Wednesday 9 November 2022

From Here To Eternity - Review

Charing Cross Theatre, London


Music by Stuart Brayson
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Book by Donald Rice and Bill Oakes
Based on the novel by James Jones

Jonathon Bentley and Desmonda Cathabel

This autumn is all about musical theatre based on movies that featured Burt Lancaster on a beach. Last month it was Local Hero at Chichester and now From Here To Eternity returns to London’s Charing Cross Theatre for a short residency in the run-up to Christmas.

This production marks the first UK revival of the Tim Rice and Stuart Brayson show, drawn from the classic film and set on Hawaii in the two weeks leading up to the Japanese attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbour in December 1941. The power of the story derives from the pressure cookers of passion building up on the island – love, cuckoldry and honour are all at play here – that are to be swamped by the tsunami of death and destruction that rained down upon the island on December 7th.

Brett Smock directs a literally well-drilled company that offers another glimpse of London’s musical theatre fringe at its finest. Jonathon Bentley is the principled Private Prewitt, a gifted boxer who’s hanging up of his gloves and who irks his company Captain, the misogynist Holmes (Alan Turkington). The Captain’s wife Karen (Carley Stenson) finds love in the arms of company Sergeant Warden (Adam Rhys-Charles) as Prewitt falls for local prostitute Lorene (Desmonda Cathabel).

The whole affair makes for a well observed tale of humanity, sung beautifully by the aforementioned leads. In equally fine support are Eve Polycarpou as brothel-keeper Mrs Kipfer and Johnny Amies as troubled soldier Maggio.

Tim Rice’s lyrics are as ever astute takes on life. Witty and perceptive, Rice teases out the characters’ strengths and weaknesses, with The Boys Of ’41, sung as the attack on Pearl Harbour is in full spate, proving a devastating summary of war’s brutality – marred only by the unfortunate, almost invisibility, of the show’s three women who deliver it.

Nick Barstow’s arrangement and direction of his 5-piece band is classy as are Louise Rhoades-Brown’s projections, effectively capturing Karen and Warden’s passionate clinches in the Pacific surf. Equally Adam King’s lighting and Stewart J Charlesworth’s set, make good use of the theatre’s compact space to create Hawaii’s various scenescapes. Cressida Carre's choreography and Renny Krupinski's fight direction (there's a lot of fighting!) are top notch too.

Beautifully performed, From Here To Eternity makes for a tragically gorgeous evening.

Runs until 17th December
Photo credit: Alex Brenner

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