Reviewed by Jenny Bray
Having looked at the song list prior to attending, I recognised the majority of the songs so was quite intrigued to see this musical and how they’d worked the songs in to a plot, although I have to confess that I’ve never watched the film so didn’t know the full story.
An Officer and a Gentleman was originally a film by Douglas Day Stewart made in 1982, starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger. He wrote it based on many of his own experiences and then spent 15 years converting it to a musical with the addition of director Nikolai Foster a couple of years ago.
It was performed at the Lyceum theatre in Sheffield. It is well signposted and easy to get to. If you head to the Charles Street Q parks you can get the first hour free if you get a ticket from a member of the theatre staff. The staff are welcoming and helpful. The box office is by the main entrance doors and there are bars on the ground and first floors and a kiosk on the ground floor selling sweets and soft drinks.
The story is a classic working-class love story. It tells of a group of United States navy trainees, from a variety of backgrounds, beginning their 12-week intense aviation training. Young naval officer Zack (Jonny Fines) is trying to escape his troubled past and find himself during the training and becomes friends with some of the others he’s training alongside. There is one female trainee, referred to initially as ‘the ghetto girl’, Casey Seegar (Keisha Atwell), who is determined to be the first girl to ‘get her wings’. The Sergeant, Emil Foley (Ray Shell), is a hard task master during the training, trying to constantly get people to DOR = Drop On Request; drop out of the training and give up. He gives them all amusing nicknames including Grandpa, Boy Wonder and Mayonnaise and tries to pull them in to shape while belittling them. He also warns them about local girls who will try and trap them by getting pregnant so states they should ‘always wear a raincoat’! When the trainees get some time off for the Navy Ball Zack meets local factory girl Paula (Emma Williams) while Sid (Ian McIntosh) hooks up with Lynette (Jessica Daley). Paula is just out for fun while Lynette is after a husband. The ensuing love stories of both couples play out over the training weeks, while more and more trainees DOR. Lynette dreams of capturing a pilot who will whisk her away from her humdrum factory job and considers ways to trap Sid, with dire consequences. When Paula invites Zack back to hers for dinner she tells him that she was the product of an encounter between her Mum and a naval officer, at which point he says her Mum is ‘one of the ones they warn us about’ and backs away from her. All the events allow Zack to find himself and then allow the show to finish on a real feel good point.
The musical version incorporates several classic 80s hits, including Blaze of Glory, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, St Elmo’s Fire, Material Girl and Toy Soldiers to name a few. The only song that I felt was slightly oddly placed was ‘Kids in America’ which didn’t seem to sit well with the characters singing it. At times, a couple of the hits sounded a little karaoke-esq but they were all fun and others were very well sung and moving.
The stage was mainly a metal grey navy base backdrop that cleverly converted to a factory setting, bar, motel and bunks. It also showed large projections of various images in the background at times. It was effectively contrasted by 80s clothing and pure white naval suits, including many a flash of white underwear! The lighting was used effectively to create drama throughout.
Jonny Fines showed an impressive range in his vocals between Blaze of Glory, I Want to Know What Love Is, Family Man and various other songs. He also portrayed Zack’s inner demons and troubled past very believably, sometimes while showing off a very toned six pack!
Emma William’s did a sterling job portraying Paula. Her and Jonny had great stage chemistry. She also had an amazing voice that showcased some great solo moments. Her duet with her mother, Esther (Rachel Stanley), was touching.
Jessica Daley and In McIntosh were a great team as Sid and Lynette and performed a great duo in Livin’ On a Prayer.
I also liked Keisha Atwell’s feisty performance of Casey, the only female trying to make it in a predominantly male environment.
It’s a slightly dated, now non-politically correct masculine approach to a storyline but it’s also a fun 80s based musical with the feel good factor cheesy love story and the added advantage of having hit after hit of original 80s songs thrown in for good measure. The whole cast showed great energy, especially during workout scenes! I can’t leave it without mentioning the iconic song ‘Up Where We Belong’, which was performed by various cast both at the very start and the very end of the show.
Tickets cost from £25 to £49 (booking fees may apply).
An Officer and a Gentleman is at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from 4-9 June 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Lyceum Theatre, Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000