On Tuesday evening, the An Officer and a Gentleman musical, based on the Oscar-winning 1982 film of the same name, premiered at Leeds Grand Theatre.
The iconic plot tells the true story of Zack (Jonny Fines) and co on their quest to becoming US Navy Pilots, with him battling self doubt and falling in love along the way. It comes across as your typical tale romance, until tragedy falls and he is forced to find the courage to be himself and win the heart of the woman he loves.
Training sergeant, Emil Foley, played by Ray Shell, took no prisoners. He drilled the candidates especially hard from the get go based on prejudices about their intentions. Zack himself rolled into boot camp with a bit too much of a swagger and was put through his paces as a result, facing old-school punishments like cleaning urinals with a toothbrush. However, the whole power trip went on for too long, becoming less impactful by the minute.
When allowed leave from base, the candidates rushed to the local pub, where Zack came face to face with Paula (Emma Williams) for the first time.
Audiences were welcomed by an 80s inspired mood board after the interval, complete with vintage photos and distant memories. This theme ran throughout the production, from the costume choices and empowered women, to the soundtrack made up popular anthems from the decade such as: Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and Madonna’s “Material Girl.” A highlight was when the factory women blasted out, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” proving the fight for feminism is far from over.
Paula was a feisty Yorkshire lass hell bent on breaking down Zack’s walls. Williams, a four-time Olivier nominee, played her part brilliantly. She convinced the entire audience that she was no mug when she advised him to fight his demons alone and return when he was both an officer and a gentleman. Casey Seegar (Keisha Atwell) was another fiery female, determined to prove herself and beat her fellow naval candidates to become the first female jet pilot.
This tale of love, feminism and friendship has resonated with audience for decades, and the well deserved standing ovation at the final curtain suggests it will continue to do so for years to come. Making the film into a musical was a risk, but it was one that paid off for writer and director Douglas Day Stewart, who wrote the screenplay based on his personal experience as a Naval Officer Candidate.
An Officer and a Gentleman runs until Saturday 28th April.