Sharon Cain, Time for Life Correspondent

Love, Honor And Perseverance: An Officer And A Gentleman

Luke Baker as Zack Mayo and Georgia Lennon as Paula Pokrifki. 
Photo: Marc Brenner
Luke Baker as Zack Mayo and Georgia Lennon as Paula Pokrifki. Photo: Marc Brenner
I was intrigued as to how the award-winning 80s all-American movie, An Officer, and a Gentleman, would translate into a musical which is currently touring the UK and Ireland.

As a fairytale romance, it didn’t sweep me off my feet. As a storyline in which almost all the cast, including lead character Zack Mayo, are striving to better themselves - it is uplifting, inspirational, and thought provoking.

Cast members in An Officer and a Gentleman. 
Photo: Marc Brenner
Cast members in An Officer and a Gentleman. Photo: Marc Brenner
Zack, played by Luke Baker and admiral’s son, Sid Worley, performed by Paul French, are among a group of officer candidates undergoing a gruelling 12-week course at the US Naval Aviation Training Facility in Florida in 1982. Of those who graduate, only two will earn the privilege of flying jets.

The duo could not have hailed from more diverse backgrounds. Motherless from an early age, Zack’s heartbreakingly tough upbringing is brought home to us by his womanizing, alcoholic father, Byron Mayo, fabulously played by Tim Rogers.

Byron, a US sailor hanging onto his job by the skin of his teeth, constantly berates and derides his son for wanting to aim high. Such relentless criticism only makes Zack more determined.

Jamal Kane Crawford as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley and Luke Baker as Zack Mayo
Photo: Marc Brenner
Jamal Kane Crawford as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley and Luke Baker as Zack Mayo Photo: Marc Brenner
In stark contrast Sid, who has enjoyed a privileged upbringing but is always living in the shadow of his revered older brother who died in service, is likewise desperate to achieve officer status.

The recruits’ mental and physical resilience is tested to the limits by Jamal Kane Crawford as the heartless and demanding Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley who exudes a powerful stage presence and is outstanding.

If you have seen the film, you will remember the part when the would-be officers are given free time to let off steam, which they do spectacularly.

The love theme gets off the ground in a bar when Zack meets feisty factory girl Paula Pokrifki (Georgia Lennon) who, also longing for a better life, is training as a nurse outside her shifts.

Jamal Kane Crawford as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley and Olivia Foster-Browne as Casey Seegar
Photo: Marc Brenner
Jamal Kane Crawford as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley and Olivia Foster-Browne as Casey Seegar Photo: Marc Brenner
Despite the recruits being warned to steer clear of the local girls who will only regard them as a ticket to a better world away from their factory grind, Sid is bowled over by Paula’s friend, Lynette Pomeroy (Julia Jones) a fellow factory worker also yearning to escape her daily drudgery.

Although I didn’t pick up much smouldering chemistry between the two couples, their combined acting and singing talents are knockout and worthy of special mention.

As to the plot, fast forward 42 years, and the story has not aged well, It strikes some discordant chords with outdated gender politics such as Paula’s aging, factory-fatigued mother Esther, well performed by Melanie Masson, bemoaning how men no longer grab her bottom.

As the 12-week deadline in survival and fortitude hurtles closer, the group dwindles. Those who can’t hack it depart with their hopes and dreams shattered.

The die-hards who remain include the diminutive, Casey Seegar, effectively played by Olivia Foster-Browne. From a lowly background like Zack, she is the only woman on the programme and also desperate to fly jets.

Tensions rise as the plot takes a series of twists and turns which dish up a contrasting see saw of emotions including heartbreak, despair and failure before its happy ending.

Widely referred to as a ‘jukebox musical,’ with a backdrop of smash-hit 80s soundtracks from icons including Madonna, Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, Joe Cocker and many more, for me the music and dancing didn’t wholly align with the acting.

A fairytale finale, however, demonstrated how the musical had hit the right notes with the audience.
On their feet with a rousing standing ovation for the performers and five-strong band, this story of love and transformation had clearly been a soaring success.

An Officer and a Gentleman plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday, 18 May 2024. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

The musical is also touring at venues including York, Sheffield, and Hull. For more information see https://officerandagentlemanthemusical.com/