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Review: An Officer and a Gentleman (UK tour / New Wimbledon Theatre)

Review by Rosie Holmes

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

It seems at the moment there is a growing trend of hit movies being adapted for stage, especially as musicals. You only need to look across the current theatrical landscape currently of the UK to see that musical versions of Mean Girls and The Devil Wears Prada are due to open shortly, and Back to The Future, Mrs Doubtfire and Cruel Intentions, amongst others, are currently playing to audiences. The latest film to get the musical treatment is the 1982 Richard Gere film, An Officer and a Gentlemen. Boasting a soundtrack with music from the likes of Madonna, Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie and more, I wondered how this would fare compared to other recent musical adaptations.

 

An Officer and a Gentleman follows the story of Zack Mayo, having lived a hard life he enlists in a gruelling twelve-week training programme to become a naval officer. Alongside him is son of an admiral Sid Worley, emulating his adored older brother who died in service. The two of them meet local girls Lynette and Paula, who are both desperate to get out of the small factory town they live in and have very different ideas about how to do so. Elsewhere on the training programme is Casey Seegar, one of the only women on the programme, and desperate to fly jets.



I’ll cut straight to the point here, unfortunately the show presents some very outdated gender politics, and the story has not aged well. For the most part the only agency given to the girls is their ability to ensnare an officer with pregnancy to get them away from their small town and factory job. Even Seegar, a woman trying to make her own way in life, only completes a tricky assault course because she is ‘carried’ by her male colleagues.

 

In a musical, songs should push forward the narrative or evoke emotion. Here, they often do neither. The songs used are crowd pleasers and will appeal to many theatregoers, but are often unusual choices and actually prevent the emotional depth of the characters and their relationships to grow. For example, after a very tragic scene we are thrown into a marching rendition of ‘The Final Countdown’ which was jarring and frankly a little odd. It’s a shame because there are some characters that I think could be developed further and given very emotive narrative arcs, but too often we are interrupted with a big 80’s pop song which serves neither the plot nor the emotion.



That’s not to say it was all bad, the cast are extremely talented and, much like the fictional recruits, are put through their paces in some very physical performances. Luke Baker as Zack Mayo gives some impressive vocal performances, while also managing a lot of press-ups without seeming to break a sweat. Where possible he does provide some emotion and depth to his character, and there is clear chemistry between him and love interest Paula, played by Georgia Lennon, despite the romance itself being simplified and underwritten in the show. Lennon herself provides a wonderful performance as the determined Paula Pokfrifiki with some powerful vocals. Paul French as Sid Worley is excellent as is his love interest Sinead Long as Lynnette, its just a shame their relationship was given such little time to develop as beneath the shouty songs was some depth and complexity that could have made for a much more emotive and interesting watch. Other standout performances came from Oliver Foster Browne as Seegar and Jamal Kane Crawford as Sergeant Foley.

 

Where the piece does succeed is in its visuals. Though not as many ensemble dance numbers as I expected there to be, the numbers that are present are wonderfully executed. There are also some well choreographed fight scenes. Similarly strong, the large iron set is cleverly used to transform the stage from army base to local bar TJ’s with neon signs as the backdrop.



For the most, An Officer and a Gentleman is a fun musical, with an amazingly talented cast and crowd-pleasing songs that had the audience on their feet during the bows. If a cheesy romcom is what you are after, then this is a fun night out at the theatre. Unfortunately, the music and the story just didn’t gel for me, and some updates to the gender politics in the show would undoubtedly bring the piece from the 1980s into the 21st century.

 

An Officer and a Gentleman is playing at New Wimbledon Theatre until 6th April 2024 as part of its UK tour, tickets and more information here - An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical


Photos by Marc Brenner

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