An Officer and a Gentleman: The Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

Book: Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen

Director: Nikolai Foster

Another day, yet another iconic 80s movie is adapted as a stage musical. This version of An Officer and a Gentleman by Douglas Day Stewart (with Sharleen Cooper Cohen) of his own original 1982 screenplay, is a cheesy, overblown, flawed production packed with a plethora of bombastic hits of the decade.

For those unaware of the original source material, An Officer and a Gentleman follows the story of a group of new recruits at the United States Naval Aviation Training Facility in Pensacola, Florida and the band of local factory women who strive to hook one of these would-be officers in an attempt to escape the drudgery of their dead-end jobs.

Front and centre of the story is the relationship between troubled Navy brat Zack (Luke Baker) (woman-chasing, drunkard of a dad, dead mom) and (full of spirit)“townie” Paula (Georgia Lennon). “Oh joy!” I hear you cry, another story where a man has to ‘rescue’ a woman in order to give her a better life (I can hear hackles rise from here). I am not sure that in 2024 you can get away with this, it isn’t even forgivable due to its early 80s setting. The utter corniness and pompousness with which the plot is delivered does it no favours either.

It is troubling though, that producers seem to be mining source material and subject matter from an era that is not exactly an example of best treatment of women or minorities and in light of recent cultural events is this really an era we want to revisit? Producers seem to think if we mark it as representative of another time and place then we can get away with anything – you cannot. Writer Stewart has however managed to erase much of the unpalatable Reagan-era politics, so we can breathe a small sigh of relief about that.

The action takes place on a dull but functional set by Michael Taylor. The drab colours evocative of the workers situation and the US Naval Base but it’s all rather uninspiring to the eye. A moveable charcoal grey steel staircase being the visual centre for the most part.

The whole score could be a Now That’s What I Call The 80s album and there are some stomping anthems, however, most, if not all, receive a massacring at the hands of this musical theatre cast, whose voices are almost wholly unsuited to these songs, save for leading man Zack (Luke Baker), Aunt Bunny (Wendi Harriott) and Paula’s mom (Melanie Masson) who are all fine-voiced and the female ensemble when singing as one. There are quite frankly better voices in the ensemble than the leads or featured performers.

Universal classics such as: Livin’ On a Prayer, Alone, Material Girl and I Want to Know What Love Is are all mercilessly butchered. Added to the mix are some baffling arrangements that are less than easy on the ear: a murdering of Blondie’s Heart of Glass, an unfathomable Kids in America and a caterwauling Girls Just Want to Have Fun to name a few. The whole production suffers from the fact that while the songs are familiar mega-hits, they bear little emotional or thematic link to the action taking place around them. You will be glad to know that THAT scene to Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong is replicated here on stage to much applause by the crowd.

The main leads appear to have had a charisma bypass and it is hard to feel any empathy for them, save for the doomed Sid (Paul French) whose plight is laid on with a shovel. The cast are working with dialogue that at best is cheesy and for the most part, utterly cringe-worthy. Their delivery though helps not a jot. There is a lack of energy and a feeling of apathy from the cast as a whole.

This is not going to challenge your intellect, if we are being completely honest or cynical, it is cashing in on audiences’ appetite for nostalgia and desire for an unchallenging night out. It is indeed all that. There are some much-loved tunes that will entertain both fans of the film and those new to the story, but that is the best that can be said of this sorry endeavour.

Runs until 9 March 2024 | Image: Marc Brenner

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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