An Officer and A Gentleman – gritty and uplifting with a smash-hit score

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Eighties movies make the best stage musicals – fact. From Fame to Footloose, Annie to An Officer and A Gentleman, the latter of which is currently sweeping audiences off their feet in Stoke-on-Trent as part of its latest UK tour. 

Based on the beloved 1982 film starring Richard Gere, this production masterfully captures the timeless story of love, courage, and redemption, set to a smash-hit soundtrack, including Madonna, Blondie, Cyndi Lauper and Bon Jovi.

The story follows Zack Mayo, who’s mother has committed suicide while his father was an alcoholic. The loveable rogue has hopes to become a pilot in the navy, and enlists into the training programme, meeting love interest Paula Pokrifki, who gives him something to look forward to during his weekends of liberty.

Zack, portrayed on opening night by understudy James Wilkinson-Jones, played the charming young soldier with vulnerability and determination. He had a brilliant on-stage chemistry with  Georgia Lennon as Paula Pokrifki – particularly in the motel scene during their rendition of I Want To Know What Love Is. While his nerves were understandably evident in parts, he carried the character extremely well, with a fantastic vocal performance supported by the rest of the talented cast.

Marc Brenner

Georgia shines as the fiery Paula, and her scenes with Julia, playing Lynette Pomeroy were particularly playful – from Girls Just Wanna Have Fun through to Material Girl. With When The Going Gets Tough injecting some much-needed humour into the production, thanks to Foley, Seegar and the ensemble. 

The performance of the night had to go to Paul French as Sid Worley. His brotherly relationship with Zack was beautiful to watch bloom, but perhaps that was because French was equally encouraging Wilkinson-Jones in his lead role. He effortlessly transitioned between his ladish navy persona to a more gentlemanly character around Lynette, bringing a lot of depth to the show. But for me, it was Family Man that was the scene of the night, both vocally and emotionally. It had everyone gripped and was a real stand out moment as it really felt like he poured his heart into the performance, earning a well-deserved applause from the audience.

Marc Brenner

The storyline was somewhat slow to begin, but the score kept the energies high – especially the empowering rendition of This Is A Man’s Man’s Man’s World from the female factory workers, where Melanie Masson’s growling vocals gave her Esther Pokrifki a bit of an edge, as well as Act one’s Living on a Prayer, where Sid and Lynette seemed to channel their inner Johnny Castle and baby. 

Act two was much more fast paced and as the characters develop, it becomes a lot more touching, too – like when Casey Seegar and Zack have a breakthrough moment during training, or when Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley finally allows the mask to slip. 

An Officer and A Gentleman is a production that is as gritty as it is uplifting, making it the perfect show for anyone looking for some nostalgic escapism with powerhouse vocal performances and an unforgettable score. The show will be running at The Regent Theatre until May 11, and you can  pick up your tickets here.

 

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