I’ll admit that I went into this performance completely blind, having never seen the 1982 film version starring Richard Gere. As an avid musical fan I was certainly not disappointed with Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen’s adaptation of An Officer and A Gentleman. Lively, uplifting and feel-good, it was everything you would want in a good musical, with a meaningful message to go along with it.
The story follows misfit Zack Mayo as he enters an intense 12-week training programme to become a Navy Pilot Officer. Along with his peers, he is determined to complete the training and earn the highest reward: to fly the jets. But first he must overcome a multitude of challenges – his dysfunctional relationship with an abusive father, growing pressure from Sergeant Foley and dealing with his feelings for local girl Paula Pokrifki. Set in 1980s Florida and based on true events, the musical whisked the audience away to a nostalgic and well-loved era.
“The vocal performances of all cast members were very impressive”
One of the standouts of this show for me was definitely the music. Filled with 80s pop classics like ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, ‘Kids In America’ and ‘Heart of Glass’, the songs were re-worked and accompanied by a live orchestra to fit in with the plot. The vocal performances of all cast members were very impressive and particular commendation should be given to Jonny Fines (playing Zack Mayo), Ian McIntosh (Sid Worley) and Emma Williams (Paula Pokrifki), who belted out ballads with ease.
The gripping and significant themes of the musical, including gender equality, class clashes, death, family and love, were enhanced through the means of music. Perhaps my favourite song of the whole show was ‘It’s A Man’s World’ in Act 1, where the local factory workers expressed their contempt for a man being promoted over the many long-serving female employees. Although the show is set more than thirty years ago, issues such as this still remain relevant for a modern audience.
“I found the use of screens very inventive and original”
The set also worked really well, with sliding backdrops and stairs to depict the military setting, allowing seamless scene changes. There were on-stage screens with recordings of characters, helping to portray scenes in water and forest settings. I found the use of screens very inventive and original, being different to any other musical I have seen on stage before. The only downside was that the stage managers were visible at certain times, however this did not detract from my overall enjoyment of performance.
The musical crammed in many scenes, characters and storylines. Whilst this provided the spectator with an insight into the wider community and working-class citizens in Florida, sometimes the scenes felt slightly rushed. Along with this, as a result of the ambitious plot, I felt that some of the characters were not fully developed. For example, I would have liked to have seen more of Casey Seegar, played by Keisha Atwell, another navy recruit hoping to be the first woman officer ever to fly the jets. Despite this, the cast did a brilliant job of embracing their characters, balancing acting, singing and some complicated choreography.
An Officer and A Gentleman The Musical takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster, from ecstatic to tragically sad. With a standing ovation at the end of the show, the audience left feeling cathartic, elated and humming to themselves.
Featured image courtesy of Theatre Royal.