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An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical doesn’t dumb down on powerful issues of poverty, entitlement, patriotism, suicide and entrapment





An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical at New Theatre Oxford

From May 27-31

Review by JON LEWIS

Georgia Lennon as Paula Pokrifki & Luke Baker as Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman, credit Marc Brenner
Georgia Lennon as Paula Pokrifki & Luke Baker as Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman, credit Marc Brenner

Taylor Hackford’s 1982 blockbuster movie An Officer and A Gentleman has been reconfigured by the film’s screenwriter Douglas Day Stewart, and producer-author Sharleen Cooper Cohen into a jukebox musical. The book is framed around catchy rock and pop anthems of the eighties that takes in Madonna’s Material Girl, Blondie’s Heart of Glass and Europe’s The Final Countdown. The lyrics, however, become meaningful in a way the lyricists did not intend as they are selected, very well, to drive the narrative. Nikolai Foster’s Leicester Curve production wisely keeps the stage uncluttered so that Joanna Goodwin’s choreography is allowed to shine.

Those in the audience unfamiliar with the film can be swept away by the story of a group of trainees aiming to be ensigns in the navy. The males are the object of attention for factory girls who plan strategically to date and wed an officer to escape the poverty and boredom of their daily lives. The group’s leading female candidate, Seegar (Olivia Foster-Browne) overcomes male prejudice and physical tests designed for masculine bodies. Those that are familiar can expect the youthful cast to repeat the film’s iconic lines like ‘I wanna fly jets’ and expect the fruity insults from the trainer, gunnery sergeant Foley (Jamal Kane Crawford, stealing every scene).

The cast of An Officer and a Gentleman, credit Marc Brenner
The cast of An Officer and a Gentleman, credit Marc Brenner

There are two central characters. One, poor boy Zack (Luke Baker), is brought up by his disreputable father Byron (Tim Rogers) in the Philippines after his mother died. He learns to be a hustler and corner-cutter. The other is an admiral’s son Sid (Paul French) trying to emulate his older brother who died in combat. The trainees become entangled with factory girls Paula (Georgia Lennon), a wannabe nurse working with her mother Esther (Melanie Masson) who has yet again been rejected for the role of supervisor, and the cynical Lynette (Sinead Long), self-confessed trailer trash, who will do anything to ensnare her officer.

Paul French as Sid Worley & Luke Baker as Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman, credit Marc Brenner
Paul French as Sid Worley & Luke Baker as Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman, credit Marc Brenner

The musical is not saccharine as it includes powerful issues of poverty, entitlement, patriotism, suicide and entrapment - all relevant whatever the decade of the story. The musical does not dumb down these issues and the various hit songs enhance the emotional pull of the narrative.

Recommended.



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