“The only threats in Hawaii come from mosquitoes and second rate beer.”
Unlike some of my colleagues I liked the production of From Here to Eternity at the Shaftesbury in 2013 and could relate to relationship which was the hit of the movie between Karen and Sergeant Warden when Deborah Kerr sank into Burt Lancaster’s arms. Karen has the most horrific back story, she caught gonorrhoea from her philandering husband, lost their baby and as a result was unable to have another child. This meant I cared about her and her future happiness.
In this production at Charing Cross with Brett Smock directing, the relationship between Warden (Adam Rhys-Charles) and Karen (Carley Stenson) doesn’t even merit a production photograph. Thankfully this musical then and now is more faithful to James Jones’s novel than the film could in 1953 and tells the full story about Angelo Maggio (Jonny Amies)’s homosexuality and the brutal treatment he receives in the army. His song “I Love the Army” with the conflicting lyric “I Hate the Army” sums it up.
The show opens two weeks before Pearl Harbor with the arrival of Private Robert E Lee Prewitt (Jonathon Bentley). After he blinded the other boxer in a match, he wanted out of civilian life and was wanted in the army, not for his bugle talents but for his capability as a boxer. He immediately gets on the wrong side of Captain Holmes (Alan Turkington) by refusing to box for the team and is singled out for harsh exercise.
What is amply demonstrated here is the amount of bullying that goes on in the army. This show won’t have anyone looking for a military career! Part of Holmes’s tactic to get Prewitt to fight for the Regiment involves intervening with the brothel where his girlfriend Lorene (Desmonda Cathabel and winner of this year’s Steven Sondheim Song Student Performer of the Year) works. Eve Polycarpou has a great role as the wily Madame, Mrs Kipfer.
There is fine, if not particularly inventive, choreography from Cressida Carré as soldiers go through their gymnastic routines in the small space left as the playing area between the two banks of audience. I don’t remember this space being that small for Zorro! I liked the movement with using wooden army crates stacked up to create a desk or a bed and the slickness of the changeovers is admirably timed.
The title song “From Here to Eternity” sung by Prewitt, Maggio and G Company uses the perimeter of the stage well. Warden sings “At Ease” very strongly. Act One ends on a high with two love stories, between Warden and Karen, and between Prewitt and Lorene in the beautiful duet “Love Me Forever Today”. Tim Rice’s lyric uses the oxymoron. The First Act ends on the big number “Thirty Year Man” about the length of service Warden and Prewitt have signed up for.
The second act gives Prewitt’s backstory. Angelo Maggio is on rock breaking duties in the Stockade. Lorene sings “Run Along Joe” having made clear her ambition to earn enough to settle in Middle America along with a new life.
The attack by the Japanese is magnificently staged with strobes and Adam King’s Lighting effects and of course explosive sound from Chris Murray. We really feel as if we are witnessing this historic attack on Pearl Harbor. The women sing “The Boys of 41”:
“There is vermin in the harbour
There is fire in the sea
There’s no shelter in the water
No escape along the Quay
And there never will be no shelter
Of our history’s begun
The story of the boys of 41.
Don’t remind us this is what they waited for
On the day they took the oath, they knew the score.”
I like Stuart Brayson’s tunes and the strong vocalists, also Tim Rice’s lyrics and I’d prefer to see the staging and physical choreography given more space. I’m thinking about “The Boys of 41” on this Remembrance weekend. 2,390 killed at Pearl Harbor.
G Company Blues
Thirty Year Man
More to Life Than This
I Know What You Came For
From Here to Eternity
Love Me Forever Today
Thirty Year Man (reprise)
Ain’t Where I Wanna Be Blues
I Love The Army
Fight The Fight
Run Along Joe
I’ll Remember the Day
The Boys of ’41
Almost Perfect Lie
From Here to Eternity
Music by Stuart Brayson
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Book by Donald Rice and Bill Oakes
After the novel by James Jones
Directed by Brett Smock
Dominic Adam Griffin
Director: Brett Smock
Choreographer: Cressida Carré
Designer: Stewart J Charlesworth
Lighting Designer: Adam King
Sound Designer: Chris Murray
Projection: Louise Rhoades-Brown
Musical Director: Nick Barstow
Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval
Booking until 17th December 2022
Charing Cross Theatre
London WC2N 6NL
Box Office: 08444 930 650
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge
at the Charing Cross Theatre
on 8th November 2022