WHEN one of your leading men doesn't turn up on the opening night, you know your brand new stage musical hasn't got off to the best of starts.

For American Patrol, though, the non-appearance of DJ Mike Read was just the beginning of a catalogue of disasters which combined to make this undoubtedly the worst show I've seen at The Mayflower.

Bar the orchestra, who fought against the prevailing air of calamity to provide us with some enjoyable renditions of Glenn Miller's wartime classics, this musical biography of the last few months of the big band leader's life couldn't muster a single redeeming quality.

To start with, the script was dull and amateurish, its device of having a former colleague of Miller's, Ray McKinley (Michael Knowles), discussing Miller's life during a 1990s radio interview (for which a tiny radio set was trundled on and off stage with all the smoothness and ceremony of a hostess trolley) was needlessly distracting.

Why not let the facts of Miller's life speak for themselves?

In addition, American accents came and went, cues were spectacularly missed, and John Altman turned the charismatic Miller into a droning bore.

The fact the star of the show spent most of his time with his back to the audience as he unconvincingly "conducted" the band through the likes of Tuxedo Junction and In the Mood was also rather odd.

Moments of drama and pathos were poorly handled. Miller's premonitions of his imminent death in a plane crash were comically over-egged, while his breaking of a tragic piece of news to a member of the orchestra was delivered with all the emotion and sincerity of a gas reading.

Maybe the show will improve as it goes on. Judging by the evidence so far, it's going down as surely as Miller's Paris-bound plane.

Runs until Saturday.