Theatre review - An Officer and a Gentleman the musical, Manchester Opera House

PUBLISHED: 11:45 15 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:45 15 August 2018

An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical: Emma Williams as Paula Pokrifki and Johnny Fines as Zack Mayo
Credit: Manuel Harlan

An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical: Emma Williams as Paula Pokrifki and Johnny Fines as Zack Mayo Credit: Manuel Harlan

Manuel Harlan

An Officer and a Gentleman, the Musical - a proper feel-good fun night out…and that closing scene, of course! Kate Houghton writes.

An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical: Ray Shell as Emil Foley meets the officer candidates
Credit: Manuel HarlanAn Officer and a Gentleman the Musical: Ray Shell as Emil Foley meets the officer candidates Credit: Manuel Harlan

If I have ever seen the movie that inspired the musical, it was a long time ago and I have no recollection of it…apart from the closing scene, of course, that iconic moment when the white clad hero sweeps his love off her feet, literally, and sets off into the sunset. It’s almost worth going just to enjoy the audience’s reaction to that bit, indeed, though the build up is rather good too.

This is no ordinary juke box musical, where a storyline is squished in around a series of songs by a chosen artist – and not always successfully. Here, the storyline already existed of course, in a film with such a provenance nobody would dare mess with it. The era, the 1980’s, doesn’t lack for power ballads of course and the actual selection of the songs we enjoy throughout the show must have been both a joy and a nightmare – so many singalong songs to choose from, where to start?!

An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical: Johnny Fines as Zack Mayo
Credit: Manuel HarlanAn Officer and a Gentleman the Musical: Johnny Fines as Zack Mayo Credit: Manuel Harlan

At the top, is usually a good place and where else but with In the Navy Now (a play on In the Army Now, of course) as the officer candidates line up for their first barrage of abuse from the somewhat marvellous and well-cast Sergeant Emil Foley, played by Ray Shell.

Song after song follows, 25 in all, and 25 brilliantly chosen and brilliantly performed ones at that. Worthy of special note is the performance of Don’t Cry Out Loud, by Emma Williams in her role as Paula Pokriffi, our hero’s lover. Her voice soars through the auditorium, lifting the audience to quite spontaneous applause and filling us with envy at her fabulous talent.

The casting throughout is excellent in fact. Johnny Fines plays an excellent Zack Mayo, the boy with a chip on his shoulder the size of an aircraft carrier, but who of course comes through as the best of them all. His angry young man demeanour and blonde good looks are supported with a strong voice too. The role of his best buddy, Sid Worley, was played by understudy James Darch on the press night and he delivered a cracking performance, it has to be said. He got the balance of bravura and self-confidence exactly right, ensuring that his eventual crash and burn didn’t entirely surprise.

Emma Williams, as Paula Pokriffi and Jessica Daley at Lynette Pomeroy – the girl shamelessly clear that she’s on the hunt for her ticket out of town – were also not remotely disappointing. Brassy and brash as necessary, but still attracting the necessary sympathy from the audience to remain engaged.

What it all comes down to really though is the power of the music, as the story isn’t exactly unique in the history of ‘boy meets girl’. And the music is cracking.

If you love an 80’s power-ballad, with a bit of Madonna and even a-ha thrown in, get yourself a ticket, it’s a failsafe way to enjoy an evening in Manchester.

Until Saturday 18 August, Opera House Manchester www.atgtickets.com/shows/an-officer-and-a-gentleman-the-musical/opera-house-manchester/

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