Last Updated on 10th November 2022
Mark Ludmon reviews the new London revival of Tim Rice and Stuart Brayson’s musical, From Here to Eternity, at Charing Cross Theatre
Charing Cross Theatre, London
Book TicketsIt is nine years since Stuart Brayson and Tim Rice‘s testosterone-filled musical of one-time bestseller From Here to Eternity first reached the London stage. Now in a smaller space than the original Shaftesbury Theatre, Brett Smock’s new revival gains much-needed intimacy for its story about the chaotic lives of career soldiers on a barracks in Hawaii in the weeks leading up to the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. However, despite a superb cast and a revamp of the book, the show still lacks enough focus to create an engaging connection with the disparate characters as the much bigger, devastating event gets ever nearer.
There is a lot going on in this intense musical drama based on James Jones’s 1951 novel, later adapted into a classic film starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. Within one army company, we have a sergeant, Milt Warden, having a secret affair with his captain’s dissatisfied wife, while a young soldier, Robert Prewitt, struggles with guilt over injuring someone in a boxing fight while also trying to pursue a relationship with a sex worker. Another soldier, Angelo Maggio, suffers from bullying partly because of his Italian heritage while another soldier wrestles with his homosexuality – a sub-plot that is almost overwhelmed by the main storyline. The book, written by Bill Oakes and Donald Rice, weaves these different strands together with lucidity but it remains fragmentary. The female characters also feel one-dimensional despite strong performances by Carley Stenson as the captain’s wife, Karen, and Desmonda Cathabel as Prewitt’s lover, Lorene.
The show has a pleasant and rousing score thanks to Brayson’s music and Rice’s lyrics, with some fine arrangements and orchestrations by musical director Nick Barstow. While some of the songs are more expositional than memorable, there are plenty of show-stopping numbers such as Prewitt’s “Fight the Fight”, the angry “I Love the Army” and the opening “G Company Blues” where the young male ensemble demonstrate an impressive ability to sing perfectly while doing sit-ups and press-ups. Eve Polycarpou, as brothel owner Mrs Kipfer, makes the most of her jaded ballad, “I Know What You Came For” and later joins Stenson and Cathabel for the show’s most powerful and moving number, “The Boys of ‘41”.