The eighties are everywhere, and nostalgia is big business. Numerous films of the decade are finding themselves taken to the stage, and An Officer and a Gentleman is one of them.
This version of the Richard Gere and Debra Winger movie in which trainee US Navy pilot Zack falls in love with factory worker Paula against a background of tough training and military life at the US Naval Aviation training facility in Florida is the fairytale we expect of musicals, although not necessarily modern life. The gender bias in the story can make the modern audience uncomfortable, as do homophobic slurs, which could have easily been cut from the script. But these are gripes with the era and the original script, rather than this buoyant rendition which delights the audience at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre.
Keisha Atwell plays Casey Segar, the first woman in history to be accepted to fly a jet, and her dance performance is no less impressive, as she switches from move to move with as much crispness as an origami shape.
Set to a soundtrack of eighties hits, the cast blast through Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer, Madonna’s Material Girl, Blondie’s Heart of Glass and of course the epic Up Where We Belong, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes’ tune that shot to fame on the back of the 1982 film. The singing is excellent, with Emma Williams as Paula and Jessica Dailey as Lynette having particularly potent vocals.
Despite potential misgivings, which say more about the eighties than they do of this representation, the Marlowe audience seems to be in raptures, giving the cast a standing ovation as the final song renditions belt out.