Review of ‘From Here to Eternity’: “It really blows”

Tim Rice and Stuart Brayson’s Pearl Harbor musical returns to London for a limited run in a new production at London’s Charing Cross Theatre. Guillermo Názara reviews this reinvisioned take on the stage adaptation of James Jones’s novel and later 1953 blockbuster film, to share his thoughts on this tale of passion and romance of some other kind.

It takes a lot to be a man. It may not be popular (or even sensible) to say it out loud anymore (especially on Twitter), but censorhip has never made things any different – if only, any truer. Historically forced to face a more sadistic world, where any traces of complaint or sensitivity could only be regarded as a sign of weakness, war times are perhaps the epitome of such cruel reality. There’s no room for fear, let alone for protest – regardless of how much both your physical and mental integrity are at stake. It’s not acceptable to have feelings. It’s not acceptable to be human.

Musicals dealing with more belligerent topics may be perceived by some (specially, the ones who think that this genre should be restricted to only revue-like comedies and sugarcoated romances) as a failed and unnecessary attempt to bring every single plot to a colourful parade of song and dance. And despite these idiots’ ignorance only craving for brainless attention, there’s a point in at least be cautious when considering go watch this show – as the initial premise sounds too similar to other pieces that have been around for decades now, the closest being Miss Saigon and South Pacific. Plagiarism might be the highest form of flattering (there’s a Disney Imagineer who once said something of the sort re the company’s most popular rides), but there’s nothing enjoyable about sitting for two hours and a half to digest a knockoff of a previous work which was probably better.

From Here to Eternity is probably the finest liars of its kind. From the brief summary of its plot to the aesthetics of its poster, you’re entitled to think you’re to watch another doomed romance happening within the horrific setting of a war. And though that’s part of the storyline, it’s certainly not the core, as this show definitely has an approach and a voice of its own. Yes, there is a tragic relationshiop between a soldier and a whore who eventually fall for each other, but there’s also the secret affair between an officer and his boss’s wife – and the prosecuted love of a man whose heart belongs to another man (something a few should focus their attention on before considering supporting -even by watching- countries and organisations that turn the blind eye on this matter if money is on the table – yes, Qatar and FIFA, we’re talking about you).

Flaunting refreshing depth and truth to its characters, the creative efforts of this piece feature a long list of triumphs to be praised. Perhaps due to the political content of the material, Tim Rice’s word are without any doubt one of the lyricist’s finest creations – thoroughly crafted and honed, the verses exude brilliant paralelisms, tasteful rhymes and both social and personal profoundity, reuniting the writer with an approximate quality to the one he achieved when penning Evita. With an amusing, sometimes memorable, score by Stuart Brayson, the book (credited to Bill Oakes) is nonetheless the other grand achiever of the trio, displaying intelligence and great sympathy in its dialogues, as well as an understanding of the media they’re intended to (though the transition into some musical numbers could be improved).

Not everything is perfect, though. And despite Brett Smock’s direction being correct and effective, with a very clever use of the challenging space the Charing Cross Theatre has, the pace of the show is in need of some tweaks. Poetically enough, From Here to Eternity manages to make even this flaw its own. Opposite to what usually occurs with a story that has this kind of problem, it’s not that some parts feel to slow – they feel too quick! Avoiding any spoilers, it’s no secret that doom is one of the main themes surrounding its characters in some way or another, and yet some scenes (in particular, the ending) lack a needed halt to reflect on their journey through them.

If an army is supposed to defend their country, then here there’s a good bunch of recruits who have at least proven they know how to defend a piece. Interpenetrated as a team and working seamlessly as such, the highest mention is well deserved by Adam Rhys-Charles as one of the leads, for his charismatic and insightful performance, as well as Alan Turkington -who gives an imposing rendition of his character. On the other hand, Eve Polycarpou stands out through her natural allure and sassiness imprinted on her however subtle portrayal.

In a nightmarish paradise of loss and death, there’s still something flowing in this show’s ambience that keeps your wish to stay and never leave – at least, not so early. All in all, they’ve done it right. Or so it seems. Because when so many production values are met, despite the need for some tiny polishing, we couldn’t be talking about anything else than a successful accomplishment. In all fairness the truth is that this show really blows – in the winds of passion and talent.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

All pictures credited to Mark Senior and Alex Brenner.

From Here to Eternity plays at the Charing Cross Theatre from Tuesday to Sunday until 17 December. Tickets are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Názara

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