Jonny Fines and Emma Williams step most impressively into the Richard Gere and Debra Winger shoes as the cult 1982 film An Officer And A Gentleman turns into a musical.
They are huge shoes to fill, but on a night which grows and grows, they send us home with the right emotional oomph, with Fines as Zack Mayo eventually realising that it’s possible, just as the title suggests, to be both officer and gentleman, bettering himself, but crucially also being himself.
The show is packed with 80s standards, and Williams shows she’s got the lungs to cope, a brilliant singer of real power and intensity – both of which she pours into the character of Paula Pokrifki, the factory girl keen to find an officer cadet.
Alongside her, Fines gives us a Zack battling his past, fighting for his future and struggling with the demands of falling in love just as his focus needs to be on his career. Between them Williams and Fines offer us a couple to root for, their fortunes in sharp contrast to those of Ian McIntosh as Sid Worley and Jessica Daley as Lynette Pomeroy – fine performances from both, but a couple who just can’t shake off their pasts and find a happy present.
Alternating between factory and cadet base, via bars and bedroom, it’s a show which is cleverly staged. Maybe, just maybe, it’s a little slow to get into its stride, delivering us into the interval with the feeling that we’ve barely got going.
But the second half delivers the punch – and manages not to round it all off with an up-in-the-aisles mega-mix of every song we’ve just heard. The show is rather better than that.
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