Sunday, July 14

An Officer and a Gentleman – Sheffield Lyceum

In the same genre as recent musical adaptations such as ‘Dirty Dancing’ and ‘The Bodyguard’, using an extensive and repurposed catalogue of music from the period, this jukebox of the beloved 80’s film classic – ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ is touring the UK in 2024. Fifteen years in the original making, written by Douglas Day Stewart and later adapted for stage alongside Sharleen Cooper Cohen, this new interpretation follows the 2018 version and is again directed by Nikolai Foster. The raw and raunchy story is set in Florida 1982. It tells the story of both autobiographical naval officer recruits and a group of female factory workers at a time when Ronald Reagan sowed the seeds of a new America. These characters collectively, regardless of class and gender, all have their demons and bindings to escape. This new production ‘attempts’ the gritty examination of these relatable characters but still remains a Cinderella story of ‘love conquers all’.

After seeing the 2018 version of this production I do question why any of the changes were made, from directorial to musical choices, this 2024 tour is a shadow of its former self. Michal Taylor’s original, technically demanding set design remains mainly intact and along with the lighting designs by Ben Cracknell, both are stars in their own rights in this show. The use of moveable steps forms the basis of the set but the transitions between locations; although swift; are too frequent and under emphasised in execution. The scenes jump from cadet base camp and factory with stops at the bar and bedroom and hinder the flow of the already disjointed first Act. It isn’t until the second Act that the story has the audience invested enough to disregard this turbulence in the flow. The choreography by Joanna Goodwin is a strength in this production and has a more modern edge, I enjoyed the brutal representation of the ‘training sequence’ with influences of martial arts and boxing to ‘Hearts on Fire’.  ‘Jody Call’ is the first time I have seen mathematical equations choreographed to music, interesting!

The first act ‘manages’ to simmer along, as extensive back stories are painstakingly relayed but do feel like they drag on just a little too long. But, it is not until the second act that this show delivers, thanks to some strong performances. Once Richard Gere’s role, Zack Mayo is now portrayed by Luke Baker, who adds a brooding interpretation to the scarred character and has some exceptional rock vocals. Baker captures the trauma within the role, but the writing does not allow this fine actor to fully develop this. Baker does however deal very effectively with the demands of this very physical role. His female counterpart Paula Pokrifki is played by the vocal powerhouse Georgia Lennon. Lennon’s interpretation misses the softer side of the character instead the portrayal is a combination of desperation, dignity and pride. Her rendition of ‘Alone’ is a show stealer, emotional, edgy but misplaced? She had just been ‘alone’ with Zack for the weekend! This leads me to my biggest disappoint with this production after the success of the 2018 tour. Gone are the best songs, ‘Don’t Cry out Loud’ was an exceptional vehicle for Paula and her mother Esther. But they seem to have been replaced by crowd pleasing 80’s renditions played outward at the audience, with much misplaced groin grabbing and having tenuous links to the plot. This results in an undeveloped jukebox musical without an opportunity to invest in the character… such a shame.

One pairing that do manage to steal the emotive content of the Second Act are Paul French as Sid Worley and Sinead Long as Lynette Pomeroy. Their hapless lover’s story really does rival that of the lead characters and their sincerity and soaring vocals are riveting. One of note is ‘Family Man’ where French is tragic and heartfelt, but it has to be said has lost the impact of the 2018 version. Unfortunately the usually solid hands of Nikolai Foster have missed the mark this time, but French and Baker do their upmost to give the show depth with limited opportunity.

However, it is the women that steal this show and the big emotive ballads are rightly left to them. The female ensemble of delicious harmonies in ‘It’s a Man’s, Man’s World’, allow the female cast to command the stage. With Melanie Masson as Paula’s mother Esther and Wendi Harriott as Aunt Bunny this number is hard hitting and relative.

Jamal Kane Crawford as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley commands the stage at every moment and Tim Rogers as Byron Mayo gives a powerful performance. The cast are better than the show… in a nut shell!

Yes, it is a little ‘cheesy’ as times but, the show knows it. Yes, the gender issues are definitely dated. And luckily the show doesn’t end with a ‘megamix’ and dancing in the aisles (but its close to!)! This show is nostalgically uplifting and, tell me, how can anyone resist the iconic scene of Richard Gere taking Debra Winger in his arms and carrying her off as he saves her from the doldrums of monotony and she saves him right back – all to the soaring ‘Up where we belong’? We are not to be denied, so as the final scene unfolds, there’s a cheer from the audience… and Baker does not disappoint, in his pristine white naval uniform he appears at the top of the factory stairs, bathed in light… (spoiler) As it’s a modern Cinderella story; there’s not a white charger in sight; but Lennon gets her prince, her Officer and a Gentleman, in a jet plane!

If you want a light hearted trip back to the 80’s and memories of yesteryear then… in the cheesiest way possible… fasten your seatbelt and jet off to the Sheffield Lyceum to meet An Officer and a Gentleman. He will be there until Saturday 22nd June 2024.

Reviewer: Tracey Bell

Reviewed: 19th June 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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