Review Roundup: AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN in Sydney

An Officer and a Gentleman, directed by Simon Philips and co-written by Douglas Day Stewart and composer and lyricist team Ken Hirsch and Robin Lerner, made its world premiere performance on May 18 at the Lyric Theater in Sydney, Australia. 

The cast bringing this timeless story to life includes Ben Mingay as Zack Mayo, Amanda Harrison as Paula Pokrifki, Alex Rathgeber, Kate Kendall, Bartholomew John, Bert LaBonte, Josh Piterman, Tara Morice, Zahra Newman, JoseF Brown, Bernard Angel, Elise Brennan, Bianca Baykara, Kirby Burgess, Lena Cruz, Sam Devenport, Akina Edmonds, Zoy Frangos, Sheridan Harbridge, Peter Hardy, Brendan Irving, Tanya Mitford, Thern Reynolds, Simon Roborgh, Michael Whalley and Patrick Williams.

The 1982 film has become a phenomenon in cinema history, recently listed by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten love stories in cinema history. Based on the hugely successful Academy Award-winning film, this new production has been adapted for the stage by the original screen writer, Douglas Day Stewart and co-writer Sharleen Cooper Cohen, produced by Sharleen Cooper Cohen and John Frost, and directed by Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical). Featuring the iconic hit song “Up Where We Belong” and a new score by hit song writer Ken Hirsch and Grammy nominee Robin Lerner, this is a timeless tale of struggle, success, friendship and love.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Jason Blake, The Sydney Morning Herald: The songs (rock ballads mostly, by Ken Hirsch and Robin Lerner) are leaden, musically and lyrically - so much so that Up Where We Belong (written by Jack Nitzsche and Buffy Sainte-Marie back in the day) seems out of place, palpably cut from superior cloth. Among all this, Mingay and Harrison give you little to root for. With his Eddie Vedder-like baritone and NRL prop heft, Mingay is not a natural when it comes to communicating humility or charm. His cockiness makes Zack's eventual breakdown in front of Foley ("I ain't got nuthin' else!") less like a cri de coeur and more like petulancE. Harrison drapes herself around Mingay's massive frame and sings prettily but chemistry is largely absent and without it, An Officer and a Gentleman - The Musical has no wind beneath its wings.

Sarrah Le Marquand, The Sunday Telegraph: As a much-touted world premiere, An Officer And A Gentleman boasts a better than expected score by Ken Hirsch and Robin Lerner, although it is still the borrowed ballad, Up Where We Belong, that claims showstopper honours. Speaking of that closing scene, the show’s creators wisely opt to faithfully recreate the moment in all its cliched glory, ensuring fans of the original won’t be disappointed. Corny? Seat-squirmingly so. But when your template is a famously sentimental film, anything else would be a betrayal.

Deborah Jones, The Australian: All the hubbub—the musical is surprisingly dull despite its noisiness—fails to mask two key failings. Both suggest director Simon Phillips has had way, way too little time to work with the actors and on shaping the piece. In many places no persuasive way has been found to translate film action into something that works on stage—exhibit No 1 is the Dilbert Dunker scene, where a supposedly fearsome training machine looks like something out of Thunderbirds. And most dispiritingly, well and truly AWOL are the inner desperation and vulnerability that may make us care for these people....An Officer and a Gentleman—the film—may not be a masterpiece, but it has heart and the scrappy world it creates is believable. The musical offers only a bloodless facsimile with a borrowed image at the end to satisfy the customers.

Penny Spirou, Australian Stage: At many points during the production, the dialogue in the stage musical replicates the script of the film, word-for-word and I believe that was a good choice, as some of the lines are incredibly iconic and memorable….The stars of the show, Zack Mayo (naise), played by Ben Mingay and Paula Pokrifki, played by Amanda Harrison, were well-cast, great performers. Sid Worley (Alex Rathgeber) and Lynette Pomeroy (Kate Kendall) provided the dramatic sub-plot and really shone in their solos, 'Dirty Little War' and 'Be My Wife'. You won't recognise the music, although fresh and catchy, and you'll have to wait until the final scene to hear 'Up Where We Belong', a song actually used in the final scene and credit roll of the film….The themes of love, honesty and hard-work are timeless—this musical will be loved by anyone who likes a good old-fashioned (musical) romance.

Lloyd Bradford Syke, Crikey's Curtain Call: Critiquing an Australian-backed musical is a bit like slaughtering, or at least injuring, a sacred cow. Anything that employs Aussie actors, singers, musicians and crew has got to be good, especially when they’re of this calibre. But, nonetheless, even the finest performances (and there are numerous that are, indeed, fine) don’t maketh a musical….Solid, but unspectacular, in fact, tends to sum up the whole shebang. The best moments come from the performers themselves, who have quite obviously been in good hands, especially with Simon Phillips as director….It’s not quite ‘conduct unbecoming’, but An Officer And A Gentleman didn’t exactly set me on fire. But I hope it catches with the voting, paying, Honda ‘Oddity’-driving public, in any case.

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