The 1951 novel ‘From Here to Eternity’ is considered one of the greats of war fiction, with a famous film adaptation released two years after the book. In 2013, the story of American soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the lead up to the attack on Pearl Harbour made the move to the stage in a musical adaptation that premiered in London’s West End at the Shaftesbury Theatre. It ran for seven and a half months, and played in America in 2016, with the production being filmed during its London run. And now, thanks to The Shows must go Online scheme, we have now been treated to the chance to watch the show from the comfort of our own homes.
‘From Here To Eternity’ focusses on Milt Warden (Darius Campbell), Maggio (Ryan Sampson) and Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Robert Lonsdale), three soldiers stationed in Oahu, Hawaii with G company. Maggio is told constantly that he’s no good as a soldier and seems to only enjoy playing cards, Warden causes trouble when he flirts with the captain’ s wife Karen (Rebecca Thornhill), and Prewitt refuses to box in the company which puts him in to ‘treatment’ with the captain, all whilst he falls in love with local prostitute Lorene (Siubhan Harrison).
Robert Lonsdale plays Robert E.Lee Prewitt, a soldier with little desire to fight. He has sworn off boxing and sworn off friendship after an incident with another fighter, meaning that the company captain puts him through daily trails, day by day destroying his spirit. It’s a big role, and Lonsdale does well with it bringing plenty of emotion to the part and well as impressing with his vocals. His big number ‘Fight the Fight’ is lyrically fantastic, full of meaning and heart, making Prewitt a character who is easy to feel for. Ryan Sampson impresses greatly in the role of Maggio, with ‘I Love The Army’ packing a punch has he finds himself being punished and Darius Campbell boasts a great stage presence as Milt Warden
Rebecca Thornhill and Siubhan Harrison stand out in this rather male heavy production. Both Karen and Lorene are interesting characters, each with their own stories, yet somewhat overshadowed by the stories of their partners. Both women have desires to find love and get back to the mainland, and hope that their romances with soldiers would be their ticket out. Harrison’s solo ‘Run Along Joe’ shows her torn thoughts about falling in love and getting out and wanting what is best for the struggling Prewitt whilst Thornhill’s Karen wants to find love with someone who really loves her back, leading her into the arms of Warden, with trips to a private beach winning her over.
The male ensemble playing the soldiers of G Company deserve praise for taking on this athletic show, with plenty of impressive choreography and powerful fight moments. The girls make up a chorus of local girls and prostitutes, both with their eyes on the soldiers. From the synopsis, I guessed there would be beach scene or two, but I wasn’t really expecting the levels of raunchiness that come with this show, with clubs and prostitutes a plenty.
With music and lyrics by Stuart Brayson and Tim Rice, From Here to Eternity isn’t short on lovely melodies and catchy tunes, with a number of reprises throughout. But whilst it may not be short of songs, it is a little short of plot. For the first half or so, not an awful lot actually happens. As G Company wait to really join the war, you find yourself waiting for something to happen. You are introduced to loads of characters, but sometimes you feel that it would be nice to get to know them a little bit more. The first half plods along quite slowly, with act 2 providing a gradual buildup to a final 25 minutes of action. The book packs a lot into that final 25 minutes, and I can’t help but feel that we needed a little more earlier on to really appreciate the war filled finale. Without much of a buildup, it feels like we suddenly thrown from a story that rotates around romance to one that rotates around war.
To finish, From Here to Eternity has good characters, and great songs, but I feel that it is rather let down by the book. Its slow paced, a long waiting game that climaxes in a flood of action that could have ben much more spread out. You feel for the characters, and want to see what is going to happen to them as they go through the war, but you are left waiting quite some time to find out what happens.