Hancher’s ‘An Officer and A Gentleman’ delivers almost everything you could want in a musical

‘An Officer and A Gentleman’ is a tale filled with just as much heart as it is classic 80s hits. The musical took on Hancher’s stage for a singular performance on Jan. 19.


Contributed photo from Hancher.

Ariana Lessard, Arts Reporter

Based on the Oscar-winning film of the same name, An Officer and a Gentleman is filled with classic 80s hits as it explores a young man’s journey when he enters the U.S. Navy’s Officer Training School. The show played a singular performance at Hancher Auditorium on Jan. 19 as a part of its national tour.

The story centers on Zack Mayo, a troubled college graduate embarking on becoming a navy pilot who doesn’t realize that life is a team sport. Despite my issues with the character of Zack, Wes Williams, who portrays him onstage, was excellent.

Before diving into critiques, I’d like to note how incredibly athletic and fast paced all of the choreography in this performance was — from singing while doing push-ups to singing while carrying people, there were several points that I was simply blown away by how every actor made borderline impossible feats look effortless. I don’t know if they casted for actors who were in shape, or if they encouraged the actors to become more athletic for the role, but kudos to the cast regardless.

Every lead’s voice, every secondary character, and most of the side characters gave me goosebumps at one point or another. This is an incredibly talented cast — and my issues with the character of Zack aside, they put together an excellent show.

The musicians, for the brief moments I could see them from my view on the far right of the balcony, looked like they were having the time of their lives and played with first-show excitement, despite Hancher being their 21st stop on a 60-show tour.

Additionally, the lights and graphics team were so good, that I remembered to mention the lights and graphics team. The images projected onto the screen backing the stage skillfully incorporated the viewer. At one point they projected a graphic of a baby mobile timed to sad music, and its impact sinks in when, in the next scene, the audience learns a character has aborted her baby.

Now to discuss the plot — and more specifically the romance. I found this to be the most disappointing part of the musical, not because it wasn’t good, but because it could have been great. There were moments of excellent chemistry between the two main leads: Zack and Paula, Paula being played by the enchanting Mia Massaro. Despite their fleeting moments of sweetness, I found it almost impossible to root for Zack — his tragic backstory did not justify his selfish, and at times, violent behavior.

This musical presents a flawed and nuanced view of America, which is, in my opinion, the best kind. It consistently draws attention back to the lack of diversity in the military, and the struggle of women to be taken seriously as soldiers. I was not anticipating so many working women anthems, but I’m very glad to have received them.

Finally, my favorite component of this play was how unapologetically 80s it was. They used songs from the 80s such as “Venus” by Shocking Blue and “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips. They also had some spectacularly cheesy outfits, which lightened the tone of what is an otherwise emotional musical.

Ultimately, Hancher’s performance of An Officer and a Gentleman was executed phenomenally by the acting troop and stage crew — my only issues are with the musical’s content itself.

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