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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke

REVIEW: AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN @ PRINCESS THEATRE

🎭 An Officer and a Gentleman: The Musical

📍  Princess Theatre, Torbay Road, Torquay, Devon, TQ2 5EZ                             

🗓 Tuesday 2nd July 2024

⭐️⭐️⭐️

DOESN'T QUITE SOAR TO ITS DESIRED HEIGHTS


Based on the iconic hit 1983 film AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN: THE MUSICAL has flown into the Princess Theatre in Torquay this week, bringing nostalgia and an classic 80s soundtrack along for the ride!


The storyline has the same basic plot as the film it is adapted from, following protagonist Zack as he goes through the gruelling Navy Officer Candidate School as he pursues his dream to become an aviator, aided by a tough Gunnery Sergeant and his new love interest Paula.


Unfortunately the book here , by Sharleen Cooper Cohen and original film writer Douglas Day Stewart, fails to replicate the gritty drama and romance of the film version, delivering awkward and somewhat disjointed transitions and lacklustre scenes that fail to bring the drama needed. It does however competently tell the story but perhaps it tries too hard to follow the original plot and doesn't allow itself to play with the storyline. Theatre is a very different medium to film and therefore a theatre audience expects something different.


Michael Taylor's set design was industrial and uncomplicated, yet was perfectly practical and worked extremely well throughout. The simple central structure moved around the stage and was much more multi-functional than it first appeared. Combined with Nikolai Foster's direction, the stage always felt full and the space was utilised well.



There was however a feeling of cheapness about this production. The band, led well by Christopher Duffy, only had five members meaning that the music lacked any depth or edginess which the songs were crying out for and always left me wanting more. Also the levels of the music were consistently wrong throughout giving a real disconnect with the vocals, on many occasions drowning them out.


Although executed well, the choreography by Joanna Goodwin seemed clunky and boring and I was genuinely surprised to learn the lighting had been designed by Ben Cracknell. Usually a fan of his work, I felt that the lighting here was at times incredible, while there were points where it felt dull and lazy. It was almost as if it had been designed by two different people!


Without doubt the absolute saviour of AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN was the performance from Luke Baker as Zack. The very definition of a leading man, he had glorious vocal control which melted the heart and was an absolute privilege to listen to. He had a demanding presence and you just felt compelled to watch him whenever he was on the stage. His acting ability was incredible as he competently took the audience on a journey of emotions and displayed anger, heartache, love and more with pure believability.


Honestly it was Baker alone which kept my star rating from dropping below a three, and I would book to see the production again just based on the strength of his performance. He is definitely one to watch and I hope to see him lead a show on a West End stage someday soon.


Sadly others in the company did not compare and there were a lot of pitchy vocals on display, alongside overacting and oversinging which at times unfortunately became offensive to the ears. It often seemed that the songs were in the wrong key and sometimes songs felt too big for the performers, yet they would perform another song and sound okay!



There were some great performances though and I really liked Sinead Long as Lynette, with Living on a Prayer being my favourite vocal performance of hers. Jamal Kane Crawford was fantastic in his role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley showing dominance, cheekiness and softness and I also enjoyed the performances from Olivia Foster-Browne and James Wilkinson-Jones. Chris Briestein was strong as Sid, giving a breathtaking performance in his final scene.


It's a shame that there was such an overwhelming feeling that something was missing and I couldn't help but feel that this production would never make it to a West End stage because I just kept wanting more. It feels like the production has been produced on a tight budget and this shone through.


The scenes needed to be tighter and slicker, harmonies needed serious work and I did feel that some of the roles had been miscast. A stronger cast may have kept the momentum of the show going, but there were times when I was genuinely bored.


The production relies heavily on the nostalgia factor and inexplicably receives the reaction it desires, although didn't recieve its standing ovation until Baker took his final bow.


I guess it depends what you want from this production. If you just want to see a familiar story and hear some 80s favourites performed then this is the show for you, however I feel for both serious musical theatre fans and fans of the original film this production falls short of giving you what you want.


As always I encourage my readers to make up their own minds, and although I was disappointed overall with this show you may love it. AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN: THE MUSICAL plays at Torquay's Princess Theatre until Saturday 6th July. Click here to check availability and to book tickets, with prices starting at just £13.


Neill Kovacic-Clarke


All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.


My ticket for this performance of An Officer and a Gentleman was gifted by the Princess Theatre who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.



CAST LIST:

Luke Baker as Zack Mayo; Georgia Lennon as Paula Pokrifki; Jamal Kane Crawford as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley; Chris Briestein as Sid Worley; Sinead Long as Lynette Pomeroy; Melanie Masson as Esther Pokrifki; Tim Rogers as Bryan Mayo; Olivia Foster-Browne as Casey Seegar; Lucas Piquero as Eduardo Cortez; James Wilkinson-Jones as Louis Perryman; Wendi Harriott as Aunt Bunny; Danny Whelan as Craig; Lukin Simmonds as Hooper; Julia Jones as Factory Girl; Etisyai Philip as Factory Girl; Mia Harrison as Factory Woman; Sam Stones as Onstage Swing; Elliie-Grace Cousins as Onstage Swing


RUNNING TIME (approx):

2 hours 30 minutes, including interval


CONTENT WARNINGS:

Bad language; Sexist language; Depictions of panic attack and suicide


The Princess Theatre is part of the Ambassadors Theatre Group and is situated on Torquay’s beautiful seafront.

As South Devon's largest theatre with a seating capacity of 1,491 it is the perfect South West showcase for the very best West End and touring productions.

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