Adding Needed Depth ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ coming to the Granada Theatre
When the musical version of An Officer and a Gentleman plays November 9-10 at the Granada Theatre, it won’t be quite the singular sensation provided by the massive Santa Barbara-only one-off presentation of Kismet at the same venue two weekends ago. But Officer does offer a rare chance for locals to get an early viewing of the musical adaptation of the multiple Oscar-winning 1982 film, which not only represents the post-pandemic return of the Broadway series to town, but also just the second stop on the show’s world premiere, perhaps pre-Broadway tour. The first installment in the series not to ever have played New York adds music and dancing to the triumph over adversity journey of self-discovery where a brave but brash U.S. Navy’s Officer Training School cadet whose mettle is tested by both the harsh command of his drill sergeant and the heart tugging of the strong-willed local factory worker striving to improve her own life he falls in love with.
The first attempt at adapting the film by its original screenwriter Douglas Day Stewart flopped in both Australia and the U.K. The one coming to the Granada this week is a brand-new version co-authored by its director Dick Scanlan, a multiple Tony Award-nominee (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Everyday Rapture), and the production was completely reworked throughout the downtime provided by the pandemic. And just as director Lonny Price updated Kismet’s script for cultural consistency, Scanlan’s creative team also updated Officer’s story for modern times, recognizing shifts in political perspectives, the empowerment of women, and issues of racism.
“There’s been a lot of movement for diversity in the show and it’s added so much more depth to the story,” explained Wes Williams, the actor who portrays the would-be officer Zach (played by Richard Gere in the film) in his first role in a touring company. “Actors of color play Sid and some of the other key roles, and Zach and Paula’s relationship is much more of a partnership, with decisions being made on a mutual basis, and Zach getting consent.
“And the producers also spent time at OTC to make sure they weren’t getting anything wrong about the recruits, who are much more intelligent and curious than in the movie. The music, the choreography also makes all of that clear.”
Indeed, the score is loaded with 1980s music that includes hits from Rick Springfield, Styx, Debbie Gibson, Richard Marx, Wilson Phillips, Pat Benatar, and, of course, the Grammy-winning single “Up Where We Belong” that serves as the soundtrack to the final scene. But the stage show also departs from the film and earlier U.K. version to bring in more obscure tunes of the era, Williams said.
“Even the ones you know have been arranged in ways that you’re not going to recognize them right away,” he said, citing Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” as an example. “They found songs that fit so well into the story that it kind of makes it seem like they were written for that moment.”
What hasn’t changed at all, though, is the strenuous physical tests Zack has to endure, including scaling a 12-foot-high wall on stage every night eight times a week, Williams said.
“I’m doing lunges, crunches, obliques, and jumping jacks and so many pushups in addition to the wall. I think it’s around 75 every show, on top of the athletic dancing.”
Fortunately, the actor used the pandemic pause to get certified as a personal trainer – which he called his “Muggle job” – so he was ready for the biggest challenge of doing double-time pushups as a punishment all while singing as his face nears the ground.
Last weekend’s world premiere in Las Vegas went well, Williams said, noting that the audience — which included both Stewart and actor Lou Gossett, Jr., who won an Oscar for portraying the drill sergeant — lapped up the love story.
“They both had very kind things to say backstage after the show,” he said.
Get Personal at CST
The first in-person installment of Personal Stories since the pandemic takes place this weekend at Center Stage Theater, where 20 local writers, actors, and authors will perform readings of their Moth-style true first-person tales twice each over the November 4-7 weekend. Among the tellers are former SBCC Theatre chief Rick Mokler and ubiquitous actor Ed Giron. Details at https://centerstagetheater.org.