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Review Round-Ups

Will Tim Rice's new musical last for Eternity?

Tim Rice's new musical From Here to Eternity, based on James Jones' classic novel, opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre last night. Starring Darius Campbell and Robert Lonsdale, it is currently booking until 26 April 2014

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Darius Campbell and Rebecca Thornhill
© Johan Persson

Michael Coveney

…What it doesn't have is the emotional intensity and narrative control of the movie – the first act is far too long and windy... With good designs by Soutra Gilmour and sensitive lighting by Bruno Poet, Harvey provides a series of snapshots, or postcards… Brayson doesn't quite pull off any really distinctive tension between lyrical individuality and period style. It would be too easy, though, to overlook the fact that none of Rice's lyrics seem forced or over-heated… Prewitt's… violent face-off with Brian Doherty's "Fatso"… doesn't punch its weight, musically… there's something of a Tennessee Williams angst about Prewitt's bugling reputation that is insufficiently explored… the show eventually becomes over-burdened with melodramatic plot, though the Pearl Harbour attack is excitingly evoked before Milt Warden assumes control and the ladies set sail.

Paul Taylor

…The show … certainly gives you a powerful sense of men… An air of unintended embarrassment hangs around … between Darius Campell's tall, dark and lecherous First Sergeant Milt Warden and Karen… There's no sizzle in the wise-cracks, and…there is little erotic spark between them. The lyrics …feel flaccid with cliché … Robert Lonsdale magnetically conveys the stubborn, passionate individualism of Prewitt... his recurring, cumulative anthem… is… more powerful than any of the love songs involving Siubhan Harrison's moving, golden-toned Lorene… For all the show's many defects, though, you come away impressed by its seriousness of purpose, by individual performances (Ryan Sampson is excellent…) and by the heart-tugging ambivalence of its patriotic set-pieces...I reckon it's going to survive quite a bit longer than that.

Dominic Cavendish
Daily Telegraph

…The Second World War context seems a bit of an afterthought, but the score is retro-flavoured, imbued with blues, swing and big band influences, without feeling derivative or tame… the show achieves a potent sense of atmosphere. Part of this power comes from the way it stresses the sight and sound of militarised machismo…Handsome, sweet-voiced Robert Lonsdale shines brightest …The Dirty Dancing brigade will enjoy the lusty embraces between Darius Campbell's tall, rippling Milt and Rebecca Thornhill's trim Karen …This isn't a major musical to rival South Pacific but in a West End awash with shows for kids and kidults it dares to speak to our inner grown-up about frustrated yearning, fleeting romance and pluck. Whether that's enough to ensure it lasts longer than from here to the end of the current booking period is another question.

Michael Billington

"Highly professional"… In a post-Abu Ghraib world we are no longer astonished by American military brutality…The show, however, is executed with considerable skill. Brayson's score encompasses a variety of styles … I just wish the music had a little more room to breathe…But Brayson's score captures the feel of the 1940s and Tim Rice's lyrics… "If this is all they can muster/ They can give it back to Custer." Tamara Harvey's production and Soutra Gilmour's design make ingenious use of the stage space by suggesting that the action unfolds against a series of receding, dilapidated proscenium arches … And I have no fault to find with the performers… But it is only in the final 10 minutes…that the show ascends to another level… Until that point, the overriding sense is of a musical based on skilled professionalism rather than expressive need.

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

… It's vigorous and generally slick, but at times feels trite….The main strength of Tamara Harvey's production is the muscular choreography by Javier de Frutos…[although]some of the writing is thin. Brayson's score is certainly varied, … But…there are lulls, especially in the overlong first half…There's also not much chemistry between the leads. Although Darius Campbell… has the right virile baritone for Milt, his acting is a little stiff and his relationship with Rebecca Thornhill's Karen never sizzles. Meanwhile Robert Lonsdale lacks charisma as Prewitt … And despite Ryan Sampson providing some comic relief as Prewitt's impish pal Maggio, there are few laughs. From Here to Eternity aspires to be both gritty and erotic, yet in the end seems sprawling and underpowered. Its ambition is impressive. But only in its final moments does it feel urgent.

Quentin Letts
Daily Mail

This one is a hoot, not necessarily by intention. It contains soupy tunes, glistening biceps, reality star Darius Campbell and his jawline, and generally more corn than even the leading breakfast cereal brands. Director Tamara Harvey gives everything maximum wallop. Cliches abound… From Here to Eternity? From nought to 60 in three seconds, more like… And yet this is not a short show. Its list of tunes could do with some weeding. Mr Campbell does some worthy old-fashioned crooning … there are moments when he actually sounds like Nat King Cole. Mr Lonsdale is a more surprising stage presence, having a measure of unpredictability… Sir Tim's deftness of touch is repeatedly evident. But what clunky direction-by-numbers… From Here to Eternity is harmless nonsense. It might even become a camp classic. At a stretch.