“if the onstage passion isn’t quite ‘electrifying’, the overall presentation is.”
Picture the scene in a cold, forbidding producers’ office. You’re pitching a musical. “What’s the plot?” they ask. Well; it’s boy meets girl, boy and girl indulge in a bit of ‘summer loving’ on holiday, boy spurns girl in the face of peer pressure back at school. Girl sees him for the shallow guy he is, so loses interest anyway. For some inexplicable reason she then decides that she wants him after all (teenagers, eh?). So, she changes her image, trashes what’s left of her endearing and intelligent personality, and dresses provocatively to entice this somewhat dumb and superficial guy. And – Hey Presto! They go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong.
If you haven’t already been shown the door, you might just get to throw in that you think a two-thousand-seater West End theatre is the perfect venue. Preposterous. So maybe you should start the pitch with the title. When “Grease” was released for the cinema in 1978 it became the highest grossing musical film ever at the time. “Grease” was, and still is, the word, as the title song informs us. The New York Times called it “terrific fun”. Four and a half decades later that description still applies.
The current revival at London’s Dominion Theatre harks back more to the original musical which preceded the John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John blockbuster, and which ran on Broadway for eight years until 1980. It’s London debut starred Richard Gere. But the familiarity is still there, and everything we simultaneously love and lambast is bursting at the seams in Nikolai Foster’s sumptuous production. There is a glorious mix of silliness and surreality, bubble-gum and bravado. No matter that the storyline is imperceptible to the point that the opening bars heralding each song are a welcome respite from the banality of the dialogue.
It is within the musical numbers that the heart of the show beats fiercely. There are a couple of additions to the set list, and a couple restored from the original, though these feel inconsequential when up against the wealth of crowd pleasers. Foster bravely doesn’t always play to the crowd, however, but instead injects a freshness that puts a new slant on some of Jim Jacobs’ and Warren Casey’s compositions. Highlights include Jocasta Almgill’s biting rendition of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” or Olivia Moore’s poignant ”Hopelessly Devoted to You” during which she decides she no longer belongs on the side-lines.
Moore’s Sandy does flirt with feistiness, but the character cannot escape the constraints of the script. Even in the seventies one must have wondered why she submits to such gender stereotypical peer pressure; and the question certainly looms larger today. In fact, there are so many wrong messages bouncing off the walls of the auditorium. For the most part they are drowned out by the infectious rhythms of the music and the gusto of the performances, driven by the sheer power of Arlene Phillips’ choreography.
There is little to be gained from looking for nuance or, indeed, emotional punch. We don’t feel the ‘multiplying chills’ about which Dan Partridge, as Danny Zuko, faultlessly sings. But if the onstage passion isn’t quite ‘electrifying’, the overall presentation is. As the closing number suggests: “that’s the way it should be”. Or rather “shoo-bop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom”.
Jamie Wilson and Curve are delighted to announce the World Premiere of “AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN – THE MUSICAL” which will open at Curve on 6 April 2018 before playing at theatres across the UK and in Ireland until 15 September 2018.
This brand-new musical is based on the 1982 Oscar-winning film starring Richard Gere which tells the story of Zack Mayo who is in training to become a US Navy Pilot. When Zack rolls into boot camp with a bit too much of a swagger, drill Sergeant Foley doesn’t make life easy for him. When he falls for local girl Paula Pokrifki and tragedy befalls his friend and fellow candidate, Zack realises the importance of love and friendship and finds the courage to be himself and win the heart of the woman he loves. It’s only then he can truly become both an Officer and a Gentleman.
The musical includes the hit song from the movie, ‘Up Where We Belong’ along with 80’s classics such as ‘Alone’, ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’, ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’, ‘Toy Soldiers’ and ‘Material Girl’ and features one of the most iconic romantic scenes ever portrayed on screen.
“AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN” is one of the highest grossing films of all time. The screenplay is by writer and director Douglas Day Stewart which was based on his personal experience as a Naval Officer Candidate. The book was co-written by Douglas and Sharleen Cooper Cohen.
Producer Jamie Wilson said:
“I am thrilled to be presenting “AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN – THE MUSICAL” and working once again with Chris Stafford, Nikolai Foster and the team at curve. For the last three years we have been working on bringing this memorable and iconic story to the stage, and hope that this new adaptation becomes as loved as the film.”
Jamie Wilson is the lead producer on the current productions of “Crazy For You”, the forthcoming world premiere of “Nativity! The Musical” and Curve’s production of “Sister Act”.
Director Nikolai Foster said:
“An Officer and a Gentleman delicately charts the lives of working class, military folk in America in the early 1980s; important lives, often pushed to the margins of society. We are proud to be working alongside the film’s creator Douglas Day Stewart, producer Jamie Wilson and an incredible creative team to present this beautiful and inspiring story. This brand-new adaptation includes iconic 80s songs which create an entertaining, uplifting and original piece of musical theatre, we are excited to share this world premiere with our audiences here in Leicester and across the U.K.”
Nikolai Foster is Artistic Director at Curve, one of the UK’s leading regional theatres. His work at Curve includes Joe Orton’s “What the Butler Saw”, Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s “Grease”, Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”, “Legally Blonde” Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. He directed the hugely successful recent productions of “Annie” starring Miranda Hart which is now showing in the West End, and “Calamity Jane” which starred Jodie Prenger.
Joining director Nikolai Foster on the creative team are Choreographer Kate Prince, Musical Supervisor Sarah Travis and Designer Michael Taylor.
Kate Prince is the founder and director of ZooNation. She was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2009 for “Into the Hoods” and most recently choreographed the hotly anticipated West End transfer of “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”.
Sarah Travis’ previous credits include “Sweeney Todd” for which she won a Tony Award, “Sister Act”, and currently “A Little Night Music” playing at The Watermill Theatre.
Michael Taylor is an Olivier Award nominated designer with his most recent work including “What the Butler Saw”, “Silver Lining”, “A Christmas Carol” and “The Dresser” in the West End.
Lighting Design will be by Ben Cracknell and Sound Design by Tom Marshall.