Wednesday, 9 November 2022

REVIEW: From Here to Eternity at the Charing Cross Theatre

From Here to Eternity was one of the biggest Hollywood hits of the 1950s. Directed by Fred Zinnemann, it won eight Oscars including best picture and best supporting actor for Frank Sinatra. The film also featured the iconic embrace of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the beach with the tide lapping around them. There's absolutely no question it works on the big screen; but how does an epic movie work on stage as a musical?

The action begins at Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu in November 1941. Captain Holmes (Alan Turkington) is anxious to move up the military hierarchy and the regimental boxing championship could provide the means of achieving his aims. When Private Prewitt (Jonathan Bentley) transfers to G Company he is earmarked as an outstanding welterweight who can make a difference. Prewitt is adamant he doesn't want to fight and has his reasons for abstaining. However, Holmes is outraged by a soldier who doesn't want to fight. Sargent Warden (Adam Rhys-Charles) acts as a peacemaker between the warring pair, but is complicated by a passionate affair with Holmes' wife Karen (Carly Stenson). Prewitt does at least have a friend in barrack fixer Private Maggio (Johnny Amies). Simmering tensions come to a boil on the eve of Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941 and their lives will never be the same again.

A large-scale production has to be accommodated on a small set and the props are restricted to two palm trees and a series of boxes moved around the stage. A company of 11 performers do an amazing job with the choreography on what feels like a postage stamp. A series of panels are cleverly used to project the date as we edge closer to that fateful December day. Overall, it works reasonably well and benefits from incisive lyrics penned by Sir Tim Rice and a serviceable score from Stuart Brayson. With such a strong narrative we look more towards the songs to sell the production. The songs are bright and intelligent with a strong standalone feel; the hallmark of a Tim Rice show tune is that it works outside the confines of a musical. There are several examples here including ‘More to life than this’, ‘Love me forever today’ and ‘Ain’t where I wanna be blues’.

It’s a hugely enjoyable production and well executed by a talented cast, but feels too big for the cosy confines of the Charing Cross Theatre. Tim Rice musicals without Andrew Lloyd Webber always seem to suffer by comparison, as they are competing with such big beasts. But there’s more than enough here to prove this musical has the right credentials.

Review by Brian Penn

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls T12 | Price of Ticket: A £39.50/Stalls B £32.50/Stalls C £25.00 (premium seats also available)

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