One of the tenets of the theatre is that the public suspend their disbelief when they sit down to watch a show.
But sometimes incredulity can be stretched to breaking point and not even the magic of the theatre can convince us of a performance.
Tommy Steele is a living legend and it’s a real privilege to see him back on stage.
But the entertainer’s appearance in The Glenn Miller Story, which opened tonight at Milton Keynes Theatre, is overshadowed by one enormous elephant in the auditorium. His age.
Tommy would be the first to admit that he was almost dumb-struck when producer and life-long friend Bill Kenwright suggested him for the part of the iconic bandleader, Glenn Miller.
Miller, an American, vanished in 1944 over the English Channel. He was just 40. Steele is English and only a few weeks off his 79th birthday.
The idea of having this veteran star playing a 40-year-old man sounds ridiculous – but he almost pulls it off.
He has bags of stage presence and is a consummate performer. Steele’s singing voice has never been better or stronger.
But, I’m sorry, having a 78-year-old man play love scenes with a girl 50 years his junior, while asking us to believe that they’re similar ages, is just plain wrong.
It is ludicrous, totally absurd and made me (and everyone I overheard talking about the show in the interval) feel very uncomfortable.
Directors Bill Kenwright and Bob Tomson should have either cast a younger Glenn for the flashback scenes or concentrate the story on Miller’s career without including his relationship with Helen Burger.
Helen is beautifully played by Sarah Soetaert whose rendition of Moonlight Serenade is a real highlight of Act I but no amount of imagination can make us believe her and Steele’s Miller are similar ages.
While the first half gives us a potted history of Miller’s career, the second act concentrates on the music which is superbly played by a 16-piece band.
All the hits are here including Sing Sing Sing, In The Mood, Little Brown Jug, Get Happy and Pennsylvania 6-5000.
Chattanooga Choo Choo sees Tommy’s Glenn dressed in striped jacket and boater which, I’m pretty sure, I saw him wear in the first musical I ever saw, Steele’s Half A Sixpence, back in 1963.
There are slick tap routines from a well-choreographed company of dancers and, in the midst of the chorus-line, is an amazing, young-at-heart pensioner with more energy and vigour of a man half his age.
It is an astonishing turn from one of the country’s most versatile singers who next year celebrates 60 years in the business.
The Glenn Miller Story runs at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday.
Legendary entertainer, Tommy Steele, asks audiences to suspend their disbelief when he plays the eponymous American bandleader in The Glenn Miller Story.