An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical – The Alexandra, Birmingham

Reviewer: James Garrington

Book: Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen

Director: Nikolai Foster

There seems to be an increasing temptation among theatre producers to take a classic movie that did well at the box office, add in some songs if you need to, and put it on the stage. Sometimes it works very well, other times less so. Here we have an example – An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical which first appeared in 2018 to mixed reviews and has been revived for a UK tour.

For those unfamiliar with the film – it is over forty years old now – the plot revolves around a group of people who are training to become US Navy pilots while the girls from the local paper factory set out to escape their current lot by snaring themselves an aviator husband. There’s the guy with the underprivileged background and unhappy childhood setting out to prove he’s as good as anyone else, the mentor who pushes him by giving him a hard time, the girl he opens his heart to. It’s all been done before, and even if you haven’t seen the film you’ll know how it’s going to end. It’s unashamedly cheesy, very predictable and designed to be a crowd-pleaser.

It’s very lightweight and could be so much more than it is. The plot may be flimsy but the characters here have the potential to have far more depth than this. Too often the relationships seem to lack any real chemistry which results in performances that aren’t very believable – hopefully something that will improve as the tour continues. The soundtrack consists of many power ballads and rock anthems, all delivered with gusto against a driving beat. Even when we encounter a number that could be – and often is – given a gentler treatment here we have a similar high-intensity delivery. More light and shade in both the characterisations and the music would give a better result.

Luke Baker is bad boy Zack, with Georgia Lennon as girlfriend Paula. Both deliver competent performances and are in good enough voice for what they are given to do, though it would be nice to feel more intensity as their relationship develops. Paul French’s Sid, the son of an admiral, provides a good contrast with Baker’s Zack and Sinead Long’s Lynette comes across well as the girl who doesn’t care what she does to get her way. Jamal Crawford makes a decent enough Foley, big in voice and stature while Olivia Foster-Browne stands out as Casey Seegar, intent on being the first woman to fly jets.

Paper-thin plot aside, the main concern with the whole premise is that the gender politics it portrays are no longer really acceptable. The idea that a woman would sleep with a man – possibly even one she doesn’t love – and if necessary get pregnant just to find a husband is something that the past forty years has taken us away from. Even the exception – Seegar, who’s trying to make a career for herself – can’t get over the assault course unless she’s helped by a man.

Joanna Goodwin’s choreography is delivered with precision and Michael Taylor’s set works beautifully in creating the different settings with nothing more than a large steel frame on wheels, some outline images and a few pieces of furniture.

It’s decent enough entertainment for what it is, and probably it’ll do well at the box office. Certainly, on press night, there was a very enthusiastic crowd in the audience, with whooping and cheering when the iconic lift arrives at the end of the show. It’s an easy-going night out, but don’t expect high drama or to be in any way challenged emotionally.

Runs until 2 March 2024 and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Lightweight and dated

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. 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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