Despite a few dodgy moments, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN is an uplifting adaptation of the classic film
Considering the success of fellow 80s musicals DIRTY DANCING, FAME and FLASHDANCE, it seems surprising that it’s taken this long for AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN to make the transition from screen to the stage – more than thirty years in fact. But after a failed attempt in 2012, the popular romantic drama is finally making a comeback in a new stage musical directed by Nikolai Foster.
Based on the 1982 Oscar-winning film starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN tells the story of Zack Mayo, a young man training to become a US Navy Pilot. Turning up to boot camp with an attitude and a bit too much swagger, drill Sergeant Foley doesn’t make life easy for him and soon starts to whip him into shape. But when he falls for local girl Paula Pokrifki and tragedy befalls his friend and fellow candidate Sid, Zack realises the importance of love and friendship and finds the courage to be himself and win the heart of the woman he loves.
Like the original film, Foster’s stage production of AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN is as corny a hell but knows it. Set to a soundtrack of 80s megahits including GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN, LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER, HEART OF GLASS, MATERIAL GIRL and, of course, UP WHERE WE BELONG, the musical is raw, raunchy and full of ambition, but also a lot of fun.
Michael Taylor’s industrial style set design, aided by Douglas O’ Connell’s effective video design, helps to keep the action moving and despite a rather dodgy ‘fight’ sequence, Foster’s direction, alongside Kate Prince’s choreography, is relatively stylish and stable.
Taking on the lead role of Zack Mayo, Jonny Fines may not have the bad-boy twinkle of Richard Gere but his portrayal is engaging and his early rendition of Bon Jovi’s BLAZE OF GLORY with Darren Bennett as his good-for-nothing father Byron is particularly punchy.
Emma Williams brings sass and intelligence to Paula, giving this generally cheesy musical more depth with her powerhouse performance. Rachel Stanley is equally strong as her mother Esther and together the pair, alongside James Darch as trainee pilot Sid, help to provide the emotional core of the piece.
Yet for all its romance, the musical’s themes and gender politics feel dated. In 2018, the idea of a woman needing a man to ‘get on’ in life seems pretty old fashioned and just doesn’t seem to sit well within the context of 21st-century gender politics. As such, it’s hard to fully empathise with the characters and get swept away by the story.
The show’s musical numbers also don’t always succeed in moving the story along, seeming to serve more of a nostalgic purpose than as a narrative device The original song lyrics rarely suit the moments they’re intended to illustrate and some of them seem completely out of context (FAMILY MAN and YOU’RE THE VOICE for example) that they almost become comical.
That said, this is a musical that doesn’t take itself too seriously and the iconic closing scene – which is met by a rapturous applause from the audience – is sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.
Despite a few dodgy moments, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN is an uplifting adaptation of the classic film and while it may not be everybody’s idea of romance, fans seeking a bit of escapism are sure to be swept off their feet.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.