THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Midland Center for the Arts Brings National Tour to the Regional Stage in a Timeless Tale Celebrating Triumph Over Adversity
13th January, 2022 0
Without doubt one of the most iconic romantic films to emerge out of the 1980s was the Oscar winning An Officer and a Gentleman, which apart from serving as a launching pad for the careers of its stars Debra Winger and Richard Gere, helped forge a sense of purpose, placement, and direction to a decade that more often than not was defined by the decadent self-absorption of what was known as the ‘ME Decade’.
Now, a new musical based upon the original screenplay of An Officer and a Gentleman is making its way around the country with two upcoming performances at Midland Center for the Arts, January 25-26 as part of the Huntington Bank Broadway & Beyond Series.
“A great movie can imbed itself into the cultural memory of a generation. Our goal was to build on that memory, finding new ways into the story through the lens of musical theater,” says producer Stephen Gabriel of Work Light Productions.
“Like all good stories, An Officer and a Gentleman is set in a specific world with its own culture, customs and costumes—the U.S. Navy,” says book writer and director Dick Scanlan. “And like all great stories, its themes are universal: love, valor and the ways in which our reasons for pursuing a dream determine whether or not we’ll achieve it.”
Merging an expanded narrative into this freshly concocted stage production, An Officer and a Gentleman also features a score based on the 1980’s catalogue of music that gave voice to helping define the 1980s, including hits from Rick Springfield, Styx, Debbie Gibson, Richard Marx, Wilson Phillips, Pat Benatar, and the Grammy-winning #1 hit single “Up Where We Belong.”
Written and directed by multiple Tony Award®-nominee Dick Scanlan (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Everyday Rapture), and choreographed by Patricia Wilcox (Motown, A Night with Janis Joplin) with music supervised and arranged by Dan Lipton (The Band’s Visit, The Last Ship), with orchestrations by Dan Lipton and Nathan Dame, this live stage production is based on an original book by Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen.
The narrative of An Officer and a Gentleman celebrates triumph over adversity. Zack Mayo has the raw talent and strength for the US Navy’s Officer Training School. Graduating from the elite program will secure Zack’s career and future. But only the brave and determined can endure the relentless commands of Drill Sergeant Foley, who is determined to weed out all those unable to pass the strenuous tests of knowledge, coordination and strength. On his journey of self-discovery, Zack finds comfort in the arms of a strong-willed local factory worker. But it isn’t until tragedy befalls a fellow candidate that Zack learns the importance of friendship, commitment and honor, finds the courage to be his best self, and wins the heart of the woman he loves.
The cast for the North American tour stars Wes Williams as Zack and Mia Massaro as Paula in the title roles, along with Emily Louise Franklin as Lynette, Cameron Loyal as Sid, Amaya White as Casey Seeger, Roxy York as Esther and David Wayne Britton as Marine Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley.
Recently, The REVIEW had an opportunity to interview actress Mia Massaro, who managed to secure the lead role of Paula in this national touring company production, which was developed in part during a quarantined workshop on location in Cleveland, OH at Playhouse Square with the tremendous support from University Hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic, and the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
“We rehearsed for a month in New York and then opened the national tour on October 26, 2021, in Los Vegas,” explains, Mia, “so this production is really new. A prior stage musical was created by a different team that premiered in Australia back in 2012, and then another version debuted in April 2018 before touring England, but this production is completely different from either of those, with different music and a new script.”
This is Mia’s first lead role with a major touring company in a spanking new musical, so obviously she is excited about the opportunity. “I started in theatre because my Mom was really into it and I grew acting in these non-profit shows helping raise funds in New Jersey and never stopped doing it.”
While the script follows the film version faithfully, Mia feels in many ways the theatrical version is richer. “Apart from the fact different character perspectives are emphasized, the music is entirely new and parallels the story narrative,” she explains. “With this play we get to really know these characters, where they come from, their goals in life, plus the women have more of an arc so we know what they’re about and where they come from. I feel there’s more emphasis on these female characters and women in general that isn’t as deeply portrayed in the movie. Because of this it makes you feel for the characters more and their relationships towards each other.”
Given the iconic nature of the characters portrayed in Officer and a Gentleman and how they are branded upon the public’s mind, what poses the biggest challenge for Mia when approaching the role of Paula? “Well, for starters I didn’t watch the movie version until I got his part because I wanted to read the lines of the character as I see them and think she would act and react,” she states. “I really found myself in Paula because the character and me are very similar and I’m finding nuances in that, but the biggest challenge I guess is the different time period. Researching the ‘80s gave me so much to think about and what it was like to live in this world at that time, but really this play is so much fun to do and so easy to fall into the structure of it because it’s written so beautifully and flows so well.”
“All the cast gets along and everybody has their strengths,” she continues. “Each person is showcased so beautifully in what they do, plus the officer candidates each have backgrounds and stories that we learn about, and the women that work at the factory with Paula all have stories, so we see what these characters do best and understand them.”
“The audience reception has been remarkable,” notes Mia. “For many people this is the first show they’ve seen since everything shut down, so it’s special to share this musical with friends. The music and arrangements really pull you in and make you think about each song - you would think many of these classic 80’s songs would never fit in this musical, but they tell the story so well.”
“I think people that have seen the movie know it well, but with the musical you see a story about love and connection not only in romantic relationships, but in friendships; and you learn a lot about humanity because these characters are struggling with their own personal battles and the way they get through these challenges is with the help of classmates, romantic partners, teachers, and workers. If there’s a central theme, it’s that nobody does it alone. A real sense of community is involved with this play that really touches and gets across to audiences, which is why they’re responding so strongly to it.”
“In a way the most challenging part is doing this play so often, because we did 11 shows straight before Christmas, but the entire cast loves it so much that it doesn’t feel like work,” she concludes. “We get to tell this beautiful story and I feel so lucky to be here doing it because everything works so well together.”
“It’s also amazing playing on stage with a live six-person band featuring keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. While the show is going on the audience and the actors can see the band with us, so that brings another sense of community into play. We can turn and connect with them when we’re singing.”
“Connecting and sharing with people is what live theatre is all about.”
Tickets for An Officer and a Gentleman: The Musical are on sale now at midlandcenter.org or by calling the Ticket Office at 989-631-8250
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)