Legendary performer Tommy Steele returns to Sunderland Empire 60 years after debut performance

Legendary entertainer Tommy Steele has come full circle as he marks 60 years since he first performed on the Sunderland Empire stage.

Wednesday, 2nd November 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 3:50 pm
Tommy Steele with his 60th anniversary stage debut cake at Sunderland Empire with theatre general manager Ben Phillips.

Tommy was just 19 when he made his first stage appearance at on 5 November 1956, heading the bill in a variety show at the city theatre.

He has returned numerous times over the years and is currently starring in The Glenn Miller Story, a musical about the band leader who vanished over the English Channel as he flew to Paris to entertain the troops during the Second World War.

Tommy Steele with his 60th anniversary stage debut cake at Sunderland Empire with theatre general manager Ben Phillips.

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Tommy was presented with a special cake to mark the anniversary of his bow by Empire general manager Ben Phillips.

“Coming here to Sunderland always brings back memories,” Tommy told the Echo.

“I was just looking down at the stage and it makes you think that all those years ago I was a 19-year-old walking out with my guitar.

“If someone had whispered in my ear that I was going to be on the same stage 60 years later I’d think it was unbelievable.”

Tommy Steele with his 60th anniversary stage debut cake at Sunderland Empire with theatre general manager Ben Phillips.

He also passed on his appreciation to the Wearside crowds who have always made him feel welcome over the decades.

“It’s wonderful every time I come here,” he said.

“I’m very happy to get the kind of reception that I do.”

Tommy’s lengthy career has included over 20 hit singles, 12 hit movies and countless award-winning stage musicals such as Half a Sixpence, Hans Andersen and Singin’ in the Rain.

Tommy Steele with his 60th anniversary stage debut cake at Sunderland Empire with theatre general manager Ben Phillips.

In recent years, he has starred as Christmas miser Scrooge in impresario Bill Kenwright’s production of the festive musical, which enjoyed two successful runs at the world-famous London Palladium.

Despite his advancing years Tommy, who turns 80 later this year, is as sprightly and enthusiastic as ever about taking to the stage in his role as the American big band musician.

“The music, singing and the dancing in this production is just fantastic and the cast is great too,” he said.

“It’s all-singing, all-dancing show and plus it has that wonderful sound.”

Tommy Steele in 1957.

The Glenn Miller Story runs at Sunderland Empire until Saturday.

Tommy Steele.
Tommy Steele.
Tommy Steele with his 60th anniversary stage debut cake at Sunderland Empire with theatre general manager Ben Phillips.
Tommy Steele with his 60th anniversary stage debut cake at Sunderland Empire with theatre general manager Ben Phillips.
Tommy Steele with his 60th anniversary stage debut cake at Sunderland Empire with theatre general manager Ben Phillips.
Tommy Steele in 1957.
Tommy Steele.
Tommy Steele.