This version of From Here to Eternity the Musical is a leaner machine than its previous West End incarnation. Songs have been cut or otherwise repositioned, while the cast, although reduced, remains sizeable, especially for the relatively small performance space at Charing Cross Theatre. The staging for a nineteen-strong company isn’t the best, however: with the stage positioned in the centre of the auditorium, at any one time half the cast is closer to one side of the audience than the other, and there isn’t a stage revolve. But at least the stage doesn’t look too cramped, although the setting of some scenes, for instance in military barracks, lends itself to having lots of people in close proximity.
Set in Hawaii in the weeks and months prior to the Pearl Harbor attack and based on the James Jones (1921-1977) novel of the same name, the show restores the cuts made to the book prior to its original publication, specifically relating to homosexual activity amongst troops. The resulting armed forces investigation, however, is quite laughable. A decision is made to question every soldier in the entire company, by asking them if they are gay: it would appear a simple, “No, sir!” was all that was required, whatever the truth was, to be exempt from whatever punishments the rather sadistic powers that be wanted to unleash.
There are several narrative strands going on, and it all comes across as though they are effectively competing with one another for the audience’s attention. Private Robert E Lee Prewitt (Jonathon Bentley) is subjected to unfair treatment by the commanding officer, Captain Dana Holmes (Alan Turkington) as well as other senior officers. Prewitt himself, meanwhile, has a love interest in Lorene (Desmonda Cathabel), who works at a brothel run by Mrs Kipfer (an authoritative and convincing Eve Polycarpou). There’s another love (or maybe ‘lust’) story, between Sergeant Warden (Adam Rhys-Charles) and the captain’s wife, Karen Holmes (Carley Stenson). And then there’s Private Angelo Maggio (Jonny Amies), who is, to use a British idiom, a bit of a character.
Given the military setting, it felt too cosy and comfortable. For instance, one senior officer tells another, “You know what to do”, which indeed he does, but I still don’t. The dressing downs and telling-offs that the military are known for were more mild than menacing in this show, which makes the actions by the likes of Staff Sergeant ‘Fatso’ Judson (Leonard Cook) seem like outliers as opposed to being part and parcel of the rough and rugged military life. Elsewhere, the production commendably leaves brothel and private bedroom activity largely to the audience’s imagination.
The cast are all excellent singers, with the final number, a reprise of two songs, ‘G Company Blues’ and ‘The Boys of ‘41’, bringing proceedings to a suitable rousing conclusion. The portrayal of the Pearl Harbor attack wasn’t all that impressive, even allowing for the limitations of what can be achieved on stage as opposed to a motion picture. Particularly in the second half, most of the major characters get their own song, which only underlines the flitting between different stories.
The production values are high – every lyric could be heard, Adam King’s lighting design portrays the midday sun as effectively as the small hours of the morning, and the women’s costumes are delightful (the men’s are what they are: military uniform). For me, the show’s greatest strengths lie in Stuart Brayson’s score, and in Nick Barstow’s orchestrations and musical arrangements – it was nice to have the tune to ‘Fight The Fight’ in my head on the train home. It is too harsh to conclude that the show is aptly titled, but it could do with being more than a bit more intense, with a faster narrative pace – there were moments when I felt my patience was being tested.
REview by Chris Omaweng
Tim Rice and Stuart Brayson’s epic musical ‘From Here To Eternity’ – the first London revival in a newly revised production at Charing Cross Theatre, where it runs to 17 December 2022.
The cast features Jonny Amies, Jonathon Bentley, Desmonda Cathabel, Leonard Cook, Kyerron Dixon-Bassey, Sarah Drake, Dominic Adam Griffin, Cassius Hackforth, Robin Hayward, Callum
Henderson, James Mateo-Salt, Rhys Nuttall, Jack Ofrecio, Jaden Oshenye, Eve Polycarpou, Adam Rhys-Charles, Carley Stenson, Alan Turkington, Joseph Vella.
Creative team: Director Brett Smock, Set & Costume Designer Stewart J. Charlesworth, Musical Director, Orchestrations and New Musical Arrangements Nick J. Barstow, Choreographer Cressida Carré, Sound Designer Chris Murray, Lighting Designer Adam King, Projection Designer Louise Rhoades-Brown, Costume Supervisor Lucy Lawless, Casting Director Jane Deitch, Production Manager James Anderton, Produced by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment, Bill Kenwright and Heartaches Limited, General Management by Chris Matanlé.
Set in the two weeks leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, ‘From Here To Eternity’ is a compelling portrait of humanity, love, duty and redemption set against the backdrop of a beautiful and conflicted paradise.
Adapted from the classic novel by James Jones, this breathtaking musical unites the writing talents of Tim Rice (lyrics), Stuart Brayson (music) and Donald Rice and Bill Oakes (book), and is directed by Brett Smock (Producing Artistic Director/The Rev Theatre Company).
and Heartaches Limited
‘From Here To Eternity’
Adapted from the classic novel
by James Jones
Lyrics Tim Rice, Music Stuart Brayson,
Book Donald Rice and Bill Oakes
Directed by Brett Smock
Charing Cross Theatre
London WC2N 6NL
Box office: 08444 930650
29 October – 17 December 2022