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Review: An Officer and a Gentleman, Wales Millennium Centre 2024

Georgia Lennon as Paula Pokrifki & Luke Baker as Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman, credit Marc Brenner

The 80’s hits in this show will sweep you off your feet as the love story between a spikey young navy officer trainee, Zack Mayo, and the determined Paula Pokrifki plays out.

It’s been a long time since I’ve watched the film so couldn’t tell you how close to the original picture this production was. But the stage was set even before the actors came on stage with the auditorium being filled with the sounds of 80’s American TV commercials and news reels.

As the new recruits arrive in town down-on-her-luck local Lynette Pomeroy, (Sinead Long, 9-5, Hamilton), seeks out an eligible young bachelor to take her away from the drudgery of the daily grind. Using the nursing privileges of her best friend Paula, (Georgina Lennon, The Osmonds: A New Musical, Lady Chatterley’s Lover) to get onto the navy base and inspect the new arrivals. The next two and a half hours are filled with emotional highs and lows as relationships unfold between the two girls and a couple of the aspiring navy officers.

For the officer trainee actors this isn’t just about singing and dancing, this show is a feat of physicality! Just watching lead actor Luke Baker (Billy Elliot, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Footloose) doing push-ups after having sung and danced for over an hour left me exhausted. Fellow recruits Sid Worley, (Paul French, Annie, Wizard of Oz, Grease) and Casey Seegar, (Olivia Foster-Browne, Grease) are put through their paces by Gunnery Sargent Emil Foley (Jamal Crawford, Fame The Musical).

The cast of An Officer and a Gentleman, credit Marc Brenner

It’s not just the officer trainee actors who work hard, the number of speedy costume changes really put the performers through their paces. The set design transports the audience from factory floor to motel bedroom to flight decks with a set that is flexible and innovative. The band were also exceptional keeping up with the musical numbers throughout the production.

The soundtrack to this show isn’t specific to the time period of the 1982 movie, encompassing 1971 hit ‘I am Woman’ and 1988’s ‘Toy Soldiers.’ The writers have done a great job of collating ballads that convey the story and keep the audience wanting more. Kicking off the second act with Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ (Whoa, we’re half way there) was a stroke of comedic genius.

The story goes through highs and lows, and the fast paced musical numbers left a poignant silence during the quieter points of the story but this did leave the emotional impact of these moments slightly lacking in impact. As is often the case with opening nights there were a few hiccups with the technical aspects and sound levels, but the cast carried the story well and recovered from the interruption.

The supporting actors Melanie Masson (The X-Factor) playing Esther Pokrifki and Wendi Harriott (The Voice, UK) playing Aunt Bunny deserve a particular mention for their vocal performances, stage presence and chemistry. Both were outstandingly good!

LtoR Wendi Harriott as Aunt Bunny & Melanie Masson as Esther Pokrifki in An Officer and a Gentleman, credit Marc Brenner

Tim Rogers (West Side Story) played Mayo’s delinquent father, Byron Mayo with Lucas Piquero  (Sister Act) and Chris Breistein (School of Rock) playing recruits Eduardo Cortez and Louis Perryman. They were joined by James Wilkinson-Jones (South Pacific) as Troy and Danny Whelan (Miss Saigon) as Craig.

The ensemble was made up of Julia Jones (Mama Mia!), Etisyai Philip (Cluedo), Mia Harrison (Million Dollar Quartet), Lukin Simmonds (Annie), Will May (The Twelve Tenors) and Ellie-Grace Cousins (Mama Mia!).

An Officer and a Gentleman is a nostalgic, fun-filled production that will leave you with emotional goosebumps, lift you up out of your seats and carry you away on a whirlwind romance.

Tickets are on sale at the Wales Millennium Centre from 15-20 April 2024 and can be found here.