Tag Archives: Jonathon Bentley

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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Mamma Mia! The Party 

The O2


Mamma Mia! The Party

Mamma Mia! The Party

The O2

Visited – September 2019


“you’d have to be the grumpiest stick-in-the-mud not to be swept along by the euphoria of the evening”


The phenomenal success of the Mamma Mia! stage show, which opened in London in 1999 is almost folklore now. Seen by more than 65 million people in over 450 cities and in 16 languages it was followed by the successful film, starring Meryl Street and Amanda Seyfried in 2008. Filmed on location on the small Greek island of Skopelos, it is perhaps one of the most ‘feel-good’ movies ever produced. At the end of each day’s filming the cast and crew would walk the narrow, winding alleys towards the harbour and have dinner in one of the tavernas. A favourite was one that looked out onto the Aegean Sea, run by Nikos, a widower with a young daughter. As the sun set and the moon rose, love blossomed and Nikos fell in love with Kate, the film’s costume designer. The rest is history, as they say. Although not quite – this is all in the imagination of Björn Ulvaeus (one quarter of ABBA and creator of Mamma Mia! The Party).

But imagine visiting Nikos’ Taverna under the tinted glow of a Grecian sunset twelve years later. The attention that the film bestowed on Skopelos is evident in the restaurant’s success; Nikos has enlisted quite a few hired hands including his now blossoming daughter, his wayward English nephew, an accident-prone chef and a host of all dancing, all playing, all singing waiters and waitresses. It’s hard to imagine, as you step out into the drizzle at North Greenwich Underground, that this oasis exists behind a sunburnt door tucked away in the O2. For four hours you leave your troubles behind and bathe in the bougainvillea scented air like you’ve just wandered off the beach and the night is yours. And what a night: a feast for all the senses. When not singing, the waiters bring you plates of Tzatziki, Spanakopita, Kleftiko, Yiachni, Baklava and Briam. You don’t understand what it means but it is delicious. And you don’t understand the show either, but you don’t care; you’re too busy loving every minute of it. As an ‘interactive dining experience’ it puts all other immersive theatre to shame. The scale is epic but the attention to detail is intimate.

But let’s not forget what this is all about. Three dozen Abba songs are rolled out between the courses. But don’t let that put you off. Even if you’re not a fan you’d have to be the grumpiest stick-in-the-mud not to be swept along by the euphoria of the evening. It starts off as a bit of fun but descends into spectacular chaos. High-brow it ain’t – but if you love Abba (and, yes, I’m including all those who pretend not to), and if you like a bit of escapism and fun then this is the show for you. It doesn’t come cheap but it’s worth every drachma.


Article and main photograph by Jonathan Evans


Mamma Mia The Party

Mamma Mia! The Party

The O2 until 16th February




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