Set in 1941, From Here To Eternity transports us to a Hawaiian island where American platoon ‘G’ Company are stationed. Based on a novel of the same title, the musical charts the soldiers’ trials and tribulations in the months leading up to the catastrophic attack on Pearl Harbor.
It begins with the arrival of new recruit: Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Robert Lonsdale), a troubled individual from Kentucky, whose reluctance to partake in any common army pastimes such as boxing set him apart as an outsider. He does however strike up an unlikely friendship with the pint-sized Italian Angelo Maggio (Ryan Sampson). Maggio introduces Prewitt to The New Congress Club – a Hawaiian gentlemen’s club where the troops can be entertained by local girls. The pair enter a tropical world of girls in leis, hula skirts and ukuleles, enticing the men with the first truly catchy number of the show: ‘Don’cha like Hawaii’. Prewitt soon falls for a kind-hearted escort by the name of Lorene (Siubhan Harrison). Love is also in the air for straight-laced platoon sergeant Warden (Darius Campbell) who begins a treacherous affair with his commanding officer’s wife. As war approaches, the world of the four lovers and the soldiers of G Company is dramatically ripped apart.
From Here To Eternity has bucked the trend of simply recreating a Hollywood film onstage; the West End production is grittier and tackles dark themes such as homosexuality and prostitution that were glossed over in the film. But perhaps the biggest change is that Tim Rice and Stuart Brayson have created an entirely new score for this production. The soundtrack is a tapestry of delights from the harmonica-filled ‘G Company Blues’, to the military drums of ‘I Love The Army’, and lyrical ballads like ‘Love Me Forever Today’, which all form a truly memorable score that showcase the leads ranges brilliantly. With such a polished and accomplished result, it is hard to believe that this is Brayson’s first ever musical.
Javier de Frutos’s choreography seamlessly transforms mundane movements like army drills into visually impressive routines. His choreographic skill is perhaps most apparent during the attack on Pearl Harbour, when his use of slow motion felt breathtakingly cinematic. It was refreshing to see dance numbers being used to further the narrative, rather than as mere divertissement.
It’s hard to pick any stand-out performances as the overall standard of the entire cast is very high. The onstage chemistry between the leads was extremely believable. I do hope that those that have seen the 1953 film don’t compare the two too much, as I think it deserves to be judged in its own right as a separate entity.
The creative team behind From Here To Eternity have created something really special: a musical that is a triple threat- with a catchy score, clever choreography and a well acted tear-jerking story. Unlike Tim Rice’s previous offerings, this is a much darker and more adult musical that I think fills a gap in the West End.
From Here To Eternity opened at The Shaftesbury Theatre on 23 October. For tickets and more information please visit the Official From Here To Eternity website.