(3 / 5)
Verve Leicester’s version of the 1982 double Oscar winning film “An Officer and a Gentleman” is the second attempt to adapt this iconic movie into a musical. The first premiered in Australia in 2012 and bombed out of sight. So can we expect more from this improved 2018 version?
Still set in 1982, the story seems a little dated nowadays with gender issues much more under the spotlight. It is essentially a Cinderella storyline set in Pensacola, Florida, the location of the first Naval Aviation Station in the U.S. military set up in 1914. Since that time, countless number of naval aviators have been trained here. Rather like my home town of Brecon, which also has a, (although diminishing), military presence, there is an uneasy relationship between army personnel stationed there and the local inhabitants. Writer Douglas Day Stewart trained at this base for service during the Vietnam War so his story is based upon his own experiences.
Pensacola, or at least the part around the naval base is depicted as a depressed area where local girls dream of capturing the heart of a trainee officer, in order to raise them from their station.
Friends Paula and Lynette are two of these girls, although it turns out have different agendas. The story shows the courtship of the two officer candidates Zack and Sid, who have to endure a tough twelve-week course to determine whether they are officer material.
The musical version follows the basic story-line of the movie interspersed with a number of well known hits which generally have a slight connection with the action, that helps to keep the show within its historical context.
Early on in the show, a gang of girls working in a mundane job sing, “It’s a Man’s World” and the development of the plot tends to emphasise this.
Emma Williams as Paula is the pick of the singers on display.
Her strong and versatile voice is highlighted in her duet with her mother Esther, (Rachel Stanley), in “Don’t Cry Out Loud” – one of the highlights of the show. Other 80’s pop and rock standards, ” St. Elmo’s Fire”, “Livin’ on a Prayer”, “The Final Countdown”, “On the Wings of Love” and altogether a total of 22 songs are present to entertain you. Most are sung well enough, although sometimes a little stridently, and they are accompanied by recordings of a commissioned band.
Michael Taylor’s set design and Ben Cracknell’s Lighting are of a high standard. With a backdrop of video projections, it provides a filmic effect. The love scene against a backdrop of crashing waves rushing on to Pensacola Beach is memorable.
The performance was well received and I think this was influenced by the final scene, which director Nikolai Foster judges perfectly by not going too over the top. This is the scene where Richard Gere playing Zack was at odds with director Taylor Hackford for being too overly romantic in contrast to the social deprivation and class issues that preceded it. He wanted a different more realistic ending but lost out.
An Officer and Gentleman – The Musical isn’t a classic, but it did get audience members around me singing and moving in their seats to the motion of the music and was rapturously received.
If your bag is 80’s music, and a familiar story-line, then you will love this show.
It lasts around 2 and a half hours including a 20 minute interval.
There is strong language throughout and sexual references and scenes.
It runs until 30th June
Cardiff marks the first touring location for this production. For further details of tour dates