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An Officer and a Gentleman | Venue Cymru

An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical, which is based on the film and book of the same title, follows the story of Zack Mayo, desperate to find his meaning of life by joining the navy. After suffering a tragic upbringing, Mayo longs for life of solitude in which he only takes care of himself, however his life is turned upside down when he finds love in local factory worker Paula Pokrifki, a friend in co-trainee Sid Worley, and competition in fellow teammate Casey Seegar.

 

Following closely to the story written by Douglas Day Stewart, the story explores a wide range of themes which are still relevant in this day and age – racism, women’s rights, and opportunities for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds – this makes An Officer and a Gentleman a timeless story that many can relate and resonate with. Each of the characters are embarking on a personal journey which makes the audience root for the characters and their journey.

 

Luke Baker plays Zack Mayo and gives a well-rounded performance, balancing the charisma of a young and naïve officer with a sheer determination and passion for seeking a better life to escape his inner demons. With Baker having a wide range of supporting roles under his belt, his performance as Mayo proves that he is worthy of a long future of leading roles ahead. Baker’s chemistry with co-lead Georgia Lennon (who plays Paula) feels completely natural and undeniable, and it's difficult to believe that this tour is still in its early days. Lennon gives such a heartfelt and emotive performance, portraying the complete hopelessness in falling in love with someone who is completely closed off and refuses to let her in. Lennon and Sinead Long (Paula's best friend) give some of the best vocal performances of the evening, and prove that jukebox musicals can be successful in aiding a storyline.


Jamal Kane Crawford gives a solid performance as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley, and whilst reminiscent of the character in the 1982 movie, Crawford holds his own by incorporating moments of humour, as well as moments of real vulnerability, that gives audience a glimpse into Foley's true soul. Whilst Paul French's performance as Mayo's best friend Sid initially feels quite reserved (nonetheless enjoyable as the carefree friend), the second act is where Worley embarks on an incredibly emotional journey, and it is here that French gives the most profound and emotionally charged performance of the evening.



 As it naturally comes with the territory of jukebox musicals, an array of 80s anthemic hits are shoe-horned into each 55-minute act. However, these songs mostly slot into the plot without questioning, and are performed exquisitely well by the cast, so each song is welcomed and are enjoyable earworms for the audience. The ensemble cast are sporadically used, but in the moments that they are on stage, they provide moments of high-energy performance and some of the tightest group harmonies. Some highlight performances come from Livin’ on a Prayer (performed by French, Long and the ensemble in a karaoke bar) which is an incredible second act opener, and I Am Woman (delicately performed by Melanie Masson, Lennon and the factory workers).


Set design (Michael Taylor) and lighting design (Ben Cracknell) are both visually impressive. Taylor's set incorporates an industrial feel, with neon lights of a jet and a palm tree attached that light up at certain moments - this is effective in showing the contrasts between the harsh conditions in which trainee officers were succumbed to at base, to the bright lights and city life co-existing outside. Cracknell has perfectly captured the 80s neon colours which sets the scene for the era that the show is set in. Choreography (Joanna Goodwin) often puts the trainees through their paces with high energy, cardio movements, accurately resembling the realities of the training that officers would be put through.


A few issues with sound meant that the performance began with a jilted start, with the band overpowering the vocals, however, this can be forgiven for the first night of a new venue on tour. Once settled, both the band and vocal performances were sublime and truly set the tone for the soundtrack of 80s anthemic hits. George Dyer’s musical supervision and orchestration gives a new spin to some of the classic songs that we all know and love – an honourable mention here to Wendi Harriott’s performance of Kids in America, which takes a dark turn and shows the not so rose-tinted ways in which officers would live their lives.

 

An Officer and a Gentleman has all the elements of a successful jukebox musical – catchy tunes that can be perceived in new and dynamic ways, developed characters with personal journeys to root for, and a story to hopelessly get lost in. With some of the 80s biggest hits ranging from Bon Jovi, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, and the inclusion of one of the most iconic and swoonworthy moments in movies, An Officer and a Gentleman will delight audiences around the country. An Officer and a Gentleman runs at Venue Cymru until 23rd March 2024. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Marc Brenner


 

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