It was the world premiere of a brand-new musical, An Officer and a Gentleman, at Curve Leicester last night, and what a triumph it was.
Based on the hit 80’s film starring Richard Gere, we follow the story of Zack Mayo (Jonny Fines) as he enters training to become a US Navy Pilot. A little bit too cocky for his own good, Zack is reeling from a troubled childhood and an ongoing turbulent relationship with an emotionally abusive father. He meets a local factory girl, Paula, (Emma Williams) who helps him steer the difficult waters of his naval training and discover who he really is along the way.
Jonny Fines does a fantastic job as our leading man. Having recently appeared at Curve in Grease the Musical, I would actually go as far as to say that I prefered Jonny’s portrayal of Zack to Richard Gere’s. Jonny’s performance really resonated with me as it is brimming with the trauma and anguish of Zach’s turbulent childhood. You’d be hard pushed not to believe that Jonny doesn’t understand his character’s troubles to the very core.
This is my first time seeing Emma Williams perform, and my high expectations (due to her very impressive CV) were not disappointed. She is absolutely phenomenal and is complemented perfectly by Jessica Daley who plays Lynette, the ambitious best friend who will stop at absolutely nothing to escape her mundane life.
An underlying theme of the story is the American Dream, largely in the shape of the factory girls who long for a naval officer to sweep them off their feet and carry them off into the sunset. Unfortunately, as is often the case with many stories depicting the American Dream, it becomes apparent that sometimes the Dream is, and will always be, just that – a dream. Ian McIntosh plays Sid heartbreakingly well, and it was tough to not shed a tear in Act 2 as Sid struggles to come to terms with Lynette’s tricks.
This is yet another fantastic cast from Curve Leicester. I have yet to see a bad cast from this theatre, and I really do think the casting team has to be commended for pulling it out of the bag time and time again.
Choreography by Kate Prince is stunning, as are the fantastic and very powerful projections by Douglas O’Connell.
I’ll be honest, when I heard that this classic film was being transformed into a musical, I wasn’t sure how successful it could be. I’m glad to say that I was wrong. It finds its own home on stage, and the perfectly cherry-picked songs beautifully complement the story.
The more Made At Curve productions I have the pleasure of watching, the more I am absolutely convinced that Nikolai Foster is nothing short of a genius. This show is a runaway triumph and every member of the cast and production team deserved every second (and more) of the standing ovation they received.
Reviewed by Rosie Bambury
Photo: Manuel Harlan