Theatre Review: An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical - Edinburgh Playhouse (UK Tour) ✭✭✭✭

An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical

Edinburgh Playhouse (UK Tour)

Review by Anne Mackie

2nd July 2018: Based on the 1982 movie of the same name, the newly revamped musical adaption (fresh from the Leicester Curve) is a jukebox thrill that pulls out MOST of the stops…

As per it’s cinematic counterpart, the musical tells the story of Zack Mayo, a United States Navy Aviation Officer Candidate who is beginning his training at Aviation Officer Candidate School. The narrative documents Mayo’s journey in love, friendship, loss, conflict and determination; intertwined superbly with a score of popular musical numbers including Where We Belong, A Man’s World and Kids in America.

Interestingly, when the musical premiered in Australia, it encompassed a full score of new material by Ken Hirsch and Robin Lerner. Unfortunately, the production was an instant flop, leading to a complete ‘musical reimagination’ to incorporate the original film soundtrack. A notion that could well have sparked that age old ‘not another jukebox musical’ debate, however in this instance, the classic 80’s pop line up worked superbly in line with the narrative. 

The musical is aesthetically well designed, utilising digital projections, a large adjustable staircase and a series of versatile flats, thus allowing for seamless transitioning between scenes. In this vein, credit must go to Set and Costume Designer Michael Taylor and Video Designer Douglas O’Connell for truly capturing the grey, drab essence of the Naval Training Facility and (slightly more) colourful, animated Pensacola Paper Factory setting. Additionally, Ben Cracknell’s vivid and engaging lighting design supports the overall production superbly – denoting detailed elements of hope, grit and despair throughout.

What is lacking in this 2018 revival is the emotional sentiment and overall pace – particularly in Act 1. The first act is somewhat hard to get to going, and although it is packed with well known, often iconic numbers, there is a general lack of dynamism. Fast forward to Act 2, however, and it’s a whole different ballgame! This is where the musical truly comes into its own, presenting fireworks of passion, courage and grit - the engaging elements we were expecting in Act 1. Individual character portrayals are strong across the board with the stand out performance of the night going to mother and daughter duo, Esther and Paula (played beautifully by Rachel Stanley and Emma Williams) in their emotionally powerful rendition of Don’t Cry Out Loud. Stanley and Williams excel in the production, alongside Jonny Fines as Zack Mayo, Ian McIntosh as Sid Worley and Keisha Atwell as the first female Aviation Officer, Casey Seegar.

Credit must also go to Musical Supervisor, Sarah Travis - the mastermind behind the iconic arrangements and orchestrations, which were implemented with relevance and intelligence of the era and cinematic counterpart. The score was impressively delivered by the nine-piece band under the baton of Michael Riley and, although a little loud at times, there were notable popular highlights from the opening chords to the final bow.

Overall, An Officer and a Gentleman is a revived piece that is worth getting ‘on board’ with (pun intended), particularly if you are already a fan of the film adaption. It won’t necessarily set ‘Hearts on Fire’ but it will ‘Lift You Up Where You Belong’ providing an enriching and moving night of theatrical entertainment.

4 stars ✭✭✭✭

An Officer and a Gentleman is playing at Edinburgh Playhouse until 7 July