From Here To Eternity is perhaps best-known as the iconic 1953 film that starred Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed. Based on the novel of the same name by James Jones, the film has earned its place in cinema history and the image of Lancaster and Kerr in a passionate embrace on the beach has become as iconic as the film itself. In 2011 it was announced that a musical version of Jones’ novel was in the works with Sir Tim Rice and Stuart Bryson working on the lyrics, and Bill Oakes writing the book. The show opened in the West End last October and is currently playing at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
If you’ve seen the film or read the book you’ll be very familiar with the story of From Here To Eternity: The Musical. Set in 1941 at the Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, the story focuses on Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Robert Lonsdale) who blinded a fellow soldier whilst boxing, as he joins G Force and resists allowing himself to get too involved with the regiment. Meanwhile First Sergeant Milt Warden (Stephen Webb) embarks on a dangerous affair with his captain’s wife Karen (Rebecca Thornhill) that puts his career and life at risk.
Running at 2 hour and 45 minutes in length, From Here To Eternity: The Musical certainly feels very epic. From the ambitious set design and costumes by Soutra Gilmour to the emotive score from Stuart Brayson, the musical perfectly captures the magic of the book and the 1953 movie. Peppered with strong and memorable songs, there’s much to enjoy about From Here To Eternity and we simply couldn’t take our eyes off the stage.
At the centre of it all is Robert Lonsdale as Prewitt. He makes for a handsome and charismatic leading man backing it up with a nuanced performance that sees him showcase his versatility. From the opening scenes where he appears abrasive and defiant through to the more intimate scenes with prostitute Lorene (Siubhan Harrison) who becomes the object of his affections, Lonsdale pulls the role off with admirable force. Vocally he offers something a little different for the West End. His voice isn’t your typical musical tone which makes for a refreshing change. He soars when he needs to unleashing the full power of his vocal prowess impressively but it’s the emotion he packs into the more low-key notes that really grips you.
For last night’s performance Stephen Webb stepped in for Darius Campbell as Warden and what a great job he did. Moving around the stage with the swagger and confidence of his character’s Sergeant title, Webb makes you care about Warden and root for him as he gets deeper into his affair with Karen. His chemistry with Rebecca Thornhill was magical and the recreation of that classic beach moment stays in your mind long after the show finishes. Thornhill herself puts in a powerful performance too as the seemingly promiscuous Karen, trapped in a loveless marriage and desperate for true happiness.
Ryan Sampson frequently steals the show as Private Angelo Maggio, the comedic and mischievous soldier who befriends Prewitt. His performance is magnificent and he is one of the standouts in the cast without a doubt. He mixes comedic timing with the right balance of emotion and gravitas making Maggio one of the characters you emotionally invest in the most. Siubhan Harrison is worthy of a mention too bringing a gentle side to prostitute Lorene who is part of the seedy New Congress Club run by the boisterous Mrs Kipfer (Julie Armstrong). She forms a believable chemistry with Lonsdale’s Prewitt that becomes the heart of the show.
The music in the show is definitely one of its strong points. The rousing Fight The Fight performed by Lonsdale, which is now available in a remixed form as a single, becomes the central theme of the show and contains a strong melody that we were humming on our way home. Other standout songs include I Ain’t Where I Wanna Be Blues performed by Lonsdale and Webb, Don’cha Like Hawaii performed by the company, and Harrison’s Run Along Joe. There’s a real mix of musical styles and the company performs the entire show will an infectious energy and gusto.
From Here To Eternity: The Musical is something a little different for the West End. It’s fairly racy in places, contains a fair bit of profanity, and explores the attitude towards homosexuality and prostitution in the early 40s. The show is bold in its vision with inventive staging and creative choreography by Javier De Frutos. From Here To Eternity may not be to everyone’s taste but we absolutely loved every minute of it. The only thing we could criticise is that at times it could have been slightly tighter giving it a shorter running time, but the epic finale will leave you emotional and thoroughly entertained. What more could you want from a West End show?