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An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical review (The Marlowe Theatre)

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The critically acclaimed 1980s film ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ has been adapted into a musical by Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen and is currently touring the UK, with a score that includes the hits of Madonna, Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie and more. Telling the beloved story of officer cadet Zack Mayo and his relationship with factory worker Paula Pokrifki during his 12 weeks of Navy training, the romantic narrative has been given the full musical theatre treatment, with epic eighties power ballads and lively rock numbers making the setlist. With direction by Nikolai Foster, the musical opened at The Marlowe Theatre here in Canterbury on Monday and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to review this new theatrical take. With underlying themes of mental health and identity, ahead of the performance, I was intrigued by how the creative team would be sensitive to the heart of the narrative, but also rework some of the iconic scenes for the stage and introduce songs from the era.

An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical leaflet in front of the stage at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

A whirlwind journey back to the eighties

There is no denying that the musical takes audiences straight back to the eighties with such a lively selection of songs. It stays true to the source material and memorable characters, with fans sure to enjoy the additional tracks. Opening with ‘In The Navy Now’ (original: ‘In The Army Now’), the first act is packed full of energy, the military chants that the film is known for and Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley’s (Jamal Kane Crawford) captivating military prowess. The issue for me is that everything is extremely fast-paced and the loud vocals, musical backing and parade-like choreography feel like they are competing for the audience’s attention and not working in harmony. The sound balancing is slightly affected as a result, and it impacts how much the principal cast can show off their vocal talents and the overall audibility. Fortunately this completely changes in the second act though, when the company have a greater opportunity to shine musically. The act two opener ‘Livin’ on A Prayer’ is electric and the sound quality and performance value continued to improve from there.

Tonal shifts in the material

For me, the script zigzags between heartfelt moments and extravagant, high-energy musical numbers. Whilst there is an element of tonal shift in the film, it is far more obvious in the musical, given the production value of the musical tracks. There is a limited amount of time to process, pause and reflect, which consequently does not provide the audience with enough opportunity to take in the full weight of what is happening, before another eighties mega hit makes its way into the narrative. Overall I would have liked to have seen a slower approach to the script, rather than the current racing between scenes.

An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical curtain at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

Industrial-focused set and all-American costume design

Michael Taylor’s desolate, structure-focused set design reflects both the military themes of the production and factories of the area. The set is dark for the majority of the production, but it actually fits in with the tough, hard-line ambiance of the military base. When combined with the cadet uniforms, you actually feel like you’re a fly on the wall at a US Navy training centre. Some elements are left to the imagination, but the essence is there in this industrial-focused set.

The factory workers’ costumes feel so reminiscent of the film. The ‘I Am Woman’ scene actually reaches greater heights, thanks to the performers standing in unison in their chequered shirts and dungarees. Michael really contributed to the underlying themes of small town America in this scene, with the costume design.

Luke Baker and Georgia Lennon during the An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical curtain call at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

Standout cast performances

Luke Baker is extremely engaging in the role of Zack. It is a demanding part, both physically and vocally, and he truly leads the company as the bolshy figure looking out for his teammates. Supported by Georgia Lennon as Paula, I thought the performer captured the small-town, innocence of Zack’s charismatic love interest, specifically in the second act rendition of ‘Alone’, which was a standout moment of the production for me. A special mention however has to go to both Jamal Kane Crawford (Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley) and Olivia Foster-Browne who plays Casey Seegar. The supporting characters added so much depth to their scenes, reminding me why the source material has had so much success.

An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical curtain call at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

Final thoughts

There is no doubt that I enjoyed this high-energy production of ‘An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical’. It could so easily be my new guilty pleasure piece of theatre, with its truly magical ending that had me grinning from ear-to-ear. However as a regular theatre-goer and reviewer, I found that it lacks the compassion of the source material and leans too heavily into the eighties rock score, neglecting the overall tone of the story. With a little more thought to the narrative and pacing, this could be a really fun eighties musical, it’s just not quite there for me yet. That being said, it is perfect for a night out with friends and should be on your list of things to do in Kent this weekend. With performances running until Saturday 13th July, last minute tickets for ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ can be purchased via the Marlowe Theatre’s website.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Love Kat xxxx

*My ticket for An Officer and a Gentleman was gifted in exchange for an unbiased review.



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