Tag Archives: Bill Kenwright

From Here to Eternity

From Here to Eternity

★★★★

Charing Cross Theatre

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY at the Charing Cross Theatre

★★★★

 

 From Here to Eternity

“This is a finely tuned production that rides on its high values and first-rate performances from all involved”

 

The image that forms in most people’s mind when hearing the title “From Here to Eternity” is of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr’s adulterous, steamy embrace on the shores of the Hawaiian island of Oahu while the waves metaphorically release their foam around the lovers’ entangled limbs. The marketing of Fred Zinnemann’s WWII romance ensured a rave reception, but it strayed somewhat from James Jones’ original fifties novel, on which Tim Rice, Stuart Brayson, Donald Rice and Bill Oakes have more faithfully based their musical.

The film was censored somewhat, resulting in the themes of prostitution, homosexuality and abuse being either underplayed or written out completely. Rice and Oakes’ script thankfully reinstates them, although sometimes it feels like a passing gesture that is reaching out for further exploration. A straight drama would have the space to do this, but the harshness of the story lines is softened by this musical treatment. That’s not necessarily a drawback: Brayson’s exhilarating score, orchestrated by Musical Director Nick Barstow, packs a punch with its mix of military chants, dusky blues and power ballads, occasionally tinged with a Hawaiian twang. It is softer in Act One, but the kid gloves come off after interval and only then does the passion of the piece hit us. If the emotion comes through loud and clear through the singing, however, it falls a little flat during the dialogue.

Brett Smock’s fresh and dynamic staging begins at the end, before rewinding two weeks to lead us day by day to the horrific air strike on Pearl Harbour in December 1941. The days are counted down, like the pages of a calendar torn off by a captive serving time in a prison camp. As we approach the fatal morning when so many lives were needlessly lost, the complex and contradictory emotions of the American soldiers are expressed. “I Love the Army… I Hate the Army” is a leitmotif that more than one character extols.

Private Robert Lee Prewitt (Jonathon Bentley) reports to his new posting at G Company. His commanding officer Captain Holmes (brilliantly played by Alan Turkington) is relying on Prewitt to win the boxing championship, thereby increasing his own chances of promotion. Prewitt however refuses to fight having made a deathbed wish to give up boxing after accidentally blinding a fellow soldier. Holmes’ vengeful bullying extends to his dissatisfied wife, Karen (a cool and calculating Carley Stenson) who seeks solace by embarking on an affair with First Sergeant Milt Warden (Adam Rhys-Charles). Into the fold falls Private Angelo Maggio (Jonny Amies), a hot-headed New York Italian who moonlights as a paid companion to the local male community. Meanwhile Prewitt falls for the beautiful prostitute Lorene (Desmonda Cathabel) and dreams in vain of making a respectable woman of her. A highlight of the production is Eve Polycarpou’s Mrs Kipfer, the brothel’s hard-nosed ‘Madam’. Polycarpou certainly establishes her presence from the moment she steps onstage singing the showstopping “I Know What You Came For”.

Unencumbered by high emotion the storylines progress and overlap each other clearly and intelligibly. Cressida Carré’s choreography is dazzlingly crisp and inventive which the strong ensemble cast synchronize to perfection, not missing a beat from scene, to transition, to scene. Against Stewart J. Charlesworth’s concrete set, it is Adam King’s evocative lighting that truly transports us to the steamy and sultry tropical location.

This is a finely tuned production that rides on its high values and first-rate performances from all involved. The subject matter is reduced to more of an undertow, but the score washes over us in waves of delight. That’s no metaphor – none is needed here to ensure the rave reception this show will undoubtedly receive.

 

Reviewed on 8th November 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

 

Pippin | ★★★★ | July 2021
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike | ★★★ | November 2021
Ride | ★★★★★ | August 2022
The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore | ★★★ | October 2022

 

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Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers

★★★★★

Theatre Royal Windsor | UK Tour

Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers

Theatre Royal Windsor

Reviewed – 14th January 2022

★★★★★

 

“Niki Evans returns triumphantly to the lead role”

 

It’s over forty years since Willy Russell penned Blood Brothers as a school play. From that humble beginning, the show grew into one of the most successful musicals of all time with productions in the West End, Broadway and around the world. To this day, it still holds on to third place as one of the longest running musicals in West End history having ran for over 10,000 performances. Since 2019 the show has been travelling around the UK (with a few obstacles along the way ..!) and this opening night performance at the Theatre Royal Windsor marks the start of a further sixteen weeks of touring.

The show revolves around young Liverpool mother, Mrs Johnstone. Deserted by her husband, she becomes a housekeeper for the wealthy Lyons family in order to feed her seven children. She is soon shocked to discover she is pregnant again, this time with twins, and makes a heart-breaking decision that forms the plot of the show.

Niki Evans returns triumphantly to the lead role she last performed over a decade ago in the West End. Her stunning performance throughout shows she has slipped back into the part as if she’d never been away – magnificent vocals (notably in the iconic ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ and the recurring refrain of ‘Marilyn Monroe’) and every inch the embodiment of the troubled Mrs Johnstone. Sean Jones returns as Mickey, in his final ever tour in the role accompanied by Joel Benedict as his twin brother, Eddie. Both actors deliver strong and nuanced characterisations as they play the boys across the years. The story as always is carried along by The Narrator, this time in the capable hands of Robbie Scotcher. Paula Tappenden is a believable, manipulative Mrs Lyons and Carly Burns as Linda (the twins’ childhood friend and Mickey’s wife) gives another standout performance.

Direction (Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright) clearly guides the cast to make the most of the action and Andy Walmsley’s simple yet effective set, which feels perfectly suited to the Theatre Royal’s stage. Sound (Dan Samson) and lighting (Nick Richings) are suitably subtle but effective nonetheless. Musical Director Matt Malone ensures the shows unforgettable songs are delivered to perfection by the top notch band.

As the show draws to a close with the haunting melody of ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ it’s easy to understand why Russell’s masterpiece continues to delight audiences. It’s that rare perfect mix of a show that makes you laugh and cry in exactly the right proportions. This latest tour will not be the last for the Blood Brothers and it’s surely only a matter of time before it makes a well-deserved return to the West End.

 

Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com

Photography by Robert Day (from previous production)

 


Blood Brothers

Theatre Royal Windsor until 29th January then UK Tour continues

 

Recently reviewed at this venue:
The Cherry Orchard | ★★★★ | October 2021

 

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