‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ is not just a musical about romance, it’s an epic ’80s soundtrack

By Beth Mack

December 2, 2021

A new musical, An Officer and a Gentleman, is coming to Charlotte on December 7-12 to Ovens Auditorium. Written and directed by Tony nominee Dick Scanlan, the musical is a part of a nationwide tour that recently premiered in Las Vegas in October.  

An Officer and a Gentleman: The Musical is based on Douglas Day Steward’s 1982 romantic drama film of the same name starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger. It was an acclaimed film, winning Oscars for best original song, with Louis Gossette Jr. snagging Best Supporting Actor. 

L to R: Wes Williams, Cameron Loyal and David Wayne Britton in ‘An Officer and a Gentlemen.’ Photo: Matthew Murphy

The musical focuses on a headstrong Zack Mayo (Wes Williams), who enters the US Navy’s Aviation Officer School and is faced with a relentless drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley (David Wayne Britton). As Zack and fellow officer candidate Sid Worley (Cameron Loyal) venture around the town in their spare time, Zack meets his match in obstinate local, Paula Pokrifi (Mary Nikols). When tragedy strikes a fellow officer candidate, Zack goes down a path of self-discovery that shapes him into a man worthy enough to be both an officer and a gentleman.

The cast includes some more well-seasoned performers in Wes Williams (Hal in Proof and Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie) and David Wayne Britton (the film American Gangster and television show Law & Order) as many others make their national tour debut. Uniquely, Britton served in the US Navy prior to the start of his acting career, giving him a leg up in his role. Choreographing all performers is Patricia Wilcox, whose previous Broadway credits include Motown: The Musical and A Night with Janis Joplin

Emily Louise Franklin and Cameron Loyal in ‘An Officer and a Gentlemen.’ Photo by Matthew Murphy

It’s not just a cheesy musical about romance with a back story of overcoming adversity, it is a jukebox musical. Its soundtrack features iconic ‘80s hits ranging from “Love is a Battlefield” by Pat Benatar to Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love,” and, of course, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes’ Oscar and Grammy-winning “Up Where We Belong.” To round it out, the musical features songs from ‘80s megastars Richard Marxx, Debbie Gibson, Styx, Yes, Rush, Corey Hart, Carly Simon, Survivor, Men at Work, and Bananarama, to name a few.

To tackle the musical supervision of An Officer and a Gentleman, director Dick Scanlan brought in the talents of composer Dan Lipton. Lipton was charged with selecting the iconic ‘80s songs, arranging them, and co-orchestrating them to give the performance the musical impact it needed to evoke emotion and appease the audiences’ nostalgia for the original songs. 

The National Touring Company in ‘An Officer and a Gentlemen.’ Photo by Matthew Murphy

“You kind of have to think about, you know, should we reinvent this one or should we just give them this one right on a silver platter the way they remember it? There are definitely songs in the show where it is exactly as you remember it. Then there are a few other songs that I got to play with to better suit the show and it gives the audience a new take on it,” said Lipton. 

An Officer and a Gentleman: The Musical gives a message that remains relevant almost four decades later. Of course, there are the overarching messages of overcoming adversity and fighting for love, but that is not all. According to Lipton, “It leaves the audience with themes of romance, connection, and patriotism without politics.” The latter is perhaps the message that we need to hear a little more these days, and we can always use more ‘80s music.      

An Officer and a Gentleman will play in Charlotte on December 7-12 at Ovens Auditorium

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