Fringe Box



Review: Bugle Boy at the Yvonne Arnaud

Published on: 14 Sep, 2012
Updated on: 14 Sep, 2012

By The Stage Dragon

If you are a Glenn Miller fan then Bugle Boy is  the show for you. It is more of a tribute to Miller’s music than a play or a musical.

It covers Glenn Miller’s life from 1923, through the Great Depression until the beginning of World War II, to 1944 when he tragically disappeared over the English Channel, whilst flying to Paris. Miller, who is portrayed excellently by Christopher Fry, starts as a struggling musician, reveals himself to be an energetic performer, and then to a jovial, wartime success and distant husband.

The dialogue and delivery reminded me of a stereotypical American 40’s radio show, which is perhaps appropriate, given that the story begins with Miller’s wife, Helen (Lisa Lynch), appearing on a show to talk about her late husband. The couple’s troubles are not explored deeply, and instead the real power is in the music provided by the live 16-piece band. The band becomes a character in its own right, and is a treat to listen to.

Two performers who really stood out were Maddie Cole, whose voice matches the band perfectly and brings real spirit to the show, and Mark Jardine, who, amongst many brilliant characters, brings to life a re-enactment of the Chesterfield Radio Show (how accurately I’m not sure, but it’s hilarious). Several of the actors also sing, dance and play at least one brass instrument.

The set is rather simple, as the band have a large portion of the stage, but the costumes add to the tone, and there is also a projection that shows photographs from Miller’s personal life, and some archive footage and broadcasts which were very moving.

The dialogue is really more of a link between musical numbers, which is written to tell us where Miller is and what he’s doing at a certain time. His wife’s character is certainly kept very separated from most of the onstage action, emphasising the gap between her and her husband as he continues to tour and she remains at their family home in America. Perhaps monologues would have had more of an emotional impact, but this show is all about the music, after all.

Fans of Glenn Miller’s music will love it.

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