Touring – reviewed at Edinburgh Playhouse
Guest reviewer: Sarah Moyes
It’s time for Edinburgh to be swept off its feet by nostalgia as the musical of hit movie An Officer and a Gentlemen makes its Scottish debut at the Playhouse this week.
This isn’t the first film to be adapted into a musical or the first 80s musical to grace the boards at the Playhouse, but An Officer and a Gentlemen combines both, resulting in a true slice of cheesy nostalgia for anyone who loves an 80s rom-com.
If you’ve seen the Oscar-winning movie starring Richard Gere, then this story will be a familiar one. It follows Zack Mayo, a trainee US Navy pilot with a bad attitude, who signs up for Aviation Academy under the leadership of drill Sergeant Foley. It’s not long before the recruits are introduced to the local girls, all desperate for a better life, and Zack falls straight into the arms of Paula Pokrifki.
Ray Shell, who plays the role of Sergeant Foley, gives a loud and often terrifying performance as we meet him at the start of the show while he puts the new recruits through their paces. It’s up to Jonny Fines to step into the famous white navy suit in the role of Zack Mayo, giving a very strong and believable performance as a young man who had a very tormented upbringing. Pairing him with Emma Williams as Paula Pokrifki is a smart move, as they pair show real chemistry as a young couple falling in love.
Not only do they give very solid performances, but their vocals are nothing short of incredible. ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ with the show’s other couple Lynette (Jessica Daley) and Sid (Ian McIntosh) really lets their voices shine as the two couples start to fall for each other.
The rest of the soundtrack is one 80s anthem after another, and it’s safe to say the music really carries this production through. One minute you want to get up and dance to Girls Just Want To Have Fun and the next you’re want to rock out to Livin’ On A Prayer.
In amongst all the karaoke hits though, there are some stand out musical moments. The female cast show off their power on It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World, a great surprise given that the show’s main focus is on the cadets and not the factory room ladies.
One thing that lets the production down is the set which is essential just a grey shell. Yes, it’s meant to represent the bleak navy base and the tough life the recruits go through, but it just doesn’t translate well on the stage.
While the video projections by Douglas O’Connell look good at the start of each Act, the other projections throughout the show are often blocked or less effective if you seat isn’t facing front on.
It should also definitely be noted that the show contains some adult themes, and as cheesy as the sex scenes are, it is still a raunchy outing for a family friendly musical.
Jonny Fines and Emma Williams. Pic: Manuel Harlan
Of course, if there’s one song that’s going to steal the show then it is Up Where We Belong. And its arrival does not disappoint as Zack turns up at the factory where Paula works to surprise her by whisking her off into the sunset.
Yes, the show is cheesy and a little bit over the top at times, but it is also really uplifting. If you’re looking for a fun, feel-good, romantic musical to see this summer, then An Officer and a Gentlemen is the perfect ticket.