THINK of An Officer and a Gentleman, and chances are you’ll think of the film’s legendary closing scene - you know, the one where Richard Gere carries Debra Winger out of the factory in his white uniform...

But did you know that the scene almost didn’t happen, because Richard Gere was concerned it would contradict the grittiness of the story? “In some ways he was right,” says Nikolai Foster, director of the stage musical version of the 1982 movie “But it’s a moment of magical realism that celebrates the unspoken ambitions and hopes for a better future, which is something we can all relate to. Who doesn’t have moments where we’d like to escape to a better life?”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The musical is performed to Eighties classicsThe musical is performed to Eighties classics (Image: Marc Brenner)

The story of love, courage and redemption follows s the journey of Zack Mayo, scarred from a lost childhood with a brutal father, who tries to build a new life at naval college. When the hotheaded young officer candidate meets local factory girl Paula Pokrifki, sparks fly, igniting “a passionate love that defies all odds”.

Set to a soundtrack featuring songs of Madonna, Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, Kim Wilde and Martika and of course the smash hit (Love Lift Us) Up Where We Belong from the movie, it’s a nostalgic treat for those who loved the film.

But, says Nikolai, it’s much more than that. “I think a lot of people associate it with being a cheesy 80s romcom,” he smiles. “There’s nothing wrong with a cheesy 80s rom-com - and we offer some tasteful cheesy choices in our production - but audiences will be surprised by the depth of this story and how moving the show is. It is genuinely uplifting because we invest in the lives of these characters and care about them.”

The show is set in Pensacola, Florida, in the early 80s but, says Nikolai: “Delicately depicting the experiences of working-class people back then, the story continues to resonate. At a time when we’re finally starting to consider what a fairer society could look like - with particular emphasis on women’s rights, anti-racism and training opportunities available to those from disadvantaged backgrounds - this story still has much to say about our society today.”

Taking on the role of Zack Mayo is “pretty major” for Luke Baker. “It’s massive, I just want to do it justice,” says the actor, whose credits include Billy Elliot and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. “There’s a lot for an actor to dig into because he’s suffered loss and heartache, and now he’s going through this tough training regime.”

Luke saw the film when he was younger and re-watched it after landing the role. “It’s such a brilliant story. The characters are relatable and you’ve got the love story and all the struggles that go with it. On top of that you’ve got amazing musical numbers and the iconic white suit. It feels incredible to wear it and what (orchestrator and musical supervisor) George Dyer has done with Up Where We Belong is fantastic. It blows people away. It’s like being at a rock concert.”

Georgia Lennon, who plays Paula, says she’s “all about girl power”.

“The thing I love about her is how strong-willed she is. She knows what she wants and she’s sure of herself. She’s a strong, independent woman.”

Of the story’s enduring appeal, she adds: “I think most people are hopeless romantics at heart. Then, of course, there’s that amazing music. I love that I get to sing Alone by Heart.”

Georgia, who originated the role of Marie Osmond for The Osmonds: A New Musical, hadn’t seen the film of An Officer and a Gentleman until she went for the part of Paula. “Then I watched it and I was like ‘It’s a role every girl would want’. She’s such a strong character and there’s that iconic moment when she gets swept off her feet. I was sat there going ‘God, I’d love to do this’,” she says.

* An Officer and a Gentleman is at the Alhambra from March 25-30. Call (01274) 432000 or visit