Original Concept & Playwright: Den Stevenson
Director: David Wilder
Musical Director: Greg Arrowsmith
Reviewer: James Martin
The Public Reviews Rating:
Glen Miller strived throughout his life to find a ‘unique sound’ that would set him apart from his contemporaries and scribe his name into the history books as one of the twentieth century’s finest producers of music. Although his individual strength as a trombonist did not allow him to reach those heights, his determination fused with his ability to arrange, compose and band lead would eventually find him fame. Den Stevenson’s Bugle Boy gives us an intimate insight into Miller’s life from college to his mysterious disappearance during World War II in 1944.
Miller, played by Chris Fry took the central role, with Lisa Lynch starring alongside him as Helen Burger, his childhood sweetheart and wife. The story of their life was played out by the ever present sixteen piece big band and accompanied by the video sequences of Ken Rotchell, providing a backdrop of real black and white footage from the times. With swift scene changes and musical interludes being performed whilst time passed by on screen, the audience was kept interested and informed even if events were not being played out by the characters on stage at the time. Credit has to be given to the direction and production combination of David Wilder and Simon Napier-Bell for the flowing nature and smooth transitions obviously aided by Miller’s original score.
Although Fry and Lynch seemed to create the warmth of a genuine small-town love in their acting, their vocals were outclassed by the multi-talented Maddie Cole who gave a scintillating all-round performance. Not only did Cole take up various characters on stage with gusto and presence, but her striking voice and talent on the saxophone were also on show. Other performances from Jon Bonner, Paul Norcross-King and Ted McMillan in the more minor roles often added light hearted comic elements and Mark Jardine provided a compère like guidance through the play as radio host in past and present.
On the evening it has to be said that the band led by Greg Arrowsmith on piano really set the scene for the story of Miller’s strife, love, achievements and finally tragic disappearance. They would certainly get top marks for their performance alone which was greeted at curtains up with applause, clapped sporadically throughout and ended with ovation. Plaudits as ever have to be placed in the hands of Miller himself though who did finally manage to create that ‘unique sound’ that has us enjoying his music as much today as it did the allied troops seventy years ago.
The theatre was garnished with U.S flags on the night which added to the atmosphere as well as hiring swing dancers to perform in the foyer on arrival and down the aisles at the end. There was also a level of interaction throughout which helped the audience to empathise and be drawn to the characters on stage. This proved a thoroughly enjoyable evening for anyone in the audience appreciative of the talents of the Bugle Boy, or general theatre and music lovers alike.
Showing until September 15th 2012
Tags: Bugle Boy, Chris Fry, David Wilder, Den Stevenson, Greg Arrowsmith, Guildford, Jon Bonner, Ken Rotchell, Lisa Lynch, Maddie Cole, Mark Jardine, Paul Norcross-KIng, Ted McMillan, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre