An Officer and a Gentleman

An Officer and a Gentleman

World Premiere Musical For Sydney in 2012

It was announced today (August 15) by Barry O’Farrell, Premier of NSW, that Sydney has won the right to host the World Premiere season of the new musical An Officer and a Gentleman in 2012.

Neil Litchfield was at the musical's launch, on the Flight Deck of the HMAS Sydney, at Sydney’s Garden Island, and spoke to members of the creative and producing team afterwards.

Based on the hugely successful Academy Award-winning film, this new musical has been adapted for the stage by the original screen writer Douglas Day Stewart and co-writer Sharleen Cooper Cohen, with music and lyrics by Ken Hirsch and Robin Lerner. It will be produced by Sharleen Cooper Cohen and John Frost, and directed by Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical, Love Never Dies).

We asked Ken Hirsch and Robin Lerner how they approached musicalising the film.

“It’s not an easy task to make things happening on a naval base musically interesting,” Robin Lerner said, “but we have managed to do that, using certain rhythms and sounds, and finding the musical vocabulary that was unique to our show. That’s where we started – then the love aspect was less hard, but I think once we found the language and musical vocabulary to make our scenes sing, we pretty much had our direction and that was pretty much the hardest nut to crack”

“Once we worked our way in, especially getting the Drill Sergeant to sing believably and not look ridiculous,” Ken Hirsch said,“then we were on our way, and it turns out that it’s such a great story that it hold everything together.”

And favourite moments in the writing process?

“I was excited when we managed to make the factory stuff sound like it was all happening in a factory,” Lerner said. “That was my favourite day.”

Where did those factory rhythms come from?

“There’s a movie called Dancer in the Dark that Bjork is in,” she said, “and it takes place in a factory as well, and it kind of inspired me in the way they used the machines in the background to create the rhythm. I like it when external things help create the rhythm. The same with the naval exercises and all the military stuff – it’s a great inspiration, finding a new way to express rhythm.”

“And also, the scene where Seargent finds the hidden belt buckles,” Hirsch said.“That comes at the end of Act 1, and it’s very dramatic.”The 1982 film was recently listed by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten love stories in cinema history. The timeless tale of struggle, success, friendship and love features the iconic hit song “Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong” and a new score by Grammy® nominees Ken Hirsch (Two Less Lonely People in the World) and Robin Lerner (This Kiss).

An Officer and a Gentleman is a triumphant story of working class heroes surviving great tests; a classic modern day Cinderella story about a working class boy and girl who must overcome their upbringing and personal weaknesses to accept life and love.

Barry O’Farrell, Premier of NSW, said, “It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce another World Premiere musical for Sydney, An Officer and a Gentleman. Sydney is now officially the number one city for first run musicals in Australia. Sydney was chosen over London and New York for the World Premiere of this new stage production.”

John Frost is thrilled to be able to bring this classic tale to life in musical theatre form. “When we held a workshop of the musical in 2009, I knew instantly that I wanted to produce this wonderful show. And with the assistance of the NSW Government and the Events team at Destination NSW, I can produce the World Premiere right here in Sydney.”

We asked John Frost what qualities attracted him to the show.

"The title!" Frost answered. "To me, it’s an iconic box office title.

"Certainly the story, which is fantastic. I saw and loved the movie - it stuck in my head when I saw it in the 80s. And certainly Simon’s concept for it.

"And the music too. The music is fantastic. I suppose we say that about every show, but it’s a really contemporary score.

"Also, the opportunity of creating something brand new – not a revival, or something that’s been done before. It’s a pet of mine to do a lot more of these types of musicals that are worked on with an American and an Australian creative team coming together, because I think they can both learn from each other."

Sharleen Cooper Cohen is doubly excited that her musical is opening in Sydney “The fact that Sydney is home to one of Australia’s naval bases is only one of the reasons that it’s a perfect place to premiere the show that celebrates a Navy officer. The audiences are welcoming and enthusiastic, the performers are so talented, the designers are outstanding and we all love our director, Simon Phillips. It’s a joy to work in Australia. I always believed that this moving and timeless romance, one of the most popular films of all time, would make the perfect musical, so I began pursuing it back in 2000. Now, I am thrilled to see it coming to fruition.”

Auditions have been taking place over the last week, and producer John Frost suggests that casting is about 80% there.

We asked Sharleen Cooper Cohen what particular qualities she is looking for in the two leads?

“This story is really about the wallflower gets the gorgeous guy. Although Debra Winger wasn’t exactly a Wallflower, she wasn’t the most popular girl in the town. And our male lead has to have an edge. He’s got to be tough. We have to believe that he grew up on the streets without parenting; that he raised himself in a real rough environment. So the actor who plays him has to have that element, and his voice can’t be straight legitimate gorgeous – he has to have a pop-rock sound to it. And the woman who plays opposite him has to be able to play vulnerable and not too self-assured, and yet be attractive enough, and be able to sing, and be the right age. But we have some marvelous people in line for the roles.”

Dale Ferguson will design the set and costumes, choreography will be by Andrew Hallsworth and the lighting designer will be Matt Scott.

An Officer and a Gentleman will be staged at a cost of $6 million.

The World Premiere season of An Officer and a Gentleman opens at the Lyric Theatre, Star City on May 24, 2012.

Images - Simon Phillips on the Flight Deck of HMAS Sydney. The Producers, Politicians, Creatives, and the Commander of the Australian Fleet at the launch.

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Other reading

Our earlier report

Cast Announced

An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical: Songs for Download

Interview with Kate Kendall and Alex Rathgeber

Earlier interview with John Frost.

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