An Officer and a Gentleman

As part of its nationwide U.K. Tour, An Officer and a Gentleman has landed at Manchester’s Opera House Theatre. Originally a popular film released in 1982, the jukebox musical is based on screenplay writer Douglas Day Stewart’s first hand experiences of training as an Aviation Officer in the 1960s.

An Officer and a Gentleman is the story of Zack Mayo (Luke Baker) and his quest to become a navy jet pilot. Whilst training, he falls in love with polish girl Paula Polrifki (Georgia Lennon) and strikes up a friendship with fellow cadet Sid Worley (Paul French) who himself falls for Paula’s best friend Lynette Pomeroy (Julia Jones).

The story is thin on the ground throughout and doesn’t really get going until Act 2. The main characters lack depth as the story seems to plod along with very little intent or emotional connection with one another. The musical is very much of its time with stereotypical references throughout, with the time period also reflected in its set design (Michael Taylor).

Industrial cage structures surround the stage depicting the training centre while bursts of neon lighting (Ben Cracknell) are used to support settings such as a TJ’s pub and a motel. Lighting is a particular highlight of the production with several striking atmospheric moments being created. The impressive set design and lighting lends well to the production and ensures each scene flows into one another seamlessly, even if smoke effects are greatly overused.

The production has had its original score replaced with a whole host of hits from the 1980s. ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’, ‘Heart Of Glass’ and ‘Kids In America’ are just a few of the instantly recognisable popular songs to be included in the musical. This directional choice cheapens the production and adds very little to the characters or story. With Heart’s ‘Alone’ being the exception and was belted out beautifully by Georgina Lennon. It does however beg the question, did An Officer and a Gentleman need to be made into a jukebox musical or would it have been more palatable with its original score? With each and every iconic song forced in with very little context I’d say the latter.

Luke Baker as ‘rebel’ Mayo does a capable job with the material on hand. Through no fault of his own it feels as if he isn’t given the starring role show stopping number or scene that this role is in dire need of. His talent is criminally underused and doesn’t have a fully realised character arc. In contrast, French as sidekick Sid displays a performance with differing levels of intensity climaxing in an astounding performance of ‘Family Man’.

Jamal Kane Crawford gives a realistic portrayal as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley with the entirety of his lines shouted at the trainees which strips him of any likeable quality. Julia Jones stepped into the role of Lynette Pomeroy for this press performance and didn’t put a foot out of place . Likewise Georgia Lennon as Paula Polrifki put on a pleasant performance if lacking chemistry with the lead.

There’s no doubt about it, An Officer and a Gentleman will be a great night out for many due to the familiarity of the material and music. With a soundtrack that hinders the script, for me however this production fails to get off the ground and never really takes off.

This show was reviewed on the 30th April 2024 at the Opera House, Manchester where it runs until the 4th May 2024.  Tickets available here: An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical Tickets | Opera House Manchester in Manchester | ATG Tickets

Full tour details can be found here: An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical

Review written by Jordan Potts


Photo credit: Marc Brenner

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