The stage musical adaptation of “An Office and a Gentleman” does not have “Broadway smash” status. Neither should he.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a failure.
On the contrary, this version of the 1982 Richard Gere-Debra Winger romantic drama is supposed to be played in the provinces. Co-written by film writer Douglas Day Stewart, “Officer” opened a decade ago in Australia to mixed (and sometimes scathing) reviews, albeit four Helpmann Awards. The. Revamped, it returned as a touring show, starting in 2018 in the UK and now in the US, where it takes place.
In its current form, it’s an unapologetically musical jukebox – think “Rock of Ages” on a Navy base. But while that, along with “Mama Mia” and others, built a story around a group of era-specific songs, “Officer” does the opposite; It incorporates a collection of mostly ’80s pop and rock hits — yes, including the movie’s award-winning and chart-topping “Up Where We Belong” (twice) — into the film’s narrative, sometimes with the threads finer. For example, the opening lyric, “prove yourself,” to Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is enough for the song to accompany a scene of the officer training candidates scaling the all-important wall that symbolizes their valor. .
The results are mixed but mostly entertaining. “Officer” is meant for mass appeal, and even its silliest moments at least make you laugh. His nimble staging, meanwhile, uses compact sets and a wall-sized video screen, giving the show an eye-catching visual dimension. And the sound mixing is impeccable.
To the script’s credit, the “Officer” scene serves fans of the film without excluding those who haven’t seen it. Some changes were made – particularly with the character of Sid Worley Jr. (played by Cameron Loyal looking like The Rock’s physique) adding aspects of racial politics and bloodline expectations that weren’t part of the film. But the musical hits key moments in its source material, right down to the final poster.
Ultimately, the “Officer” scene is defined by its handful of standout moments. The winning rearrangement of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” that opens the show establishes Amaya White, as revolutionary officer training candidate Casey Seeger, as the best singer in the cast, as well as the fact that the troupe in the together sings better together than solo. Men At Work’s “Overkill” is that set at its finest, in fact, packing key plot points and themes into one quick rundown.
Wes Williams, as main protagonist Zack Mayo, scores in his delivery of Corey Hart’s “Never Surrender” and a slowed-down take of Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On,” and he and Mia Massaro, as city girl/lover Paula Pokrifki , do justice to “Where We Belong.” And David Wayne Britton is all hard nosed Louis Gossett Jr. as Gunnery Sergeant. Emil Foley, and easy enough to take on two other roles.
When “Officer” jumps the proverbial shark, however, it’s unintentionally hysterical. Styx’s “Renegade” is used for a boot camp encounter that is part of “West Side Story” and “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”, a grimacing exercise in dramatic strength. Rush’s “Fly By Night” is a stretch as a musical vehicle for a cluttered Act II sequence giving us Mayo’s backstory. And Battle Stations’ make-or-break exercise becomes music video satire as three singers, sporting aerobic outfits worthy of Jane Fonda, sing a medley of Pat Benatar hits — including, you guessed it, “Love is a Battlefield”.
“Officer” is ultimately about what you bring to it as a participant. It’s not a Great White Way stunner, that’s for sure. But you can do a lot worse than sit through a bunch of well-known, well-worn songs and a story that has real heart, no matter how clumsily played.