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An Officer and a Gentleman, the Musical

Jamie Wilson, Jack Maple, Gavin Kalin, Jason Haigh-Ellery and Curve Productions

Venue Cymru, Llandudno

March 19-23 2024, 2 hours

(also touring to Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle, York, Sheffield, Liverpool, Blackpool, Hull)

Raw recruits: a scene from An Officer and a Gentleman
Raw recruits: a scene from An Officer and a Gentleman

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The 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman was a compelling story, but how well does it translate to a stage musical?

The show stays faithful to the original in relating how an American military "brat" – an ill-disciplined youth from a forces family – gains entry to an intense, 12-week course to train as a Navy fighter pilot. With other candidates Zack Mayo (Luke Baker) undergoes gruelling, humiliating training to prove himself capable of qualifying. Most don't make the grade or are given less-prestigious positions. Among them is Zack’s best friend Sid (Paul French). Both Zack and Sid face distraction from two women, (Georgia Lennon as Paula Pokrifki and Sinead Long as Lynette Pomeroy) who work in a local factory and seek out trainee pilots to escape their downtrodden life. As well as being a drama with tragic moments from the midst of the cold war, we have romance.

The cast is suitably energetic and well choreographed. The show is fast-paced, with slick transitions between scenes. The set is pared back to a simple and stark environment suiting the harshness of military training or working class life. Jamal Kane Crawford as the bullying Gunnery Sergeant, is a stand-out performer – some of his lines, taken directly from the film, would now be considered discriminatory. The evening features a string of 1980s hits, often used imaginatively to fit the dialogue, Livin’ on a Prayer, Material Girl and The Final Countdown among them. Georgia Lennon’s rendition of Alone will live long in the memory.

As the story reaches its climax, the intensity behind it offers a dramatic conclusion. But it is difficult to replicate the impact of the movie because in this case, the stage obviously has limitations. During the action scenes, the movie has much more scope to explore the range of feelings, from despair to elation, as the cadets struggle. Certain things are glossed over here, or are hard to communicate – such as the conflict between Zack and the sergeant.

The film is now 40 years old but the story remains a compelling one, and there is little merit in debating whether movie or show is best. Both have merits, but this a great night at the theatre.

More info and tickets here


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