From Here To Eternity - Charing Cross Theatre
Tim Rice and Stuart Brayson’s musical makes an updated return to the stage
The attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941, though meant as preventative action, formed the ignition for the United States to enter the battlefield in World War II. During the attack, 2,403 Americans died, including 68 civilians. From Here To Eternity imagines, though based on James Jones’s book of the same name, the lives of those stationed in and around the military base as the threat of war looms.
There have been multiple alterations in this first revival - notably the show has been shortened, musical numbers have been cut, adapted and added and some characters have been left discharged. But as with the original production, the music is the absolute heart and soul of this show - packed with rousing numbers and harmonies that will set a shiver down your spine. Praise must be given to Nick Barstow whose musical direction, along with his new arrangements and orchestrations, is outstanding. The sensational work he has done with both cast and band is clearly audible - a definite highlight.
A brutalist concrete set greets audiences at The Charing Cross Theatre - its jagged edges a blight on the Hawaiian landscape. Stewart J. Charlesworth’s design forms the focal point in the traverse set-up, though the action is allowed to spill out beyond the defined boundaries. Through the use of munition boxes, the space is neatly transformed for a variety of locations, accurately elevated by clean projection design from Louise Rhoades-Brown and angular lighting from Adam King.
Leading the cast is Jonathon Bentley as Private Prewitt, a new transfer to G-Company who refuses to fight in the regiment’s boxing tournament following an incident at his old unit. Prewitt though already a weathered recruit is our gateway into life at Pearl Harbour and Bentley does a sterling job of portraying his internal conflicts as he aims to keep his head down and simply be a soldier. As First Sergeant Warden, Adam Rhys-Charles delivers a knockout performance culminating in a powerful rendition of the song At Ease, led by his stellar vocal ability. Stealing the show however is Jonny Amies as Private Maggio, whose quick-witted characterisation is both exciting and tragic. Amies’s performance of I Love The Army, is truly heartbreaking and naturally warranted one of the largest applauses of the evening.
Though many elements of this production are of the highest level, sadly the production is let down by much of its core material. The script and plot are often directionless and languid - and even with significant reworking the root substance feels thinly spread and under-explored. Despite exceptional performances from Desmonda Cathabel, Carley Stenson and Eve Polycarpou the female characters are woefully underutilised and purely exist as something for the men to fight for. The lack of depth and development is particularly sad when during the reworking there was scope and space to refocus the piece - disappointing.
Regardless of the faults, the music alone is worth the ticket price. The blend of the company’s voices is mesmerising and I defy anyone not to be moved by the closing number. It is also wonderful to see so many performers at the beginning of their careers given space and opportunity to show the talent they can offer to the theatre industry but with electrifying music, both new and old, and an irresolute story this revival may have felt more comfortable as a staged concert.
Photography - Alex Brenner
Running till 17 December - Tickets
Originally published by London Theatre Reviews