Let’s be honest: an all-singing adaptation of James Jones’s sprawling novel ‘From Here to Eternity’ sounds like an cataclysmically daft idea. But in actual fact, Tim Rice’s first new musical in 13 years very nearly works.
Following the lives, loves and, uh, violent deaths of a group of GIs posted to Hawaii in 1941, Jones’s semi-autobiographical story really isn’t jazz-hands stuff. But first-time West End director Tamara Harvey’s ruggedly masculine production strikes an appropriately gritty tone. With Rice and collaborator Stuart Brayson’s bluesy, percussive songs, the roiling bass rhythms of the soldiers’ voices and Soutra Gilmour’s stark, semi-derelict sets, there is little frivolous about the show.
Crucially, it has a magnetic lead in Robert Lonsdale’s enigmatic loner Private Robert E Lee Prewitt. He could be a brooding cliché, but in his first musical role, Lonsdale hits the right balance between hero, dickhead and vulnerable young man. And he has a fascinating voice, not a million miles away from Jack White’s bluesy yelp – he injects paint-stripper intensity to the show’s stronger numbers.
The elephant in the room is the 1953 film. For the most part, the leads escape the shadows of their screen counterparts, most notably Ryan Sampson, whose Private Angelo Maggio is drastically different to Frank Sinatra’s – puny, pugnacious and fluid of sexuality, there are intriguing shades of Chelsea Manning in his portrayal.
However, the movie’s iconic image, of Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster doing it in the Oahu surf, hangs off the show like a dead weight. Clearly Rice and co felt the scene’s inclusion was crucial. But they don’t seem particularly enthusiastic about it, and the sub plot about upstanding Sergeant Milt Warden having it off with the lonely wife of his commanding officer feels clangingly half-baked.
Blandly affable Darius Campbell and pouting Rebecca Thornhill struggle to inject interest into poorly sketched characters, lumbering ballads and an asinine love story. You can’t help but feel that everyone involved knows the only point of the whole romance is the arse-baring love scene that closes the first half.
Even without them, it’d still be flawed: the many perfunctory deaths feel poorly suited to the musical format – it feels weird that a key character can literally die without anybody making a song and dance about it.
In a strong year for new musicals, ‘From Here to Eternity’ is nothing like the best. But it’s a spunky effort from Rice and Harvey, and certainly more interesting than anything Rice's erstwhile writing partner Andrew Lloyd Webber has mustered in recent times. If nothing else, the gauntlet is convincingly thrown down for Lloyd Webber’s ‘Stephen Ward’, which opens in a couple of months.
By Andrzej Lukowski
Average User Rating
3.3 / 5
- 5 star:4
- 4 star:3
- 3 star:3
- 2 star:5
- 1 star:1
Did not enjoy this much. Story line was poor and could have been in any setting. Good effort from the actors but could have been better.
I loved this musical, though I think we were very lucky to get the understudy for Sergeant Warden, who from the videos we have seen, the understudy was a better age and weight for his part. Though the first half was a little slow, as far as we could tell that was an effect and was meant to be there. The first half was also a lot more inappropriate and probably should have been rated a lot more than 13+ but gave a good introduction to the story and characters. On the whole, the second half was largely emotional and featured a lot of crying on my part. Everything could be seen easily and Lonsdale is an incredibly talented man, being able to sing incredibly, and can sing whilst dancing, jumping, holding the plank and playing the guitar. He can also act incredibly and play the bugle. Definitely worth going to see.
Did not enjoy this musical at all. I felt like I was watching a slightly more advanced version of a high-school musical!!! No-one was really believable in their roles and there was not one memorable song in the entire production. I could have sworn the reviews I read when I booked were better than what I am reading now which is really surprising (and annoying!!)
P.S. in this 33 people show, the only two actors I would say good are, 1, Siubhan Harrison (played Laurence), she is the only one who can properly sing in a musical, but a concert. In the whole terribly boring 2 hours and 40mins, only her 5mins solo singing made me finally think ok I am seeing a musical. She sings great, with all emotions and role's thought inside her voice and beautifully expressed, very touchable. 2, Laurence's lover, the soldier (Sorry I can't remember his name), he is probably not the best singer but he is the best actor in this show. The others, Rebecca is a beauty but I think that playing film suits her better (and best in 1950s' Hollywood film), her singing is far too simple and no acting skills inside the voice; she was just singing a song, not the character's heart. The rest supporting roles are making me feeling watching a drama school's training course, sorry, but they are all good enough, compared with such a horrible play.
