East Midlands Theatre’s Phil Lowe and Kathryn McAuley headed over to the glorious Curve Leicester today on an invite to observe a day’s rehearsal for the new musical An Officer and A Gentleman starring Jonny Fines and Emma Williams as Zach Mayo and Paula Pokrifki and directed by Nikolai Foster. The musical is based on the original screenplay by Douglas Day Stewart with book by Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper Cohen. Choreography is by Kate Prince and musical supervision by Sarah Travis.
Phil Lowe writes:
Excitement was already in the rehearsal room air from news of an outdoor film shoot at Aylestone Meadows with the cast in US Navy Aviation candidates’ character whilst on a gruelling physical exercise in the mud and freezing cold Leicester air.
Today, however, we were welcomed to Curve Leicester, a little damp from the rain, but certainly not as wet and muddy as the guys on these pictures. There’s deep cast commitment for you!
Today’s rehearsal starts with physical warm up and a vocal warm up. Afterwards, Curve artistic director Nikolai Foster is into the first scene of the day with Joe Maxwell (Fin Hooper), Jonny Fines (Zack Mayo), George Ioannides (Eduardo Cortez), Andy Barke (Louis Perryman), Ian Mcintosh (Sid) and Keisha Atwell (Casey Seegar). The song ‘Everybody’s Working For The Weekend’ is included in this scene where the US Navy Pilot trainees are feeling good about their recent trainee successes. Unfortunately for them their hopes of a weekend break from US Navy Aviation life is curtailed by an unexpected inspection by actor Ray Shell’s strict drill Sergeant Emil Foley.
The cast go through the scene several times, building each time on specifics and until Nikolai gauges the work to have a ‘good shape’. There is a cast discussion with the director over the practicalities of undressing and changing into military costume whilst singing; the change in energy of the scene as the sudden inspection is announced and the ‘twigging’ of character reveals regarding Zack Mayo’s illegal contraband. The actors are also told to ‘point’ the expletives to give added energy and emphasis to the panic that ensues about the abrupt yet vital inspection. Musical director Sarah Travis also advises that the interjections in the text and singing need lifting to keep the vigour of the piece up. Nikolai mentions that the lines need to be more visceral and for the men in the cast to exploit the raw and sometimes impolite masculine language and attitudes.
Actor Ray Shell is brought into the scene for the actual inspection and the section is worked on. This is not only for Shell’s authentic delivery as drill Sergeant Foley but to gauge the Navy recruits reactions. Mr Shell brings a great deal of humour to the rehearsal as well as his take on his character Emil Foley. During a break both myself and Kathryn say “hello” to Ray who we both saw as Rusty in Starlight Express some years ago. I joke with Ray that at least he doesn’t have to wear roller skates for this role and he laughs and says “Thank God!!!”
This section is followed by a love scene featuring Emma Williams. Jessica Daley, Jonny Fines and Ian Mcintosh. The song featured is ‘I Wanna Know What Love Is” by Foreigner and we witness the couples falling in and out of a sort of love. The emphasis is on the narrative and the scene proves powerfully emotional.
We take an hour dinner break and on return we are thrilled to watch a big fight scene being choreographed by the excellent Kevin McCurdy, fight director.
As the exacting fight work is gone through step by step and blow by blow Kevin suggests to the actors that from an audience point of view there is always someone in the audience who is watching a certain aspect of such a scene and watching out for authentic reactions from the non-combatant members of the cast.
As he puts it “There is always someone in the audience who is a mirror version of you”. Kevin McCurdy tells the principal actors to clock the danger points for their characters as well as the unknown quantities of entering a space that contains threatening elements.
He also says to play the intention and not to worry about speed at this stage and most importantly to appear authentic – don’t forecast the fight. As in all good rehearsal rooms there is a great deal of laughter and the actors are clearly excited about portraying this particular scene.
East Midlands Theatre would like to thank Curve and Nikolai Foster for the great privilege of being allowed in to observe a professional rehearsal of this brand new musical, An Officer and A Gentleman.
An Officer and A Gentleman is produced by Curve, Jamie Wilson with Gavin Kalin, Jason Haigh Ellery, Anthony Clare and Broadway Baby Productions in association with Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros Theatre Ventures. It runs at Curve from Fri 6 – Sat 21 April 2018, then tours across the UK. It features such iconic 80s songs as ‘Up Where We Belong’, ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, ‘Alone’, ‘Material Girl’, ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’ and many others. This production will be a World Premiere prior to London.
‘Officer’ rehearsal photos for this post by Phil Lowe courtesy of Curve Leicester.