MusicalNorth WestReview

An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical – Empire Theatre, Liverpool

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

Director: Nikolai Foster

Reviewer: Daryl Holden

Make no mistake, An Officer and a Gentleman is one of the corniest jukebox musicals that you’ll probably ever experience. With some questionable dialogue and see through storyline, save for a few moments here and there, it’s not by any means a story you haven’t seen a million times before, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable from start to finish. Even more than this, the show knows exactly what it is.

The story follows bad boy and Naval Officer trainee Zack Mayo (Jonny Fines) and down on her luck factory worker Paula Pokrifki (Emma Williams) as they take part in a will they won’t they relationship, both desperately trying to get away from the monotone dullness of their day-to-day lives. It’s not the worst story out there, but it’s not going to be the thing to keep you in your seat. Luckily, this show is aware of that.

The show is set to some of the most standout chart songs of the 80’s, with hits such as Livin’ On A Prayer, Girls Just Want To Have Fun and I Was Made For Loving You, all accompanied by the theme of the original movie, Up Where We Belong. Each song is faithfully recreated and extremely well performed by the entire cast and you’ll always be singing along, tapping your foot, or readying yourself to do both when you hear the opening chords play. However, herein lies the problem with the jukebox musical. Chart songs and musical theatre songs are not one in the same, and to believe they have the same effect is an oversight. While the cast deliver the songs to an outstanding degree – epitomised by Emma Williams’s standout rendition of Alone – you can’t help but notice that the writers have tried to change the subtext and connotations of the songs themselves to get them to fit the story. Most of the time, this results in the songs themselves feeling like a musical interlude rather than the inner monologue of a particular character.

It seems that again, Nikolai Foster, the director of the show has realised this, and makes amends for this shortcoming, by doubling down on other aspects of the show. Foster’s direction in this show is sublime. Every moment, every look and every movement has been thought about, resulting in some very enjoyable dance and movement sequences. The only time his direction can be called into question in the entire run is a questionable and cringe-worthy fight scene in the later parts of the shows second act. His tenacity to create this world is evident on stage though Foster is not alone in making this world come alive.

The work of the lighting, sound, set and projection technicians must also be credited. Sound and lighting were consistent throughout the show and the lighting especially helped to add some much-needed atmosphere to some of the darker points of the script. The set is only matched in scale and ambition by the projections cast upon it. The set is exacting, pinpoint accurate and highly versatile, forming a range of varying spaces with ease, while the projections are made up of different parts, offering more visuals to a scene or giving us a look into a characters mind or what is happening off stage.

An Officer and a Gentleman is incredibly corny, but it knows it and plays to it most of the time. Filled with questionable song choices, it’s balanced by spectacular acting, singing and technical expertise. When everything comes together so effortlessly in a mirror to the iconic ending of the original film, even if you don’t think it’s wholly deserved, you can’t help but enjoy it all  and want to go round again.

Runs until 26 May 2018 | Image: Manuel Harlan

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

Beautifully Corny

The Reviews Hub - North West

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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