Tag Archives: Marc Brenner

AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN

★★

New Wimbledon Theatre

AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN at the New Wimbledon Theatre

★★

“the full, immensely talented, company give it their all as they wade through the likes of Madonna, Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, Hall & Oates, Status Quo… and the list goes on”

Picture the scene; in some non-descript boardroom as the initial production meeting for a new musical unfolds. As is the current trend, a successful movie is on the table undergoing the duke box treatment. The person, or persons (no one is actually credited), responsible for compiling the song list has their mind elsewhere. Or, more likely, they didn’t even show up for the brief. The memo in their inbox was enough. It’s the nineteen-eighties!

It’s difficult to decide whether the music is shoehorned into the book, or the thin wisps of script have been tacked onto a compilation CD from somebody’s forty-year-old record collection. Whichever, the result is a union that makes little sense. “An Officer and a Gentleman – the Musical” might have been a good idea at the time, but nobody has really thought it through.

Based on the successful romantic drama film starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger, the musical adaptation’s book is by Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen (Stewart wrote the original film, based on his own experiences as a Naval Aviation Officer Candidate). It was four decades ago now, and very much of its time. There was a toughness underlying the romance and it delved into the lives of down-trodden characters. Although faithful to the original story, the inclusion of the musical numbers in Nikolai Foster’s revival displaces depth of character leaving us with a sense of bemusement as each anthemic chorus blasts its way into the auditorium.

Behind the wall of sound, the story follows Zack Mayo (Luke Baker) through his training as an aviation officer. Whilst continually in conflict with the hard-hitting, sadistic Sergeant Foley (Jamal Kane Crawford) he finds solace, and love (of sorts), in local factory worker Paula Pokrifki (Georgia Lennon). Meanwhile fellow candidate, Sid Worley (Paul French) starts dating Paula’s best friend Lynette Pomeroy (Sinead Long). Both men have been forewarned that local girls will use pregnancy to entrap an officer, seeking a way out of their humdrum lives. This forms a sizeable chunk of the narrative, steering one of the officers towards tragedy, while the other heads off towards his climactic happy ending.

The presentation, it has to be said, is impressive. Michael Taylor’s set mixes warm neons with imposing industrial frameworks while Ben Cracknell’s lighting creates the moods that the banal dialogue fails to convey. There are some odd choices in the songs’ arrangements, but Musical Director Christopher Duffy and his five-piece band pull it off like they’re playing to Wembley’s Twin Towers (remember – it’s the eighties!). Joanna Goodwin’s choreography is a real spectacle, although again, there’s little to suggest that she’d read the script. And the full, immensely talented, company give it their all as they wade through the likes of Madonna, Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, Hall & Oates, Status Quo… and the list goes on. And as the show goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to match what we are hearing with what we are seeing. We wonder how Hall & Oates’ ironic ditty, ‘Family Man’, can underscore tragic (and fatal) heartbreak. An awkward dinner date precedes Heart’s ‘Alone’, delivered with disproportionate bombast. Histrionics has indeed overthrown emotion in this disjointed patchwork of a variety show.

Douglas Day Stewart’s film just happened to be written, released and set in the eighties. But at the time it didn’t define the decade. It seems bizarre that Stewart would allow the level of disrespect to his writing that is being shown here. Never mind the anticipated accusations that the story is inherently dated and misogynous. It’s just homogenous. Which is a shame as it has the potential to court controversy and inspire debate. Instead, we have Helen Reddy’s ‘I Am Woman’, juxtaposed with James Brown’s ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World’, drained of the lyric’s original meaning. On the plus side, though, the songs are all crowd pleasers, and there is passion in the performances; even if nowhere else.


AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN at the New Wimbledon Theatre then UK Tour continues

Reviewed on 2nd April 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Marc Brenner

 


 

Best shows in March 2024:

