’ high school days to his tragic early death we learn of his struggle to find his unique sound with pace. The historical context is set via projections of film and photographs of The Great Depression, New York in the 30s and scenes from World War II. Not the most imaginative method, the projections lacked original style and felt like fillers of a sparse plot. The perhaps less eventful but long touring period in the musicians’ lives are played out with at times boring scenes of Miller simply conducting his band. Having said this, however, the music throughout becomes the focus and is, in fact, wonderful. The musical arrangements by Greg Arrowsmith from the originals are stunning and the executions of the well-known melodies are impressive.
The piece as a whole is less gripping than the score, with the acting definitely taking third rank to the singing and the light dancing. All cast members gave very strong vocal performances, with particularly memorable tonality and power from Yildiz Hussein (Helen Miller) and Adam Anderson (Tex Beneke/Ray Noble/David Nevin/Vernon). The energetic members of the company provide solid support for the principles and are particularly prominent in the second act, which was incidentally more engaging than the first.
This undoubtedly brings about a hit of nostalgia for wartime patriotism and points to the power music had, particularly at that time, to unify and lift spirits. The potential success of this show is scuppered by the fact that it is bound to fact. The life of Glenn Miller although interesting doesn’t quite have the structure of a winning plot and the show as a whole suffers for it. However, the performance and quality of the music is right up there. A lover of Glenn Miller’s music will be sure to enjoy this, but for others not so keen, it is probably safe to miss.
Bugle Boy: The Life Story of Glenn Miller is at the Leicester Square Theatre until 20th July 2014, for further information or to book visit here.