MusicalNorth WestReview

An Officer and a Gentleman – Opera House, Manchester

Book: Douglas Day Stewart & Sharleen Cooper Cohen

Musical Supervision: Sarah Travis

Director: Nikolai Foster

Reviewer: Frances Scott

The 1982 film is an Academy Award-winning feature that remains one of the highest grossing love stories of all time. In an all-new production that has been remixed into a stage musical, the Cinderella story continues its reign as a rom-com classic.

Taking from its Richard Gere original, a small budget and a sprinkling of nostalgia, the uplifting adaptation remains grounded around its original screenplay and novel by Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen. The story is based on Stewart’s torturous time during a twelve-week programme as a Naval Officer Candidate in 1965. Little has been updated. Here we follow Zack Mayo (Jonny Fines) as the working-class wannabe pilot who struggles to shake his cynical, swindling past. After losing his mother at a young age and being raised by an abusive father, Zack enlists as a fighter pilot in an attempt to shed his small-town mentality and travel the world.

Rising to the occasion as a straight reboot of its original, the show’s cheesy musical flare will remain a hit to followers’ of 80s anthems and old-fashioned love stories.  Drill Sergeant/father figure Foley (Ray Shell) and love interest Paula (Emma Williams) help build the heart and character of Zack while the shows sentimental storyline is amped up by a soundtrack that makes use of 23 songs that mirror the mood of the characters. From Madonna to Melissa Manchester, the melodrama stumbles into a concert atmosphere where its downtrodden characters real-life experiences are repressed in exchange for an overflow of musical treats.

Centred around the likeable stage presence of Williams and Fines, the couple’s compelling vocals and carefree performances bring charm to this easy-going drama. However, the show is limited in terms of storytelling, offering stilted staging and rationed side attractions to draw the audience’s attention to the stage. The movie-to-musical relies too heavily on its fanbase, swiftly cutting dialogue and losing the tension developed during genuine conversations.

The shows slimline décor uses a grey set and blue mood lighting with projections to transfer its personal story of redemption to the Opera House stage. There are only a few set pieces to differentiate the paper mill from the training base, keeping the focus on the talented performers and the show’s plethora of hits.

While there are enough elements to keep its audience entertained, there is little originality. Offering a modern twist to familiar scenes, ZooNation founder, Kate Prince injects interesting and prematurely kerbed choreography that featured scenes of cadets performing aerobic drill exercises and tutting routines through math training. Notably, performances by the female leads makes It’s a Man’s Man’s World and Up Where We Belong the more memorable moments of the production. But while its subject matter strays into pure fantasy, the choreography balanced around its factory workers and cadets remains needlessly practical. The patchwork nature of its promotional 80s tracks takes a turn into dated territory, but for audiences expecting a hopeful, romantic drama of yesteryear, you will not be disappointed.

Runs until 18 August 2018 | Image: Manuel Harlan

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. 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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