An Officer and a Gentleman – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By @Steve Crabtree, September 2018
OK. An Officer and a Gentleman. Brace yourself. I’ve never seen the iconic film. Not ever. People who don’t know me are probably shocked at that, and those who do know me are gobsmacked.
But because of that, it’s a great way to see this new musical version, based on the original screenplay by Douglas Day Stewart. Completely unbiased, and without anything to compare it to. And the Alhambra is busy for opening night, as a huge backdrop welcomes us to 1982 via a collage of news footage, music and soundbites.
As Act One gets underway, a group of recruits in a naval training college are introduced to us by Sergeant Emil Foley. Them, and a group of low-paid factory women are the focus of An Officer and a Gentleman. The officers are headstrong, and the women feel there is only one option for them to succeed in life. By sleeping with a Naval Officer, and marrying them.
There’s a huge jukebox of 80s hits that accompany the show too; some slightly adapted to fit with the story. It moulds a nice bit of nostalgia around the evening.
“Love, desperation and determination”
I found there was a bit of a difference between Act One and Act Two. Although the story nicely takes shape in the first half, it does move kind of quickly. I’m enjoying it, but finding we might be jumping from scene to scene a bit prematurely. I’m lucky to be in Bradford with a self-confessed An Officer and a Gentleman-aholic, and she too thinks the same.
Richard Gere’s character Zack Mayo is played by Jonny Fines. A bit of a maverick, Mayo’s emotional state and determination to prove doubters wrong is key to the story, and Fines does a brilliant job. Ray Shell looks the part as Sergeant Emil Foley, but isn’t as imposing as some of his recruits. However, his injections of humour and timing of delivery warms you to Foley.
Helping the story along is song great scenic effects. Despite drab looking walls and industrial backdrops, clever moving imagery at various points of the show work well. An evening tide looked beautiful during an intimate bed scene between Mayo and his love interest Paula Pokrifki.
And it was Halifax girl Emma Williams who did the show-stealing tonight in the role of Paula. Vocally, she was superb and very powerful. Paula bounces around love, desperation and determination – and Williams carries that easily.
“Setting the scene”
I felt that after the interval, the dotted story in Act One was setting the scene for Act Two. Because it was here where the show really took off. The story begins to make you think a bit more, and the plot is turned up a couple of notches.
Love and happiness were turning in to lies, heartache and pain. We were being taken in a darker direction. Trainee pilot Sid (Ian McIntosh) was a victim of a demanding family, but making good. And then we see everything dropping down around him. McIntosh played out Sid’s demise stunningly.
And a special mention needs to go to Vanessa Fisher. She stepped in to play the role of Casey Seegar tonight, and made the role her own.
Downers and struggles were coming thick and fast. All played out alongside numbers such as ‘Alone’, ‘Toy Soldiers’ and ‘Family Man.’
“Clapping with delight”
As the show came towards its close, the struggles turned themselves around. And two poignant scenes straight out of the film were loved by the audience.
The lady to my left whooped with excitement when Casey got on top of the things she was trying to achieve. And THAT hat scene brought elation to all and sundry, who began clapping with delight.
As An Officer and A Gentleman ended as a love story, we stood up and applauded. A cast with a great chemistry, and a musical that was joyful to see.
I’ve been bullied in to putting the film on my watch list this week. I’ve no complaints. I need to put it up there where it belongs.