An Officer and Gentleman The Musical – Curve Productions
Wales Millennium Centre
Monday 25th June 2018
Musicals are easily safe territory for those keen to spend a night at the theatre. But when does the field lose its way? When does it become stale and uninspired?
Having not seen the original film of An Officer and a Gentleman, I saw this with fresh eyes as the expectation was a musical version that would have newly written songs. I was mistaken and to my horror, this story has been turned into a jukebox musical, a miss mash of popular songs from the era without any deeper meaning. My heart sunk when songs by Cyndi Lauper and Madonna were crammed into a musical with may have had some context for what was happening in the story. I craved new songs, as at least this would have taken a plunge into new ideas and bold endeavours.
The story itself is dull, with little chemistry between the leads. Zack Mayo (or Mayonnaise as he is called by those around him) signs up to join the Navy, an intense exercise in cadet training, with most choosing to ring the bell and end their progress. There are stories about local women forming relationships with the trained, just so they can get out of their small community through pregnancy and marriage. This is a theme which lingers throughout the show, rearing its head during bar scene and intimate moments of lovemaking. Mayo meets Paula and romance is in the air, though is she like the other women? Can he make it through the intense training, whilst keeping their relationship intact?
The singing is impressive but sadly due to the over-familiar nature of the music, it’s easy to compare variations in the new renditions. This feels like a missed opportunity to create something great, but being safe too in its delivery. Is a pitfall Jonny Fines as Mayo makes us all swoon with his fine form and singing to pelt us out of the theatre. Emma Williams as Paula is a good lead through the lack of said chemistry between them both hardly makes us care about their journey together. Ray Sheel is nearly imposing as Emil Foley, drill sergeant for the cadets, pushing them in any way possible.
A bit more brute nature could have gone into this role, as it would make the completed journey for those who made it all the more sweeter, to go against his negative nature (very much tough but fair). Ian McIntosh is Sid, soon to be a pal to Mayo, who sadly doesn’t have a happy ending, thanks to a lying partner and disastrous crash testing. His solo before his death is impressive, only to be ruined by the other leads to take on his song and make for absurd dramatic nonsense. I was not alone in my disappointment. A lady in the interval expressed her boredom and I also saw a man trying to hold back laughter during the Material World number. I also tried not to titter during set pieces, at other times I facepalmed or rubbed my eyes in disbelief. Fans of the film can rejoice, as we are treated to the iconic song Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong, though it is ham-fisted and little is done with it, creating the films final moments as a stale conclusion.
There is an impressive set, a metallic shell which lingers over everyone, as stairways and rostrums are slung around. The video work jarring, at times looking like a snuff film. Even before it started, a mass of 80s references were hurled on a large screen in an overwhelming bout of crassness. Lighting was all it needed to be, though even more dramatic shadowing would have been welcome.
If you have read this and are unsure, perhaps go see it anyway?
An Officer and Gentleman The Musical continues at the WMC till 30th June 2018.