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REVIEW: An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Another day, yet another iconic 80s movie is adapted as a stage musical. This adaptation of An Officer and a Gentleman by Douglas Day Stewart (with Sharleen Cooper Cohen) of his own original 1982 screenplay, is a cheesy, overblown but ultimately likeable production with a plethora of hits of the decade.

For those unaware of the original source material, An Officer and a Gentleman follows the story of a group of new recruits at the United States Naval Aviation Training Facility in Pensacola, Florida, and the band of local factory women who strive to hook one of these would-be officers in an attempt to escape the drudgery of their dead-end jobs. Principal among them is the relationship between troubled Navy brat Zack (Jonny Fines) and “townie” Paula (Emma Williams). Oh, joy, another story where a man has to ‘rescue’ a woman in order to give her a better life, I hear you cry, and while hackles may rise in 2018, it just about gets away with it due to its early 80s setting and the corniness with which it’s delivered.

The action takes place on a dull but functional set by Michael Taylor. The colours, drab blues, brown and greys are evocative of the workers situation and the Naval Base but, are a trifle uninspiring to the eye. It does however change smoothly, quickly and effectively between the many locations in the story.

The whole score could be a Now That’s What I Call The 80s album and there are some stomping anthems: Livin’ on a Prayer (given the volume it deserves), Alone and I Want to Know What Love Is and a corking version of We Don’t Cry Out Loud from Williams and Rachel Stanley as her mother Esther, but, there are some baffling arrangements that are less easy on the ear: Heart of Glass and a caterwauling Kids in America to name two.

The greatest asset of the production is its actors, there are some knock-out performances from a refreshingly representative cast in age, gender and race. There are no weak links, veteran Ray Shell is highly effective as Drill Sgt Foley, and the central quartet of Williams and Fines as Paula and Zack and Ian McIntosh (who delivers an emotive performance and has a beautiful voice) as Sid and Jessica Daley as the hard-hearted Lynette are all excellent.

This is not going to challenge your intellect but, was never intended to. It is a piece of easy escapism that will entertain both fans of the film and those new to the story.

Runs until 15 September 2018 | Image: Manuel Harlan

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Annie – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

As a populist piece of entertainment Annie, Thomas Meehan, Martin Charnin and Charles Strouse’s 1977 musical has always appealed to those who love their shows schmaltzy and sentimental and taking it as such, Nikolai Foster’s revival will surely entertain many. There are sunny tunes a-plenty, wall-to-wall energetic tots and a tug at your heart strings story, but high art it isn’t and the plot that threads together the musical theatre mega-hits is paper-thin.

The tale of 11-year old Annie left on the steps of a New York orphanage as a baby, still clinging to the desperate hope that her parents will return to claim her, is one of hope and optimism in the face of adversity. Set during the Depression, the plot has a familiar resonance – the wide-spread poverty and desperation are not so far removed from the world outside the doors of the theatre, however, the uneven book has its lulls and at times the attention drifts (a fact seemingly acknowledged by the director, who sends the cute canine member of the cast, Sandy (Amber) on stage to enliven any moments of boredom).

Foster’s new production has more than the hint of the RSC’s Matilda about it, from the jigsaw piece decorated set (building blocks in Matilda) to the sharp, modern choreography (which is absolutely first-rate), it shows its influences on its sleeve. That said, the set design and lighting are a visual treat.

The first-rate cast is deserving of high praise: Alex Bourne’s Oliver Warbucks is fine-voiced, fleet-footed and assured and Holly Dale Spencer’s Grace is a pitch-perfect, well-judged delight. The pint-sized orphans are well-drilled, energetic and characterful, the ensemble is universally razor-sharp and Elise Blake’s Annie is highly competent if lacking a little warmth.

Musicals have come a long way since Annie’s appearance in 1977 and Foster’s production delivers visually for a modern audience, but there’s just something missing in the musical itself that a great director, innovative choreographer, talented set designer and first-rate cast just can’t overcome. If you like your entertainment sweet, syrupy and sentimental and thoroughly family-friendly then you’ll love it – those looking for something with a bit more grit should look elsewhere.

Runs until 20 February 2016 |Image: Matt Crockett