An Officer and a Gentleman flies into the Kings Theatre this week, the latest in a long line of cult films like Ghost and Dirty Dancing to be transformed and reworked into a musical version to capture the attention of theatre audiences. From the onset, the audience walks into displays of Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Spielberg films and other 80s memorabilia which sets the scene for this retro extravaganza.
The 1982 Oscar-winning film forms the basis of the plot for a breathtaking show with a musical score featuring a whole host of smash hit 80s classics. As the performance opens we meet our hero Zach Mayo played by Jonny Fines (famously portrayed by a young and handsome Richard Gere in the film).
Mayo is a wannabe US Navy Fighter Pilot fresh into the 12 week initiation programme at the US Naval Aviation Training Facility in Pensacola, Florida. He swaggers onto the stage as the epitome of an 80s Hollywood bad boy, complete with motorbike, leather jacket and an eye for the ladies.
However as the story progresses, we discover a tortured soul who is desperate to escape the shackles of his abusive and damaged childhood by achieving his dream of becoming a Navy Pilot at any cost necessary. Zach quickly meets Paula Pokrifki (Emma Williams), a local factory girl who bucks the usual trend of girls snaring and trapping a Navy man to rescue them from their poor, mundane life. She is determined and ambitious and is solely focused on achieving her dream of becoming a nurse rather than finding love. As she tells Zach, “If you picture it, then you will get it.”
The plot follows the journey of Zach as his unexpected romance with Paula, friendship with Sid (Ian Mcintosh) a fellow trainee, along with his strict and overpowering sergeant Emil Foley (Ray Shell) teaches him about love, friendship, loyalty and what it really means to become an Officer and a Gentleman. The chemistry between the actors is electric and their enthusiasm and energy bounds off the stage from the opening beats.
The show is heavily punctuated by show-stopping 80s anthems such as Blaze of Glory, Living on a Prayer, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Heart of Glass. With 23 hit songs to get through, it has inevitably meant the drama and dialogue moves at a much faster pace than the film and leaves a much more limited scale for character development. However the flawless vocals, slick and stylish set changes along with up-beat contemporary choreography more than compensate.
It’s a tough task to live up to the vocal ranges of some of the most renowned 80s ballads. However Williams’ beautifully classy vocal trills through “Alone” impressed. McIntosh also had a stand out moment in the performance of “Family Man” closely followed by Rachel Stanley who plays Esther Pokrifki with her powerful rendition of “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” along with the other factory girls.
Of course, the highlight of the show was, as expected, the final scene, recreated and paraodied in countless shows and films, where newly appointed pilot Mayo glides into the factory to sweep Polinski off her feet and carry her off into the sunset to the tune of “Up Where we Belong” and huge cheers from the audience.
Overall, An Officer and a Gentleman is a fast-paced, energetic reworking of the orginal story ready to entertain those who want to reminisce over the original and those who are yet to discover its magic.
An Officer and a Gentleman is at the King’s Theatre until 15th September.