DramaMusicalReviewSouth West

An Officer and a Gentleman – Bristol Hippodrome

Based on the book by Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen

Director: Nikolai Foster

Reviewer: Charlotte Vowles

It seems surprising that it’s taken this long for the much-loved 80’s film to make its transition to the stage, but when it arrives, the cast spring to action with such impact and energy, it takes a moment for the eyes and ears to adjust.

The show follows the story of a group of United States Navy recruits as they strive to complete their gruelling aviation training, and the women they encounter along the way.

Featuring a strong ensemble cast and plenty of 80s mega-hits, this show is at times unashamedly camp, but always a lot of fun. Michael Taylor’s clever set design helps to keep the action moving as the audience is seamlessly transported from location to location, aided greatly by Douglas O’ Connell’s effective video design. 

Some memorable moments from the film such as the drill scenes, are understandably trickier to recreate on stage, and some of their drama is lost in translation. However, the use of video to create ocean waves and to illustrate the turmoil of Zack’s childhood in the Philippines is a real success.

Unlike most musicals, the show’s songs don’t always succeed in moving the story along, seeming to serve more of a nostalgic purpose, not that the audience seems to mind as they are soon tapping and clapping along.

Jonny Fines (Zack) and Darren Bennett (Byron), deliver an early rendition of Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory that’s particularly punchy, with Fines’ portrayal of Zack becoming increasingly engaging as the show goes on.

80s heartthrob Richard Gere is a hard act to follow, but Fines manages to make the role of Zack his own. A talented performer, he offers a somewhat cleaner-cut version than Gere’s, with an almost boyband type quality. This actually helps freshen the role and is sure to be particularly appealing to younger audience members who may be seeing the story for the first time.

Darren Bennett is a consistently joyful watch, adding much to the show’s more dramatic moments as Zack’s no-good, bullying father Byron. Jessica Daley (Lynette), also has a real presence, stealing many a scene as a good-time girl desperate to escape the drudgery of factory life and bag herself an officer.

In 2018, the idea of a woman needing a man to ‘get on’ in life is an increasingly outdated one that may not sit well with some, but generally, the audience’s thirst for old-fashioned romance is undeniable. Crucially, the now iconic closing scene is a tremendous success, being met with such applause and cheering, even the most hardened cynic would struggle not to smile.

An Officer and a Gentleman may not be everybody’s idea of romance, but fans of the film and those simply seeking a bit of escapism are sure to be swept off their feet.

Runs until 4 August 2018 | Image: Manuel Harlan

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Uplifting fun

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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