From Here To Eternity has closed and my heart is still aching. It was a show with great potential, a fantastic new musical with diverse and amazing music by Stuart Brayson, imaginative choreography (Javier de Frutos), a good book and lyrics (Bill Oakes and Tim Rice) and performers who could really act (leading man Robert Lonsdale was superb). The only problem with the show – as I see it – is that it doesn’t know who it is aiming at. No, let me rephrase that. That is not the problem of the show as such, but rather of the marketing.
Why does everyone think that the only way to sell anything is sex? Maybe I’m naïve, but I don’t want to think that. The first posters of From Here To Eternity don’t tell you anything. It was basically two couples embracing each other. Some time early in the new year, they changed their strategy to “sex sells”. The posters now depict soldiers showing their defined and oily naked bodies, and some women in lingerie.
I was talking about who the target audience was with friends and our opinions differ. Some said they should have started with this campaign, some don’t know what to think, knowing what the show is really like. When you have seen this musical you know that these posters do not do it justice, you can’t relate to them. Well, I couldn’t.
If you’re a fan of the 1953 film you’ll remember the famous beach scene starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. The musical doesn’t go there despite what the posters are telling us. Well, yes, there is a beach scene and some nudity providing a “shock moment” for the audience – it works because it’s theatre and it’s best left for the imagination of the audience, but it’s not what some might expect after being seduced by the nakedness of the “poster boys”. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against those soldiers looking fit, but as an advertisement for musical theatre?
From Here To Eternity isn’t a story about sex. It is a story of a man struggling with life. It is a story that speaks to you. You can relate on different levels and I like that it focuses on this man’s life. But I also like that there are stories on the side that – in a way – contribute to him addressing life issues. There is the question of life’s purpose, and there are also the issues of religion, rebellion, dignity, homosexuality, the definition of “respectability” and, of course, the army, solidarity and humanity.
Could it be that musicals that focus primarily on a single man’s fate instead of a woman’s struggle are less popular because women, who make up the majority of the audience, have difficulty empathising with a man’s perspective on life? Are they less willing or able to identity with a man on stage? I don’t know the answer, but it got me wondering…
All I can say for sure is that From Here To Eternity was a breath of fresh air in the West End that left me deeply touched. It is not perfect, but it talks about and shows life. It is truthful and gets to you and I hope that it will have a life after its West End run.
And for the issue of marketing it, the difficulty is obvious. You cannot communicate the richness of this musical via a single poster, but you could at least try by being somewhat creative. Maybe go for its uniqueness, it being different, it bringing new music to the genre… And, if it goes to Broadway at least this issue shouldn’t be a problem: patriotism is a sure bet.