An Officer and a Gentleman – Review – Sheffield Lyceum Theatre

An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical – Review – sheffield

By Helen Johnston, June 2024

Can it really be 42 years since the gravelly voice of Sheffield’s Joe Cocker lifted us ‘Up Where We Belong’? His duet with Jennifer Warnes was released in July 1982 to coincide with the release of the film An Officer and a Gentleman and will forever be synonymous with its final scene.

The late Cocker and Warnes, now 69, hit the number one spot in the USA and several other countries as romantics everywhere melted at the sight of Richard Gere in navy uniform sweeping Debra Winger off her feet and carrying her to a happy ever after.

This stage musical uses the soundtrack of the ‘80s to reinforce the emotional story of the misfits who enrol at the naval training base in Pensacola, Florida, and the young women working in the town’s paper factory who dream of escape.

In fact, all of the main characters are trying to escape in some way or other – the naval recruits from unhappy home lives, and the women from difficult relationships and the drudgery of a job with no prospects. It’s a story which resonates just as much today as it did back in the early ‘80s.

An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical – Review – sheffield

“Very moving”

Luke Baker gives a solid performance as Zach Mayo, the angry young man who suffered the trauma of finding his mother dead when he was only a boy and whose sneering father Byron (Tim Rogers), himself in the navy, mocks him and tells him he’ll never become an officer. Rogers puts in a very good impression of a drunkard in a flashback scene to when father and son clashed.

The stand-out performance for me was Paul French as Zach’s troubled friend Sid Worley, whose brother died in Vietnam and is pressured by his parents to pursue a naval career. He drops out of training in the penultimate week to propose to his girlfriend Lynette (Sinead Long) who has lied about being pregnant, only to then be rejected by her when she realises he won’t be giving her the military-wife life she craves. The scene where he is total despair in a motel room, singing ‘Family Man’, is very moving.

Meanwhile, Zach has hooked up with Lynette’s friend Paula (Georgia Lennon) who is trying to fit nurse training around her factory job while also dealing with an unhappy mother who has never got over being rejected by Paula’s father, a naval trainee from back in the day who didn’t want the complication of a wife and family.

Gen X-ers will doubtless love the soundtrack to this musical which will take them back to the days of dancing round handbags to ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ and ‘Material Girl’. ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ got the audience singing at the start of act two and the female factory workers gave a rousing rendition of ‘I Am Woman’. On occasion though, the musical arrangements didn’t quite live up to expectation, such as Paula and Lynette’s duet of ‘Heart of Glass’ which seemed too slow.

An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical – Review – Bradford Alhambra (1)

“Standing ovation”

The cast had high energy and Baker showed off his core strength when forced to do press-ups and leg lifts for gunnery sergeant Foley (Jamal Kane Crawford). The choreography for their fight scene was excellent.

The final scene caused the audience to come to life with whooping and clapping as Zach strode through the factory to claim Paula. It was clearly what everyone had been waiting for and it didn’t disappoint. There was a half-hearted standing ovation at the end, with some sections of the audience seemingly indecisive about whether to rise to their feet or not.

An Officer and a Gentleman covers just about every emotion from grief to anger to joy, and fans of ‘80s music will no doubt enjoy hearing some of what can now probably be called oldies but goodies. I enjoyed the musical trip down memory lane but the show overall didn’t leave a lasting impression. Still, it’s always good to remember Joe Cocker, one of Yorkshire’s finest musical exports.

‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ is at Sheffield Lyceum until 22nd June
images: Marc Brenner


Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.