An Officer and a Gentleman – The Musical – Bord Gais Theatre – Review by Fran Winston
Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2.
Until June 2nd 7.30pm nightly. Matinee 2.30pm May 30th and June 2nd
No, you’re not seeing things. They have actually adapted the 80’s Debra Winger and Richard Gere classic into a musical. In fact, this is the second attempt to launch such a vehicle. An earlier version featured original songs and bombed so this time around they have resorted to 80’s pop classics to pepper the story.
I’m going to assume everyone has seen the film so already knows the plot. In a nutshell, a rebellious naval officer in training called Zack falls for factory worker Paula but their histories and situations make for a rather complicated relationship.
The film was one of the biggest hits of 1982 but is somewhat of its time with much of the gender stereotyping not translating well into the current #MeToo climate. And since this stays true to the plot of the film all the uncomfortable gender politics issues are still in place.
In order to distract from this perhaps, they have thrown money at this show. The rights to the songs alone must have set them back a pretty penny with well-known hits such as Material Girl, You’re The Voice, St Elmo’s Fire, This is a Man’s World, Don’t Cry Out Loud and of course the movies theme song Up Where We Belong all getting the musical theatre treatment. On the whole the arrangements of these are brilliant (A Man’s World is particularly rousing), however, some of them don’t really work in the context of the story.
They have also invested in a phenomenal stage which looks more like something you would find in a long-standing show on the West End rather than a brand new offering. It is really fantastic and well-conceived. It is offset by video screens where pre-recorded segments fill in some of the gaps in the story that may have been tricky to stage and also acts as a backdrop to certain scenes.
The cast are impressive and give electric performances. Each of them has a phenomenal voice that they get to showcase at one time or another. This isn’t enough to detract from the fact that certain moments of this story – bearing in mind that it’s 36 years old and of its time – are cheesier than Babybel. There’s less cheese on a cheese board. There is also an unfortunate scene where a character offers to pay for an abortion. This is a serious scene and taken straight from the movie. However, when presented to an Irish audience a mere three days after the referendum results it was met with howls of laughter. Particularly when she responded that she couldn’t have an abortion because she’s Catholic. However, I’ve a feeling audiences elsewhere will treat it more reverently.
I went into this conflicted as it seems a pointless adaptation but I did come out with a smile on my face and that is mainly down to the musical numbers, the cast’s energy and the chemistry of the leads. While I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle, the story doesn’t really hold up all these years later. The show itself is well conceived and it is a lot of fun but I’m not sure it will enjoy the longevity of some similar shows. Regardless of this, it is well worth seeing.
Oh and please note that it really is unsuitable for a younger audience due to some of the adult themes and language featured throughout.