THE LONELY LONDONERS | ★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | March 2024
FOR BLACK BOYS WHO HAVE
CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE HUE GETS TOO HEAVY | ★★★★ | Garrick Theatre | March 2024
BLUE | ★★★★ | Seven Dials Playhouse | March 2024
GUYS & DOLLS | ★★★★★ | Bridge Theatre | March 2024
POLICE COPS: THE MUSICAL | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse Elephant | March 2024
HIDE AND SEEK | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | March 2024
APRICOT | ★★★★ | Theatre503 | March 2024
IN CLAY | ★★★★★ | Upstairs at the Gatehouse | March 2024
HOSTAGE | ★★★★ | Etcetera Theatre | March 2024
ASSEMBLY HALL | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | March 2024
PRISCILLA THE PARTY! | ★★★★★ | HERE at Outernet | March 2024
MIND MANGLER | ★★★★ | Apollo Theatre | March 2024
BREEDING | ★★★★ | King’s Head Theatre (new) | March 2024
DON’T. MAKE. TEA. | ★★★★★ | Soho Theatre | March 2024
THE DREAM OF A RIDICULOUS MAN | ★★★★ | Marylebone Theatre | March 2024
THE DIVINE MRS S | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | March 2024

AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN

AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN

Click here to see our Recommended Shows page

 

PRISCILLA THE PARTY!

★★★★★

HERE at Outernet

PRISCILLA THE PARTY! at HERE at Outernet

★★★★★

“An incredible night out.”

“Priscilla The Party” is joyous, tremendous musical fun. Based on the 1994 Academy Award winner “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”, “Priscilla the Party” hails from Australia in 2006. It is a rip-roaring celebration of drag, queerness and camp musical theatre. Each scene is calibrated towards entertainment and intrigue from the start. The story follows ‘Tick’ (Owain Williams) as he travels across Australia to reach his wife (Kimberly Blake) and his child (a stooge) as part of a fabulous trio of drag queens travelling in a bus they christen “Priscilla”. Adam (Reece Kerridge) and Bernadette (Dakota Starr) accompany Tick as he travels throughout Australia battling homophobia, transphobia, making allies, and delivering hit after hit. The show is an immersive experience (developed and directed by Simon Phillips), with staging and actors moving throughout the crowd on the dancefloor. The set (Brian Thomson and Justin Nardella) and direction make great use of the atmosphere of a club with an impressive line up of dance hits from “Say a Little Prayer” to “Born This Way”. A tale of love, adversity and Aussie humour shines with amazing theatrical gravitas throughout.

Every cast member performs with outstanding energy, delivering a varied set of pop/dance songs in a jukebox musical for the ages. The quality of musical performance is high with remarkable talent on display throughout as Queens deliver ballads and romps with equal intensity and stage presence. Beautiful vocals draw us into the story and relay the emotions of the characters. The band are brilliant and you can tell they know they have the best gig in town (Musical Arrangements and Orchestration Stephen ‘Spud’ Murphy). The stage management team work tirelessly to coordinate movement of stages as they weave throughout the crowd. The sound design (Ben Harrison) includes familiar hits, punctuated by topical music in the breaks that ensure a continuation of the party. The multi-media venue makes use of video backgrounds (also Thompson and Nardella) and vibrant club lighting (Per Hörding). The show includes all the best parts of a drag show with all the precision and thought of a well-crafted musical (Musical arrangements and direction Steve Geere). A highlight are the fantastic costumes (Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner) and wigs, delivering camp, classic and heightened drag in the best possible way.

Seated dining experiences are available, though dance floor tickets make up the bulk of audience members who get to join in the concert-like drag-show-esque party atmosphere. “Priscilla the Party” is stunningly unique and totally immersive, taking the audience on a hugely enjoyable road trip through Australia whilst delivering one spectacular party en route. The close to three hours playing time flies by as the colourful scenes progress in and around the gloriously camp ‘Cockatoo Club’. Arrive early to enjoy the full experience, as there are superb opening acts to enjoy. With drag queens and musical actors combining their strengths, “Priscilla The Party” makes for an incredible night out.


PRISCILLA THE PARTY! at HERE at Outernet

Reviewed on 24th March 2024

by Jessica Potts

Photography by Marc Brenner

 

 

Recently reviewed by Jessica:

HOSTAGE | ★★★★ | Etcetera Theatre | March 2024
APRICOT | ★★★★ | Theatre503 | March 2024
SARAH QUAND MÊME | | Drayton Arms | February 2024
AMUSEMENTS | ★★★★ | Soho Theatre | February 2024
WISH YOU WEREN’T HERE | ★★★ | Soho Theatre | February 2024
TWO ROUNDS | ★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | February 2024

PRISCILLA THE PARTY!

PRISCILLA THE PARTY!

Click here to see our Recommended Shows page