I can't bear this so-called play at all, nearly want to run away even before the play ended. Just before I thought it couldn't be worse, the playwright proved I was wrong: the final 10 mins was even worse or the worst show I have ever seen in west end. To me the first 2 hour 30 mins was unbearable but still can be looked as a musical or dance or single show----any but a play, however the final 10 mins made it a complete disaster. Apart from Disaster, such word, there is nothing else I could use to describe I am afraid. The musical I would rate it 3 stars however the terrible end worth 1 star only, so overall 2 stars. And the 3 stars only goes to those poor actor and actress----they are all good and professional but they had to play such a play, poor them.
We enjoyed the show and loved the costumes and hair styles! The cast put in lots of effort - some of the performers were stronger than others. Overall it was an enjoyable afternoon but I wouldn't be telling everyone it is a must-see. To be fair, I haven't seen the film and I'm not usually a fan of musicals so it probably would have had to be exceptional to get 5 stars from me!
Not appropriate language for my 14 year old daughter -- I wish I'd read a review that shared this information. The song lyrics and stage action was rather crude at times. The sets were not impressive, costumes were era appropropriate, lead male's voice rather weak, the "narrator" male lead was very good, and the female leads were good. There was nothing truly exceptional about this show -- not the muic, book, sets, correography, etc. It lacked any "Wow factor". We'd give it 2 stars at best. Very average. We wont be recommending this show to anyone -- there are too many better shows in the West End..
Didn't know what to expect from not having seen the film but really enjoyed the show. Every single performer gave it there all and personally, I felt captivated in the story and scenes. There was six of us who went together and all thought it was fantastic staging, score and acting. There were half full seats in the theatre when we saw this during the week. It was a shame because compared to a lot of good shows in the west end, it's definitely up there. Personally I appreciate the great performances given that night, because despite the half empty room, it was still top standard theatre.
A beautiful story, adapted in a nice musical. Our seats were quite well located and we could enjoy the show.
I was not sure what to expect and booked tickets having read some press reviews. Apart from some poor lighting in some scenes the show was very enjoyable. The cast work very hard despite and it must be very hard playing to a half full audience. The score and singing was very good. Overall we enjoyed the show and had a very enjoyable evening.
What a shame as there are some very good parts in the show, particularly the score and Robert Lonsdale's performance.Some of the direction is terrible, the worst I have ever seen in the West End.It seems as if the production team could not decide on the type of show they wanted to do - a narrative 'South Pacific' type or a more abstract one and the result is a bit of a mess with good songs thrown in.Darius Cambell is so wooden he is embarassing, especially when emerging from a closet in women's clothes, what was the director thinking of? The book is weak and some of the numbers do not make sense - why is the ensemble writing postcards home at the back of the stage when the romantic leads are downstage re enacting the beach scene?The set did not convey 1940's Hawaii to me and the back projections are, frankly, amateurish. A strong guiding hand such as Cameron Mackintosh was needed to give a consistent approach and, in my opinion, a sung through approach such as 'Miss Saigon' would have worked much better.
Energetic, old fashioned, and a bit of a mess. That said, very enjoyable and some cracking numbers and performances throughout (Darius is actually pretty good, and Ryan Sampson makes the show). The staging and choreography are excellent. The music is okay, a bit plodding sometimes, but there are a few good numbers in there. Rice's lyrics are fine. The book needs work and to be honest this show probably could have done with a few months outside of London removing some of the fat (needs about 20 mins and quite a few numbers cut). So close...I've given it four stars but I would prefer to give it 3 and a half.
Time Out's review is accurate. This show is nearly an absolute belter. The score is strong, especially in the second half, the cast good (Lonsdale is excellent) and some of the choreography is fantastic. But the flaws are pretty big: the first half drags, the Warden/Karen love story is flat as a pancake and there are some bizarre staging choices. At least two big numbers are hopelessly broken up by chat and 'plot' that just confuse. But it's got bigger balls than every new musical this year (including The Commitments). If you can't stand the 'family' shows plaguing the West End then give it a shot. One for grown-ups.
Never have I seen a worse acted musical. The leads are wooden, the script is vulgar and the music forgettable. Save you money
A sensational new show and wonderful story full of live, love and loss. Fantastic performances by a slick, super-pro cast and many memorable songs which you leave humming. A grown up musical for anyone craving something more, and plenty of eye candy too. Overall a great night out, don't forget the tissues!
Boring, dated and dull only good thing about the show was the guy playing Prewitt And Darius Campbell, but the show and songs let them down - dismal. The plug needs to be pulled sharpish.
Always hard transferring book to stage, especially into a musical, not a bad job,early days and needs to be given a chance. Pace a little slow at times and felt a little uncomfortable watching a couple of scenes. Music and singing was really good and has a couple of stars in the making who I haven't seen before. Overall a good evening out.
No terrible, but not 'all that' either.. A rather flat storyline and I sat feeling like it was going to take off, but it never quite did. No memorable songs, or singers and in parts a bit too cringy for my tates.