Buzz Cuts and Buzzards
In the world premiere of the musical adaptation of An Officer and a Gentleman, Ben Mingay is making Zack Mayo his own, writes Garrett Bithell.
In the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman, there is a famous scene where Zack Mayo, played by Richard Gere, climbs out of bed in all his naked glory.
That scene was to be replicated in the world premiere musical adaptation, which opened last week at Sydney Lyric. But the only thing that stands between Sydney and a naked Ben Mingay, who plays Zack, is a pesky microphone pack.
“I’ve got two mic packs with all these cords under my boxer shorts,” Mingay tells SX. “They were going to do it like in the movie and have me getting out of bed, pulling on my skivvies and going over to breakfast. But they couldn’t work out where to hide the mic pack. We tried to hide it under my old fella at one point, but it just wasn’t going to work!”
An Officer and a Gentleman is a classic love story about working-class heroes defying their lot in life. Featuring the iconic song ‘Up Where We Belong’ and a new score by Ken Hirsch and Grammy nominee Robin Lerner, the Simon Phillips-directed musical version brings this timeless tale of struggle, success, friendship and love to the stage in all its glory.
The production has so far polarised audiences and critics, but the casting has been almost universally praised. Mingay’s Zack is full of machismo and bravado, and he navigates his character arc convincingly. Moreover, the boot-camp setting is exceptionally demanding and the entire ensemble is in imposing physical condition. Along with their buzz cuts and tighty whities, some scenes certainly run into the red on the homoerotic scale. “It’s been a case of ‘who can get the most ripped?’” Mingay laughs. “I’m sure the protein powders have been consumed in the litres with this show.”
Along with initiating “hallways parties with everyone in their undies dancing to my ultimate 80s rock album”, Mingay’s pre-show preparation includes consuming an entire barbeque chicken. “A whole buzzard! But the amount I do on stage, if I didn’t eat as much as I do I’d be anorexic.”
He also fills out an injury form after almost every performance. “I just cut my finger open on the set today,” he says. “I’ve ripped a toenail off, cracked a rib, all sorts of stuff. But it’s par for the course.”
An Officer and a Gentleman is on now at Sydney Lyric, The Star. Bookings at www.ticketmaster.com.au.
[pic cap] Ben Mingay and, inset, with Amanda Harrison in An Officer and a Gentleman.