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  • Review by john Murray

Up Where We Belong...

An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical. I vaguely remember the film – Richard Gere wasn’t it? Oscar winning movie? The one where he comes into the factory to pick up his girl comes to mind and of course the great hit record by the legend that was Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes Up Where We belong. Well this is a new stage musical based on the film and a world premiere tour ahead of possible West End run so all brand new in production with a huge cast.

TV news footage and audio in a collage sets the scene as Zak (Jonny Fines) joins boot camp to be an officer. We meet the other candidates including a fine performance from Keisha Atwell as Casey and all under the command of Ray Shell as Emil (yesss Sir!). Zak bonds with his team, meets his factory girl Paula played by Emma Williams and their interwoven stories emerge including the non-encouragement of his father played by Darren Bennett. The set is simple but effective as we move from bar to motel to drill yard but the memorable aspect of the whole show is the music and some of the most outstanding performances ever seen on stage.

I did think the adaptation of the Status Quo song In The Army Now to In The Navy Now went on too long but maybe I’m over critical comparing this to the power rock ballads that were to follow. Sure there were a couple of credible but understated songs like Material Girl & Heart Of Glass but the explosion of Livin’ On A Prayer was overwhelming not only by the commanding vocals but the staging, movement and lighting employed. Elkie Brooks’ Don’t Cry Out Loud was effective and massive here and even better than the original, performed here by Paula and her mother Esther (Rachel Stanley). St Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion) was a huge production number and reprised later to good effect, Mike Oldfield’s Family Man was a big moment for the tragic Sid played by Ian McIntosh but the whole audience was waiting for the big finale and they fully delivered. Up Where We Belong is where Paula is swept off her feet on the factory floor and the build up was pure Hollywood while Aunt Bunny (Corrina Powlesland), Esther and Lynette (Jessica Daley) build the song into a tearful standing ovation.

Seldom to we see such joyous audiences following a new show and even rarer to witness great performances over a full show with a fairy tale ending to close.

Edinburgh Playhouse till July 7

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