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Teary Females As The ‘Officer’ Returns!
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
There’s a female fantasy fight going on in British musical theatre as Dirty Dancing and now An Officer and a Gentleman, square up for the ultimate bare knuckle showdown!

First Richard Gere donned his lieutenant uniform back in 1982 and sent the world’s females into a swooning spin, before Patrick Swayze responded five years later with his iconic ‘water lift’ in Dirty Dancing. The scene was set.

They were both smash hits and the lure of ringing cash registers (do they still have those?) was too much as producers fought to get, quite literally, shows on the road. Now, they’re both doing the rounds as stage musicals.

Last night Jonny Fines stepped forward in a bid to fill the rather large shoes of Mr Gere, who first shaped the role of would-be officer and rebel jet fighter pilot, Zak Mayo, and, for most women in the auditorium, I reckon he just about pulled it off. As the tear soaked lady behind me got up to leave she was heard to say: “Ooh, ‘a loved it. I were crying at the end.” She paused, “Now I ‘av to go ‘ome to mi ‘usband!”

And that just about sums up this unashamedly romantic musical that has more sugar than a Krispy Kreme donut, but is barely sweet enough for Brexit weary folk keen for a fantasy sugar rush and a temporary mask to cover the greyness of life.

For this chap – and I can hear the women of Bradford screaming me to a damned silence – Mr Fines didn’t quite achieve Gere’s original characterisation and, apart from sounding like the lead singer from Blue with lots of vibrato warbling – an annoying tendency exacerbated, no doubt, by over exposure to the X-Factor – Fines lacked that Je ne sais quoi.

For the uninitiated, ‘Officer’ – the original film has become one of the 10 highest grossing love stories in cinema history – charts the industrial lives of working class folk in Pensacola, Florida, in the early 1980’s.

Factory and military training academy sit cheek by jowl and, in between dreary production and mindless military training, the two sides come together, love blossoms – or dies – and the rest as they say is….well sort of obvious. The happy ending is allowed as the good looking guy in the suit walks into the life of factory worker Paula Pokrifki (Emma Williams) and carries off the lucky lady to his castle in the sky, in this instance, she becomes the wife of a would-be fighter pilot. A rare happy ending.

The storyline is strung together with lots of iconic musical hits from the 80’s with Up Where We Belong proving itself, once again, to be the ultimate torch song,

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The dark, brooding, scaffolding-clad set was very much Flashdance in another guise and, personally, I was not convinced by some of the performances. Louis Gossett Jnr as Gunnery Sgt Emil Foley in the original film was a hard act to follow and Ray Shell in the same role on stage, didn’t so much follow him as limped behind, lacking the crisp, very precise characterisation that won Gossett an Academy accolade.

Shell needed more light and shade. He was all shout all of the time and it wasn’t needed; sometimes less is more.

There were audience complaints that some of the lyrics and dialogue were muffled but, overall, I would be a liar if I said the majority complained. They didn’t because much of the music was so iconic that many of the songs were known already and people love to see what they already know, it’s why Punch & Judy has been popular for more than 100 years!

This commentator’s comments aside, An Officer and a Gentleman will run and run because it is syrup topped off with sugar, a double layer of sweetness and four varieties of candy thrown in.

It is obvious, you know what’s coming and, if you’re a woman – sorry ladies – you will love it again and again and again.

Me? Apparently the Liverpool Echo said there were ‘heart-stopping scenes’. Maybe it was a slip of the pen and they were referring to heart burn scenes, the probable result of eating my Wetherspoon chips too quickly and high-tailing it across to the Alhambra in the early evening rain!

An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical
Bradford Alhambra

Until Saturday. Fancy dress NOT compulsory.

Teary Females As The ‘Officer’ Returns!, 4th September 2018, 8:25 AM