Entertainment comes in all forms.

Australia’s Funniest Home Videos
Your cousin singing a song at the family piano
Two dogs at a park
petting zoos
Gossip magazines
local school fetes
Experimental music, art, performance
Folk music festivals
dinner conversation
Firework spectaculars
Rambunctious Sunday afternoons
A clown playing the banjo in the Devonshire Street tunnel
Twitter interactions (especially between people who might be in love with each other)
generalised people-watching
and of course…

Entertainment is oftentimes escapism – or at least a distraction from our particular lives as we are exposed to the universal: an attempt to humble us or put us into perspective? Perhaps.

Sometimes theatre carries the heavy burden of psychological medicine – or philosophical guidance. Sometimes it doesn’t.

There has been a huge reaction from the critics of Sydney who have absolutely rejected Simon Phillips’ production of An Officer and a Gentleman – often on the basis of cliche, lack of chemistry,

Please see Gandalf’s response:

And Lady Di’s response:

And Detective Jason Blake (my new pet name for him as of last night – because of his dapper dress sense):

From Doctor Zhivago to An Officer and A Gentleman – John Frost is hard at work turning much loved films into musical theatre on Australian stages… Presumably to pull in the nostalgic punters keen to see a fresh version of a much-loved film. Not a bad strategy… especially since it appears that Australian audiences are skeptical of Australian musicals. It was only a few years ago that Kookaburra closed it’s doors…

For some Officer and A Gentleman was “too American.”

Other whispers of “this show wasn’t made for Australian audiences, it was made to tour America and we’re the testing ground.”

Honestly. What do we expect, if we don’t nurture Australian talent and Australian writers? If money and patronage is always going to American content, if our mainstages look everywhere but here for stories to tell. What do we honestly expect when even our indie theatre sector is obsessed with American accent and American plays? When the majority of Australian musical theatre stars spend their lives singing in accents not their own? Why are we upset that the American flag is being shoved down our throats, aren’t we the ones that opened our mouths?

Additionally – let’s not forget that musicals are full of cheese and corn (two staples of the American diet) and cliche is what they run on – if you combine a rags to riches story with a love conquers all story – you are on a winner – because musicals are there to delight us with entertainment that is simple, clear and (more often than not) hopeful.

For my spontaneous, new friend whom I sat next to this week (an ex-politican and ex-wine/brandy man) he had a very astute observation that reviewers often notice things that don’t matter so much to punters – he used a delightful wine tasting/quaffing metaphor – and that in the end for him – he’s just happy to be entertained. Another spontaneous new friend (can you tell I like talking to those around me when I’m at the theatre?) claimed that she loved all the men with their shirts off and the sex scenes, because “when you get to my age – it’s the most excitement you’re going to get and it makes you feel all… you know… inside.”

Of course for me cliches and chemistry weren’t a problem – lack of memorable tunes was. And the very questionable gender politics messages were. The content should be examined for “why here, why now?” not just because of its inescapable form and genre.

Interestingly there was a backlash from the writer of the musical (and original film) to the reviewers:

And then another backlash from an Australian musical writer (James Millar) to the outraged American (Douglas Day Stewart):

For what it is – An Officer and a Gentleman is not THAT bad. It is exactly as I expected – and had plenty of light, movement, sound but had you been a devotee of the film – or keen to sing along to some catchy tunes – or was keen on some inspirational female characters… Well, you’d be disappointed… but for the folk who had travelled five hours from the country to see it – they had a good time.

And as far as Entertainment goes – I found the reviews thus far Douglas Day Stewart’s letter, and James Millar’s retort extremely entertaining – and therefore I believe this just might be one of the most “must-see” musicals of the year as it is triggering all sorts of foyer/dinner/literary discussion. Excellent.