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Based on the 1982 film of the same name and true events, the new musical An Officer and a Gentleman has flown into the Ipswich Regent for one week only.
The story focuses on young Zack Mayo, who is training to become a US Navy Pilot; but when he stomps into boot camp with a bit too much swagger, Sergeant Foley doesn’t make life easy for the guy who will seemingly do anything to get to the top.
He quickly falls for local factory girl Paula Pokrifki, who becomes a welcome distraction; but it isn’t until tragedy befalls his friend and fellow candidate that Zack realises the importance of love and friendship, which helps him find the courage to be himself, win the heart of the woman he loves, and truly become an Officer and a Gentleman.
Being in the small portion of the audience who hadn’t seen the film I felt at a bit of a loss, but it was suggested by those around me that it was irrelevant; though I expect the heart of the story remains. I think the story is interesting in the way it teaches you about what lengths people will go to for what they want and the power of love, but it lacked something and i’m not quite sure what.
The music features many classic 80’s anthems such as Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Livin’ On A Prayer, Heart of Glass, Material Girl, I Was Made for Lovin’ You, and includes the hit song from the film, Up Where We Belong. While the songs are indeed beloved hits, which are sung and performed really well – especially those by the women, as the numbers It’s A Man’s Man’s World and Don’t Cry Out Loud received some of the biggest rounds of applause. However, what the score lacks is connection to the story. I feel it would probably be better if performed as a play with music, rather than as a musical, perhaps this is what weakens the production.
That said, I thought the staging from the lighting and sets, right through to the choreography and costumes were interesting and well-suited to the piece so kudos to the creative team.
Heading the cast is Jonny Fines as lovable rogue Zack Mayo, and he maintains a cheeky charm throughout that gets the audience swooning come the infamous Officer lift. Alongside him, Emma Williams stars as the adorable and strong-minded Paula Pokrifki, and she lights up the stage with every scene with her powerful vocals. Ray Shell gets lots of laughs as the cold but quick-witted Sargent Emil Foley. However, the whole cast is filled with talent and captured their characters well.
Overall, while it lacks a magic spark, it still has something. The music is enjoyable for all ages, the story has good heart (after all, who doesn’t love a classic romance story?) and the cast are impressive. Therefore it makes for a fun evening out, and that was evidenced by a strong standing ovation.