(c) Alex Brenner

From Here To Eternity

Reviewer's rating

There’s really only one question that needs to be asked about From Here To Eternity which has just opened at The Charing Cross Theatre and is due to be occupying its venerable old auditorium until 17th December… Is it any better than the initial version from 2013 that limped along for about six months at The Shaftesbury?

Well, I’m happy to say that the answer to that one is a resounding yes (with one caveat that I’ll come to later). There have been rewrites, new songs, and cuts aplenty and the show benefits from having had a quarter of an hour shaved off it since the opening night back in 2013. And this production is VERY good.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that From Here To Eternity is the best-produced show I’ve ever seen at The Charing Cross Theatre, which has been reconfigured to be theatre in the round.

Stewart J Charlesworth’s set is masculine, monumental, and imposing, yet simple and unfussy, and is a triumph given the limitations of the space.

So, what of the show? Well, it’s obviously still the same story. A military soap opera of love and loss, who’s had who, who’s in, and who’s out in ‘G Company’ in the two weeks running up to the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941.

In a way the goings on are completely inconsequential given the wider context of what we know is about to happen before the end of the show – there are a series of projections showing the countdown to that fateful day.

Jonathan Bentley is a tuneful Prewitt, the part now having thankfully been rewritten so we know why it is he won’t box for his regiment. His love interest, Lorene, played by Desmonda Cathabel is a real find, and the winner of last year’s Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year.

Adam Rhys-Charles as Warden is very likable, and his love interest Carley Stenson as Karen comes across as suitably bruised.

The cast is, in fact, universally excellent, but I’ll just mention Eve Polycarpou as brothel-keeper Mrs. Kipper who is as wonderful as she always is.

So, my caveat?

Well, the same as when this show first aired back in 2013.

Musicals work best when they have a single protagonist whose story you follow right through the show because that’s how storytelling works. Once you know what that protagonist wants, you can invest your emotional capital and get emotionally involved with the show. The nearest I could get to Prewitt’s want was the second song when he says in effect that he wants to be in the army. Well, he’s in the military, to begin with…

Alternatively (though rarely) if you have multiple protagonists, they need all to have the same final goal (think Chorus Line) but again it needs to be clearly laid out.

If you have multiple protagonists with different stories all wanting different things it’s virtually impossible to know where to concentrate your emotional capital. You can watch as an entertained observer, but not as someone emotionally involved.

That’s how soap opera works, and is largely how the narrative here plays out.

Tim Rice’s lyrics are excellent, and even in a few places memorable, and although Stuart Brayson’s score is entertaining rather than boundary-pushing, it’s enjoyable enough.

That being said, what’s on offer is much more entertaining than some of the much larger shows on offer along The Strand. Go see.