My mothers favourite person is Tommy Steele. The Elvis of England as she refers to him. So when he was starring in a new show, and it was the Hippodrome in Bristol, I knew what was coming. We have already seen Tommy Steele star in “Scrooge” at the London Palladium and she thought that was the last time he would be performing.
My mother was so excited she squealed all week prior the the performance.
She was just as ecstatic for this performance as the last. Me on the other hand, intrigued and curious to how this 79 year old man was surviving doing several shows a day, touring round the country for 11 consecutive weeks. Well, if I can perform like he can when I’m 80 then I will feel I have not done too badly at all.
As I found my seat amongst the audience and bought my overpriced drink, the smell of boiled sweets took over and I smiled at the elderly couple next to me. The curtain came up and the audience erupted as Tommy Steele shuffled on the stage. Shuffled being the appropriate word. For those who do not know of Tommy Steele, think Bruce Forsyth with less tv presenting and more singing.
Steele did not once drop a smile for the entire 3 or so hours. He was overflowing with charisma and charm as he sang along to some tunes, kept up with some jazz squares and some tap dancing and even had a few toots on Glenn Miller’s signature instrument, the trombone. He can definitely still belt out a song or two. That I have no doubt in saying.
For me the highlight of the show, bar Steele himself, was the songs. Glenn Miller was a fantastic composer and musician. If you think you haven’t heard of him, you probably have heard his music. So many classic songs that have been appreciated over the years. Chattanooga Choo Choo, In the Mood, Moonlight Serenade, honestly, google them, you may be surprised.
Glenn Miller’s wife, Helen Burger, was played by actress Sarah Soetaert who fitted the role perfectly. However I was a little concerned when first witnessed Tommy and Sarah playing adorable couple Glenn and Helen. There was something a little odd about the age gap between Tommy and Sarah. Tommy for a large part of the performance was playing a young man, therefore his love interest in the show was also young actress. It was handled well but just was a little off putting to start with.
There was, to my great happiness, a good serving of tap dancing, involving both Tommy Steele and the chorus of 6 people. The cast was small in general but mostly strong. There was also an appearance from a 16 piece orchestra which was a breath of fresh air which revives the audience ready for the second half. They were of a fantastic standard, keeping the music at the heart of the story, where is should be. I was originally concerned that the music would take a back seat to singing, dancing and narrative but this wasn’t a problem.
There are lots of mixed opinions about Tommy Steele being in the show. In my eyes I think it would of stood alone better with a younger actor, however it wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular. The Glenn Miller side was fantastic but seeing Steele thrive from the atmosphere with his endless energy and desire to entertain was a delight in itself.