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An Officer And A Gentleman The Musical @ Manchester Opera House review – an 80s neon fever dream

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Featured image: Marc Brenner

Based on Douglas Day Stewarts’ hit 80s romance, An Officer and A Gentleman takes to the Manchester Opera House stage to transport us into a timeless story of love, courage and redemption. This Curve production is a neon sensation of retro hits and escapism. 

The story follows Zack Mayo, a Navy aviation officer candidate, as he struggles with his tainted past through his training. In true musical style, the show reads as a pantomime of the film. When Luke Baker, as Mayo, rides onto stage with his classic biker, badboy demeanor, the tone is instantly set. His quiff and leather jacket page him as the misfit to the training group.

The chemistry between his love interest, Paula Pokrifki (Georgia Lennon), is palpable from the second they lay eyes on each other. Paula and Lynette Pomeroy (played by Julia Jones) are introduced, as the would-be officers arrive at base. Hoping to ensnare a future pilot for a husband, the two appear shallow and lacking in character depth. However, this story aims ultimately to entertain, and this it does.

Georgia Lennon as Paula Pokrifki & Luke Baker as Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman. Photography: Marc Brenner

While simple, the set is littered with neon lighting that is used to indicate change of scenery. It’s nothing fantastical to behold, but it makes the story clear and adds a vintage feel to the show. Hits from the 80s adorn the song list, at times feeling more like a karaoke party than a jukebox musical. Still, it’s fun and well received by the older crowds reliving the nostalgia of the film. 

The comradery between Mayo and fellow candidate Sid Worley (Paul French) is touching. Self-described as a lone soldier, Mayo’s barriers are slowly broken down by the immediate brotherhood formed between the two. They make an excellent couple, navigating romance and rigorous military hazing together. If you can push through the initial cringe of such on-the-nose performances, their rendition of ‘I was made for loving you’ is provocative. 

By far the highlight of the musical element, Julia Jones as Lynette absolutely stuns with ‘Material Girl’. Using choreography from Madonna’s original music video, she captivates the crowd in neon pink and sparkles. It is the perfect song to introduce her slight villainy, emphasising her ultimately hollow motives. 

When Lynette breaks Sid’s heart by refusing his offer of marriage, following his decision to quit the training programme, a series of events follows in such quick succession it’s hard to find the display almost comical. As he sings his heartbreak, we learn of his downfall in under three minutes, punctuated by a suicide and breakdown of Mayo’s relationship. It’s hard to keep up, and severely lacking in emotion. As Mayo holds his friend’s body and rejects his love interest, naval officers storm on stage to ‘The Final Countdown’. The second act reads as a complete fever dream. 

Without explanation or resolve, Mayo graduates and in his officer’s uniform, bursts into Paula’s factory to sweep her off her feet. This is met with cheers and even wolf-whistles for the parody of a hero. A standing ovation is given for the cast as they close on ‘Up Where We Belong’.

An Officer And A Gentleman is a wholly entertaining musical full of vibrancy, yearning and song. Where the characters lack in depth, the cast make up for in light-hearted commentary and camp routines.

An Officer and a Gentleman: The Musical is currently showing at Manchester Opera House until Saturday 4th May.

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Jess Berry

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