Reviewed by Tony Peters
Here we have the first round in the highly anticipated box office battle between former writing partners Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber with Rice’s musical based on James Jones’ controversial novel opening around two months ahead of Lloyd Webber’s Stephen Ward. And while this is an often-polished show, it doesn’t throw down too much of a gauntlet.
Set in Hawaii in the days leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, it’s a story of illicit love and men battling the odds.
Robert Lonsdale stars as Robert E Lee Prewitt, a soldier transferred to G-Company so that his ability in the ring will allow the troop to win a much-coveted boxing trophy for the ambitious Captain Holmes (Martin Marquez). But following a terrible injury to his last opponent, Prewitt has quit fighting — a decision that incurs the wrath of Holmes.
Meanwhile Holmes has further problems with his troubled and adulterous wife Karen (Rebecca Thornhill) embarking on an affair with a company sergeant (Darius Campbell).
This is an adult musical in that it doesn’t shy away from some of the explicit themes in the original novel (but were watered down for the 1953 Oscar-winning film); the language is often strong and views on homosexuality and race reflecting the times and attitudes of tough army men.
Performances are good but without being stunning. The male leads in particular don’t have enough charisma to really make their mark on a production of this scale. The best performance of the evening by far is that of Ryan Sampson as chancer Private Maggio who befriends Prewitt.
The score is again perfectly fine without being a classic. Rice and writing partner Stuart Brayson have crafted some clever and infectious songs, but they don’t really live long in the memory. There isn’t a real 11 o’clock number here.
But the real problem is the length. It’s long, it’s very long, and too many short scenes flitting between the numerous sub plots, especially in the second act, fracture the narrative flow and make you feel the length.
The sit up and take notice moments come from Javier De Frutos’ polished and inventive choreography. It’s his work that gives the show the spark of originality that it often needs.
Everything is heading towards the big finish of course and when it comes it’s well handled, with the audience at last have something they can engage with emotionally.
The final ten minutes of From Here To Eternity are dramatic, spectacular and moving — it just feels like an eternity getting there.
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Music by Stuart Brayson
Book by Bill Oakes
Directed by Tamara Harvey
Robert Lonsdale Private Robert E Lee Prewitt
Ryan Sampson: Private Angelo Maggio
Darius Campbell: First Sergeant Mitt Warden
Siubhan Harrison: Lorene
Rebecca Thornhill: Karen Holmes
Martin Marquez: Captain Dana Holmes