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An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical at the Edinburgh Playhouse

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 4th Jul 2018 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

When Douglas Day Stewart came to Edinburgh earlier this year to talk about the musical version of his multi-award winning film An Officer and a Gentleman he said it would be a roller coaster ride.

He wasn’t joking. By the end of the show I was elated and in tears. As Stewart had said, it was uplifting and emotionally powerful.

But, for me, it wasn’t always like that on the first night.

A commentary (was it a montage of Eighties news?) while the lights were still up was completely drowned by an (excited) audience, and as soon as the singing started there was a harshness in the sound which meant that, for the most part, the words were indistinguishable. Maybe it takes time for a production to settle in at the cavernous Playhouse as it’s a problem I keep coming up against.

It also meant that the words weren’t always audible, so I didn’t catch who all the characters were, which is a shame. There are some I’d like to have singled out, as nothing masked the power of the leading voices, especially the women who were phenomenal.

The musical is based on the 1980s rites of passage film which starred Richard Gere as Zack Mayo, a recruit at a naval college, his fellow recruit Sid Worley, and their journey through training and the girls they encounter.

Jonny Fines, as Zack, makes an impressive entrance on a motorbike - it is a real James Dean moment – but, as it was with most of the cast, he didn’t really get into his stride until the dramatic second half, when the show went through the roof.

To an intoxicating backing heavy on rockin’ guitar riffs and drums, there were rousing cheers for Alone, one of the Eighties hits which feature in the show, this time from Sid, played with sensitivity by Ian McIntosh, and Emma Williams and Jessica Daley as Paula and Lynette, the local girls who become Zack and Sid’s girlfriends. It was preceded by Daley’s rendering of Material Girl, a good choice for the story line, and followed by a stirring performance of Don’t Cry Out Loud, by Williams and Rachel Stanley as Paula’s mother - one of the top singers in the show.

Credit goes to the entire cast for what must be a truly challenging show physically. There is footage of them going through real military training and, more than once, Kate Prince’s choreography is more of a work out than a dance routine.

A couple of the actors are memorable for their aggressive characters. Ray Shell is splendid as the bullying sergeant Emil Foley and Darren Bennett as Zack’s dad, described as a whore chasing alcoholic, made my skin crawl. At the other end of the scale, Keisha Atwell, as the only girl recruit, plays her part so enthusiastically and believably that you really feel for her character. And when Fines and Williams get together ‘romantically’ (in bed scenes which leave nothing to the imagination!), you can feel the chemistry,

Directed by Nikolai Foster, artistic director at the Curve in Leicester, An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical really is a feel good show which, on opening night, began, both story- and performance-wise, a little shakily, but ended up a triumph in every way.

See an interview with the writer Douglas Day Stewart at: http://www.uktheatre.net/magazine/read/writer-douglas-day-stewart-talks-about-an-officer-and-a-gentleman-the-musical-on-the-eve-of-its-national-uk-tour_3437.html

An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until July 7. It then continues touring:

July 9-14: Milton Keynes Theatre

July 23-28: Theatre Royal Nottingham

July 30-Aug 4: Bristol Hippodrome Theatre

Aug 6-11: The Marlow Theatre Canterbury

Aug 13-18: Opera House Manchester

Aug 20-25: Theatre Royal Plymouth

Aug 27-Sept 1: Regent Theatre Ipswich

Sept 3-8: The Alhambra Theatre Bradford

Sept 10-15: King’s Theatre Glasgow

www.atgtickets.com

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