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Review: From Here To Eternity (Charing Cross Theatre)

Review by Daz Gale

It may feel like an eternity since this relatively niche but cult favourite musical has hit London. Following a short run in the West End from 2013 – 2014, From Here To Eternity returns in a revised production playing a limited run at Charing Cross Theatre. But after so long away and mixed reviews following its initial run, was this one piece of history that should have been left firmly in the past?

Based on the 1951 novel by James Jones, From Here To Eternity revisits the events that led up to the fateful day of the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7th 1941. Telling the story of the boys of G Company who are based at the Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, the musical charts their relationships with each other, the love interests in their life and their mixed feelings about life in the Army.

While there have been plenty of shows set in World War II, From Here To Eternity is fairly unique and refreshing in the sense that it spends a large chunk of the story away from the main action of the war, in this self-isolated group largely unaffected by the atrocities being committed outside of their own setting. This gives an opportunity for other stories within the group and their lives to play out with some heavy themes given space and time to be explored. These include prostitution and a particularly dark story about homosexuality within their ranks.

The book by Donald Rice and Bill Oakes takes the original source material and brilliantly fills it in a naturalistic setting that effortlessly allows the audience to get to know the multitude of characters and in turn fall in love with them, leading to some truly emotive and impactful moments in gloriously powerful writing. The slow burn of the first act of the show gradually increases as the second act starts, leading to a gripping climax that had me struggling to catch my breath in a series of difficult scenes, expertly played out.

Directed by Brett Smock, the writing is fantastically brought to life with wonderful staging choices. Given the in the round setting at Charing Cross Theatre, this is played out evenly, allowing audiences at every corner to get a flawless view of the action and give a sense of intimacy to a story that requires the audience to immerse themselves in the action. Set design from Stewart J. Charlesworth makes use of this space to great effect while projections from Louise Rhoades-Brown transform simple props to project dates in an inspired touch.

This is a production where all of the creative elements come together seamlessly to create a high quality piece of theatre. One of the greatest elements of this is the jawdroppingly slick choreography from Cressida Carre. Consistently impressive to witness, the highly talented ensemble cast members are pushed to the best of their abilities thanks to this phenomenal movement which makes the writing and staging come alive.

A good musical needs some good music and there is no shortage of that in From Here To Eternity with a gorgeous selection of songs from Stuart Brayson and Tim Rice. Highlights include the stunning duet 'Love Me Forever Today', the chilling 'I Love The Army' and the rousing and emotional 'The Boys Of '41' which proves an emotional standout of the show. With a consistently high quality played throughout, this is one show whose songs felt instantly familiar, despite me having not seen the show before.

From Here To Eternity boasts some excellent creative choices and content so it is up to the cast to match that level. There is no problem in that respect with a hugely talented group of performers filling the stage with heart, humour and a great deal of emotional depth. Jonathan Bentley bursts with charisma as Prewitt, showing fantastic chemistry with the incredibly talented Desmonda Cathabel as Lorene. Adam Rhys-Charles impresses with gorgeous vocals as Warden while Carley Stenson makes the most of fairly limited stage time in a memorable performance as Karen.

Alan Turkington is commanding as Holmes while Eve Polycarpou is an undoubted standout as Mrs Kipfer. Jack Ofrecio, Callum Henderson, Cassius Hackforth, Kyerron Dixon-Bassey, Dominic Adam Griffin, Jaden Oshenye and Joseph Vella are among the impressive young performers who make up the other men in G Company in a show where there really is no weak link with every single performer bringing their A game.

There is one particular performance I'd like to single out in From Here To Eternity and that goes to Jonny Amies as Maggio. In a character that goes on an intense journey throughout the show, Jonny has to dig deep into multiple aspects of the character and in doing so showcases an astounding level of versatility in his acting choices. From the comic carefree beginnings to a gradually darker story, Jonny is utterly captivating, delivering a scene-stealing turn.

I can't compare this production of From Here To Eternity to its previous West End run which received a mixed response (though amassed a cult following). All I can go by is what I saw at this performance, and while I'm aware there have been some changes to the original musical including new songs, this was a completely new musical for me, Going in blind, it's fair to say I was blown away. Every element of this production is a winner with ambitious staging for a relatively small space. This is a show that seemed to get better as it progressed with the final half an hour among the best I have seen this year. Emotional and impactful, this bold production really does pack an emotional punch. It isn't playing for an Eternity though so catch it while you can.


From Here To Eternity plays at Charing Cross Theatre until December 17th

Photos by Mark Senior


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