Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
John Kitching
11:48 AM 26th March 2024

An Officer And A Gentleman – The Musical Not Quite Up There

Not Quite Up There
The 1980s classic film An Officer and a Gentleman reimagined for the theatre and given the jukebox musical treatment. It should have everything you want from a musical: an engaging story, characters to invest in, and a soundtrack full of great songs. Unfortunately for me, it fails, as the drama and impact of the film are lost by the addition of the songs.

Based on the award-winning 1982 romantic film of the same name, starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger, it is not just a romantic classic but also, a truly great film. A timeless story of love, courage, and redemption that, at the time, made your heart soar and left you breathless.

The Cast
Photo:  Mark Brenner
The Cast Photo: Mark Brenner
Following the journey of Zack Mayo, a fearless young US Navy aviation officer candidate, as he tussles with the stresses of the gruelling training regime, while falling in love with the captivating Paula Pokrifki, whose fiery spirit matches his own. Their encounters ignited a spark that transcended boundaries and awakened a passionate love that defied the odds.

The endless soundtrack of 80s hits from the likes of Madonna, Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, and many more, means the drama of the storyline is diluted. So while the intention is that the power of music carries the audience through the highs and lows of their extraordinary love story, it dilutes the real impact of the story.

There are some good performances, and I really enjoyed Jamal Krane Crawford as Gunnery Sergeant Emile Foley, who perfectly captured the part with his constant badgering of the recruits to push them to their limits and let the cream rise to the top. The lead couple, Luke Baker as Zack and Georgia Lennon as Paula, both had excellent singing voices and were a believable couple finding love in a difficult situation. A special mention goes to Etisyai Philip, who stepped into the role of Lynette part way through the second half due to illness.

Jamal Kane Crawford as Foley 
Photo:  Mark Brenner
Jamal Kane Crawford as Foley Photo: Mark Brenner
The creative side of the production was a mixed bag; the writers Douglas Day Stewart & Sharleen Cooper Cohen failed by trying to condense the original in order to fit in the songs, some of which, for me, didn’t fully work. Some direction choices, by Nikolai Foster, are questionable, with a number of the dramatic pauses being overlong and lines almost thrown away. The set and costume design by Michael Taylor are excellent, brilliantly enhanced by Ben Cracknell’s lighting design. The choreography by Joanna Goodwin is simple but effective.

I was not impressed overall by the orchestrations, with the power and feel of some numbers being lost, while the quality of some of the vocals was questionable, to say the least, and at times quite grating.

Georgia Lennon as Paula and Luke Baker as Zack 
Photo:  Mark Brenner
Georgia Lennon as Paula and Luke Baker as Zack Photo: Mark Brenner
The reception the cast received on the opening night at the Alhambra was somewhat lukewarm. An attempt to get them clapping and joining in with Livin’ On A Prayer after the interval managed to get about half the audience joining in, albeit a little lukewarm in their enthusiasm. There was a small standing ovation at the bows, led by a small group of ladies with Strictly Come Dancing type score paddles. I’m not sure what the score was on the paddle of the lady running along the front of the stalls; no doubt it was a ten, but for me, it was worth no more than good old Len’s seven.

An Officer and a Gentleman – The Musical

Braford Alhambra until Sat 30th March