It’s always a risk adapting a popular film into a musical, especially when the soundtrack is so iconic. Sister Act is a classic example of a fantastic film that falls short (in my opinion) in musical form, because the original soundtrack was already perfect.
An Officer and a Gentleman on the other hand takes many songs from the film’s original soundtrack and weaves them into the story. And incredibly (unlike some juke box musicals), it works.
Set in the early 80s around an American naval base, this story is not a classic tale of love, but a brutal and harsh reality of life. Manipulation, hard work and family histories all combine to produce a plot line that is at times very shocking. But it is also beautifully crafted into a visually appealing, feel good show. The classic 80’s songs feature seamlessly and the only one that feels contrived is Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer which is used as a karaoke song.
In this touring production, directed by Nikolai Foster, the set (designed by Michael Taylor) is quite impressive. The sound and sight of the rolling waves is a calming backdrop for the story itself, while the use of projections for each training module works really well.
Acting and singing is fantastic from the entire cast, with not a weak member in sight. Rachel Stanley as Esther Pokrifki is excellent and her rendition of Don’t Cry Out Loud is absolutely superb. Ray Shell is also outstanding in his role of Emil Foley.
The four leads work well together and although the chemistry between Jessica Daley (Lynette Pomeroy) and Ian Mcintosh (Sid Worley) does waiver at times, this lends itself to their characters. Emma Williams (Paula Pokrifki) and Johnny Fines (Zack Mayo) have unwavering chemistry and their relationship is instantly gripping and believable.
It is far from perfect, with a clear view of actors getting changed in the wings and waiting to come on; there is also far too much stair climbing. Yes the staircase is needed for the final scene (which is everything it should be) but it feels as though it is used for the sake of it.
However, the combination of the music, performed live under the direction of Michael Riley, the cast performances and overall look and feel of the show, make it a fantastic night at the theatre.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Manuel Harlan
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