Theatre Review: An Officer and A Gentleman @ The Regent

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An Officer and A Gentleman The Musical is based on the romantic drama of 1982 that famously saw Richard Gere act the principal part and the romantic finale where he sweeps his factory worker girlfriend off her feet to take her out of the humdrum of her previous life has become part of cinematic folklore.

However, this soaring piece of theatre deserves to be remembered for more than the smart white uniform worn by the principal characters as it takes the audience through the roller-coaster lives endured by the cast. It allows the audience to experience a whole range of emotions as the storyline guides us through the courage, leadership and relationships that confront us in life.

The plot takes us through the twelve weeks of training to become an officer at the Naval Aviation Training facility in Pensacola as a motley crew of candidates are put through their paces by Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley (Jamal Kane Crawford). Foley warns his charges from the outset that life will be brutal and that many will drop out before the course’s conclusion. Even when the recruits successfully complete their training only two will be allowed to continue to the coveted jet training course.

The candidates include Casey Seegar (Olivia Foster-Browne) – aiming to be the first woman to become a jet pilot, Eduardo Cortez (Lucas Piquero) – whose father’s dying wish is for his son to become an officer and Louis Perryman (Chris Breistein) – who, despite his age, wants to be elevated from the ranks.

The main focus of the plot, though, is on Zack Mayo (Luke Baker) who has had a terrible upbringing while in the “care” of his father Byron (Tim Rogers) and Sid Worley (Paul French) whose brother died while flying and now feels an obligation to take his place.

Despite Foley’s warning that on their first weekend of liberty they will be besieged by local girls desperate to snare the hand of a pilot by fair means or foul, Zack and Sid fall for two factory workers and begin a relationship.

Paula Pokrifki (Georgia Lennon) and Lynette Pomeroy (Sinead Long) both work producing paper alongside Paula’s mother Esther (Melanie Masson) and Aunt Bunny (Wendi Harriott) but both are desperate to escape with Paula hoping that her voluntary work as a nurse will reap its rewards.

As the story unfolds and the audience are drawn into the couples’ journey, it becomes obvious that only one of the men will complete the training and only one of the girls will be swept away by her officer in shining uniform. Who will be the lucky girl?

The plot of the Musical is largely true to the film that preceded it but has been enhanced by a score that covers many of the standout anthems of the 1980s. Musical Supervisor George Dyer has slowed down the delivery of many of the very recognisable songs and this allows the lyrics to have their rightful significance in proceedings and the experience is enhanced by some tight choreography by Joanna Goodwin.

All of the cast display good vocal techniques with the stand-out moments being a very touching rendition of I Want To Know What Love Is by Lennon and Baker, a mind-blowing performance of Alone by Lennon, French and Long and a very feisty version of I Am Woman by Masson and Lennon. In addition, St Elmo’s Fire is a great way to end Act 1

There are many convincing performances by the cast but a special mention for Crawford. His portrayal of the tough love shown by a Sergeant is spot on and the pride shown as he gives the first salute to his erstwhile trainees is a pleasure to behold as the stern mask finally slips away.

The audience revelled in this flight back to the 1980s and a unanimous standing ovation was no more than the cast deserved. The theatrical action increased throughout as it built up to the iconic ending. Musical theatre should transport you from the everyday world and An Officer and A Gentleman certainly did that and took us all Up Where We Belong.

Do you want to be swept from your feet? Then make sure you do not miss this production.

An Officer and A Gentleman continues until May 11th and has a running time of approximately 2 hours 30 minutes including interval. For ticket information contact atgtickets.com/stoke