From Here to Eternity review

Charing Cross Theatre – until 17 December 2022

Reviewed by Claire Roderick


This stirring, slimmed-down revival of From Here to Eternity is full of heart, passion … and gorgeous voices. I haven’t seen the original production, so cannot comment on the impact of the changes, but the new production hit all the right notes for me.

The story of the men of G Company, killing time in Hawaii as the war rages in Europe and the far east, is a lot grittier in James Jones’s novel than in the slick Hollywood movie – this musical sits somewhere in between, including the darker aspects of the story but with a light touch.

Captain Holmes’s (Alan Turkington) quest for promotion depends on G Company winning the boxing championship, so Prewitt (Jonathon Bentley) is transferred in with a reputation as a great boxer. Unfortunately, Prewitt refuses to fight after injuring someone in the ring, so Holmes sets his sergeants on Prewitt to grind him down. The institutionalised bullying, violence and discrimination of the army is shown in well-judged broad strokes that show enough to create credible impetus for the main characters choices that cannot be explored in much detail in the musical without losing one of the subplots. As the company are encouraged to intimidate and brutalise Prewitt into submission, he finds an ally in Maggio (Jonny Amies), a charming wise guy ducking and diving to make the most profit out of the situation in Hawaii. With so many soldiers and sailors hanging around, the opportunities are unlimited for brothel owner Mrs Kipfer (Eve Polycarpou). Prewitt is in love with one of her girls, Lorene (Desmonda Cathabel), and she is starting to fall for him. The second love story is between Holmes’s wife Karen (Carley Stenson) and Holmes’s master sergeant, Warden (Adam Rhys-Charles). All this takes place in the two weeks leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbour.

When the novel was written, the themes of homosexuality, adultery, suicide and violence were shocking, but now the story feels more of a potboiler, and Donald Rice and Bill Oakes’s book doesn’t try to update or sensationalise. There are many cliched lines, but they feel authentic coming from dedicated and naïve young men of their time. Director Brett Smock uses the traverse cleverly, with choreographer Cressida Carré setting the troops running and marching around the stage in between indolently lolling under the palm trees. The movement of concrete crates as multitasking stage furniture by the well-drilled ensemble adds to the military feel, and Louise Rhoades-Brown’ projections are hauntingly effective, particularly in the beach and stockade scenes.

The outstanding cast perform Stuart Brayson and Tim Rice’s songs with style and passion. There are a variety of influences and genres, with the bluesy numbers being a highlight. Carly Stenson’s smoky vocals are stunning, and Desmonda Cathabel’s heart stopping rendition of Run Along Joe will melt the coldest heart. Jonathon Bentley impresses as Prewitt, holding the audience’s sympathy even before the reason he doesn’t fight is revealed, and gives a barnstorming performance of Fight the Fight. Jonny Amies’s comedic bravado finally gives way to tragic defiance in I Love the Army in one of the most moving moments of the show. It all builds to an emotional and exhilarating finale, before the names of the fallen are projected on the stage as the audience leave. A real goosebumps moment. Slick, stylish and wonderfully entertaining – this is a must-see show.