From Here To Eternity at Charing Cross Theatre
From Here To Eternity has returned to the London stages for the first time since the 2013/2014 West End run with a revised production at The Charing Cross Theatre.
The show tells of the men of G Company who are stationed in Hawaii in the lead up to the Pearl Harbour attack in 1941. We meet Milt Warden, a first Sarjeant who is having an affair with his Captains wife, Karen. We also meet Prewitt, a new transfer who has been brought across to G Company to box and help the Captain achieve promotion but refuses to do so due to an injury he inflicted on another man at his last fight. Prewitt falls in love with a proustite, Lorene and forges an unlikely friendship with Maggio a homosexual solider with the gift of the gab.
The musical itself is based on the novel by James Jones with the book by Donald Rice and Bill Oakes however the book feels lacking in nuance and rounded characters. Many of the characters feel like they are lacking a back story and at times the audience are left wondering if they have walked in halfway through the show with many unanswered questions as to existing relationships. For example, when we first meet Lorene this is not the first time Prewitt has met her, yet he has just arrived with G Company. Equally we know that Prewitt knew Warden from training and that Warden is willing to vouch for him but there appears an unspoken bond there that is left unexplored.
There are also many elements to the show, 2 love stories including an affair, a boxing match, the hierarchy and the aim to progress within the army, the witch-hunt for homosexuals in the army and finally the lead up to Pearl Harbour itself. They all feel under explored and means it is difficult for the audience to invest in any of the strands. Consequently the show feels like it has a bit of an identity crisis and as Ieft I was unsure as to what I was supposed to be taking away from the piece.
The music by Stuart Brayson and lyrics by Tim Rice go some way to salvage the story. With a range in styes from heartfelt love songs such as Love Me Forever Today through to rousing emotional numbers such as The Boys of ’41 the music at times is hauntingly beautiful yet at other times feels inconsequential to the story. The stunning harmonies however mean that the ensemble numbers in the show are highlights due to how rich they are and the cast sing them beautifully.
The choreography by Cressida Carre is perfect for this show and the stage is nearly bursting with testosterone. Boxing, press ups and triceps dips regularly form part of the routines and this really instills into the show the pent-up aggression of G Company simmering under the surface throughout the show. This is enhanced by the set with the feel of concrete encompassing the action. The furniture is a series of trunks which swiftly change from the soldiers’ beds to platforms and more. The show is presented in the traverse which worked well as the cast were able to appear from numerous entrances, combined with the use of the trunks as set, ensured that the pace was swift.
Standing out amongst the cast was Adam Rhys-Charles as Warden, in love with Karen, played by Carley Stenson. His number ‘At Ease’ meant that the audience were able to begin to peel back some of the layers to his character. He had a really commanding presence on stage and looked a natural leader amongst the men. His scenes with Stenson worked well and the audience were rooting for them to succeed.
Prewitt was played by Jonathan Bentley opposite Desmonda Cathabel who despite having a fairly 2 dimensional character to play really was able to showcase her stunning voice. Bently is also incredibly watchable and the role is both a physically and vocally demanding one yet he never falters. Finally Jonny Amies plays Maggio, a cheeky chap who instantly tries to befriend Prewitt. His number ‘I Love The Army’ is particularly poignant when the second act unfolds and his fate becomes known.
From Here To Eternity is a musical with some great performances and some wonderful staging but the identity crisis of the show itself lets it down leading to a show I really wanted to feel something for but struggled.
To find out more about From Here To Eternity, including booking tickets you can visit their website.