In the swing for Bugle Boy
THOSE of us who fell in love with Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson's portrayal of The Glenn Miller Story in the 1954 film will get a far less glossy version of it from Bugle Boy.
The musical, based on Miller's life and career, comes to Swansea's Grand Theatre from Thursday, July 5, to Saturday, July 7, at 7.30pm.
But amid the tales of single-minded obsession, inter-band squabbles and occasional fisticuffs, that sublime music remains.
Glenn was, says Bugle Boy writer Den Stevenson, a complex man, and perhaps 1950's Hollywood wasn't ready to see its best-loved leading man play Miller in warts-and-all style.
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"He was very intense," says Den, "he had an obsession for that sound he wanted, and that obsession meant his family spent the best part of 20 years on their own while he was on the road.
"He could be aggressive and the version of his life we saw in The Glenn Miller Story, though we love it, was inaccurate in many ways."
Den was able to get the inside track on Glenn's life thanks to the time he spent working with Herb, Glenn's brother.
"I don't want to sound mad," he says, "but I am of Romany stock and I felt like I pulled Glenn up out of the ether. I heard his voice and his speech patterns in my head while I was writing .
"And I was able to write scenes as they actually did happen because I knew Herb."
Aside from the personal story and the tragedy of Glenn's mysterious death, his music will of course be the main attraction to Bugle Boy audiences.
As well as being sublimely beautiful, numbers like Moonlight Serenade, String Of Pearls, In The Mood and Tuxedo Junction rear up, in my mind, like great feats of engineering. Hearing the intricacies and the careful workings of a Miller tune is like standing in front of a Brunel bridge — awe-inspiring.
But despite hitting upon the swoony sound that pulled couples like magnets to the dance floor, Glenn's legacy didn't benefit his family much.
"Glenn's family were as poor as church mice," says Den.
"After spending years searching for that sound, it led to four years of great success and hits, which he did get paid for, but when he died the family didn't earn a penny from the tunes, because Glenn didn't write or arrange them.
"He was in a way a Richard Branson figure. He has great, ambitious ideas and he had the drive to make them work, but he wasn't the man with the technical abilities to carry them out. He took on the best people to do that."
And just as he was crowned king of the dance halls Glenn was reported missing over the English Channel, presumed dead.
Den's contact with the family leads him to believe Glenn was involved in secret war work and that the authorities were always aware of exactly how he died.
He believes too that Glenn's body was buried in the family plot some years after his death.
"But it is upsetting that Helen, his widow, wasn't told what happened to him at the time," says Den.
"For years she was expecting him to walk through the door.
"Consequently she was never able to grieve properly. That must have been terrible."