Review: An Officer and a Gentleman at the Opera House

Over recent years there’s been a run of cult movies being turned into musicals; we’ve had Dirty Dancing, Legally Blonde, The Wedding Singer and now it’s the turn of another 80’s classic, An Officer and a Gentleman.

The film which shot Richard Gere to fame is on a UK tour, this time set to music, featuring some of the best hits of the era which gave us perms, fingerless gloves and shoulder pads.

Filling Gere’s big shoes is actor Jonny Fines as reckless and rebellious Zack Mayo, determined not to end up like his dead-beat drunken dad and instead work his way up the ranks in the Navy by enrolling in the Aviation Officer Candidate School.

The show follows his journey through an intense boot-camp and his run-ins with drill officer Foley (Ray Shell) who takes no prisoners when it comes to putting the candidates through their paces.

Fines certainly ticks all the boxes when it comes to muscles and good looks and there’s more than a few hearts beating in the audience in his shirtless scenes. He broods through the first half like James Dean but it’s when he shows his emotions towards the end that we see he’s more than just a pretty face.

Playing his sidekick Sid Worley was understudy James Darch who stepped into the role on press night taking over from absent Ian McIntosh. Darch did a great job as Mayo’s mate who is plagued with the pressure to live up to his families’ naval reputation – his uncanny resemblance to Richard Gere though made it confusing at times as you were expecting him to be Mayo rather than Fines.

On the female front the ladies definitely lead the way, despite this being a heavily male cast. Emma Williams as Mayo’s love interest Paula and Jessica Daley as Lynette are really believable as best friends and factory workers who yearn to escape their hometown for a better life.

Olivier nominated actress Williams steals the show on a number of occasions and gives a show-stopping performance of Heart’s power ballad Alone which leaves the audience with goose-bumps.

Die-hard fans of the film will be happy to hear that original screenplay writer Daniel Day Stewart has put his stamp on this musical adapting it for the stage, which means it stays very true to what was seen on the silver screen. Where the show falls down though is in the music, not the dialogue.

There’s no denying there’s a plethora of great 80s hits to entertain, from Madonna’s Material Girl to John Parr’s St Elmo’s Fire but the inclusion of them, rather than creating an original soundtrack makes this little more than a cheesy jukebox musical. It’s fine for those who are just looking for a feel-good toe tapping night of nostalgia but for the theatre-goers who expect to see something fresh then I’m afraid you would be disappointed.

There were a few issues on press night which will hopefully be ironed out by the rest of the run at the Opera House. The backcloth, which has different locations projected on it such as the sea and the factory, seemed to not be tied down securely which left it billowing throughout. It made it quite distracting at times and produced a few sniggers from the audience as the factory appeared to be comically swaying in and out.

Any prior hiccups are forgiven though after viewing the final scene (which I imagine most of the audience members bought their tickets for). It was as if an electric current surged through the audience in the lead up to it with people shuffling forward in their seats and a collective intake of breath.

Yes, it’s the iconic moment where Mayo struts through the factory in his white naval uniform and sweeps Paula off her feet. Cue Up Where We Belong played out to rapturous applause and cheers. It’s definitely a moment worth waiting for but be warned – blink and it’s over, along with the famous line ‘Way to Go Paula’ which is muffled by the music.

In my opinion An Officer and a Gentleman has a long way to go before it can be taken seriously a musical but if you are simply looking for a fun night out, where you can indulge in the past then you can’t go wrong with taking a trip to see it whilst it’s in town!

Runs at the Opera House until 18th August

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