Tim Rice’s first musical for 13 years, an adaptation of From Here to Eternity, has hit the Shaftesbury Theatre in London. This big, ambitious production directed by Tamara Harvey, reunites Rice with Stuart Brayson (music) and Bill Oakes (book).
With a cast that includes Robert Lonsdale as Prewitt and Darius Campbell as Warden, the show gets strong notices for the talent, and that also includes choreographer Javier De Frutos, but overall the musical gets quite measured reviews from most of the press.
Musicals with original songs don’t come along very often, and with the pedigree of the creatives behind this show, it deserves to be seen.
"Handsome, sweet-voiced Robert Lonsdale shines brightest in the Montgomery Clift role of Prewitt, refusing to knuckle down and pick up his boxing gloves despite the authorities’ vicious bullying, but all the leading players perform with aplomb. The Dirty Dancing brigade will enjoy the lusty embraces between Darius Campbell’s tall, rippling Milt and Rebecca Thornhill’s trim Karen in a first-half climax that inventively supplies a rousing ensemble chorus in place of roaring surf." Read more
"... it is only in the final 10 minutes, with the evocation of the raid on Pearl Harbour, that the show ascends to another level by giving us a glimpse of the terrors of aerial bombardment. Until that point, the overriding sense is of a musical based on skilled professionalism rather than expressive need." Read more
"From Here To Eternity is harmless nonsense. It might even become a camp classic. At a stretch." Read more
"The main strength of Tamara Harvey’s production is the muscular choreography by Javier de Frutos together with fight director Kate Waters. It’s a heady mix of boxing, military drill, surfer poses and hula. When de Frutos’s vision isn’t to the fore, the show feels static.... Rice’s lyrics may get top billing but, while there are signs of his familiar agility, some of the writing is thin. Brayson’s score is certainly varied, ranging from swing and jazz to rock and bluesy ballads. There are seductive melodies and a couple of genuinely catchy songs. But it never settles into a single confident idiom, and between the big numbers there are lulls, especially in the overlong first half. Bill Oakes’s book is not well-focused, and the characterisation is creaky" Read more
"It may take an eternity to get going, but there are some compensating pleasures along the way. The show is billed as “Tim Rice’s epic new musical”, but although he is the star name in returning with a brand-new show for the first time in 13 years, it also heralds the welcome arrival to the West End stage of a new British composing voice in Stuart Brayson, who has provided an eclectic score full of surging melodies and anthemic refrains." Read more
"For all the show's many defects, though, you come away impressed by its seriousness of purpose, by individual performances (Ryan Sampson is excellent as the jesting, bullied-to-death Maggio) and by the heart-tugging ambivalence of its patriotic set-pieces. Wags have quipped that it should be called From Here to November. But I reckon it's going to survive quite a bit longer than that." Read more
"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." Read more
"Notwithstanding the occasional corny blip (Darius Campbell take a bow), it feels grown-up. It has a certain grit. It’s moving. You might just cry, fall in love, hum yourself to sleep to the tune of “Thirty Year Man”, wake up and join the army." Read more
"Robert Lonsdale doesn’t have Clift’s haunting physical presence but he makes up for it with a soul-piercing tenor voice. He gets terrific support from Siubhan Harrison as his prostitute girlfriend Lorene, while Ryan Sampson as the generous, swaggering Maggio gives the stand-out performance of the show." Read more