Review: Here’s to the boys of 1941

The morning after The Snow Queen, I was on an early train heading to London for the day to meet my parents and my sister for her Christmas treat to us all – tickets to see From Here To Eternity!

The show was not one that I had really heard of before, despite loving the film Pearl Harbour, I had not read the original From Here to Eternity and found myself once again really excited to see a show that was new to me – although knowing the historical aspect of what happened on these dates, I was unsure of the storyline weaved around these facts. It is still a very interesting experience to go to a show without any prior knowledge of the show, so many now have been turned into films or vice versa, we hear the soundtracks played on our favourite television shows or read about them in the papers. So to experience the show for the first time was fantastic and really rather spectacular.

 Set in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, in 1941, the show kicks off with an introduction to the main characters and clearly we can already see the makings of two parallel love stories set against the backdrop of war. Private Prewitt falls for the kind-hearted escort club girl Lorene, while his platoon sergeant, Warden, embarks on a dangerous affair with his commanding officer’s wife, Karen, with the lives of both men set on a course they cannot control. Their lives are quickly torn apart when the harsh realities of war unfold before their very eyes, costing them what is dearest to them all.

The show was beautifully translated from the page to the stage with fantastic dance routines that showed off the cast’s athleticism and drove the story forward. Tim Rice’s adaptation saw the cast challenged in both dance and song as they portrayed the innocence of those working and living at Pearl Harbour without any real knowledge of the war going on beyond the barricades, and the harsh realities as the war came crashing down around them. It was a beautiful retelling of the story and one that had the audience in fits of laughter with the gentle comic element, but welling up towards the end as the final attack was expressed through an amazing display of lights, music and dance.

The love stories were sweet and tender as the couples fell for each other and made plans for the future, made only the sweeter by the shortness of their lifespan as the war drew closer. The gentle love scenes showing the raw love of human contact and emotion, next to the stark brutality of war – a powerful combination.

My favourite scenes were the dance routine performed by the men of G Company in the barracks towards the beginning – it was brilliant, funny and so well choreographed. My eyes flashed across the stage, back and forth, and almost left me dizzy as I attempted to take in every move. I noticed in this scene, as in many others, that the choreographer must have a liking for slow motion movement because this was something that had been incorporated several times and was very effective, particularly in the scenes with the miners/prisoners and later when the bombs hit.

My other favourite scene was with all of the escort girls dancing with G Company, another lively scene with impressive, fast-paced choreography and gave the girls a chance to show off their powerful voices. Now this production was a little more risqué than most others I have seen before with a few bottoms on display and some rather skimpy lingerie, but this only added to the dancing and comedy. This scene actually reminded me slightly of those in Chicago, another musical that I love, where the ladies also parade around in their undies and complete astonishing song and dance routines.

 All of the cast shone, and I struggle to pick out actors over another – the four main characters were all incredibly talented both musically, in their acting and dances.

But it was Marc Antolin who really shone in my eyes, and this sentiment was reflected in the riotous applause he received when taking his bow at the end. He was fantastic, boundless energetic and effortlessly funny throughout. The audience could really identify with his character’s struggle between duty to his country and feelings of betrayal after being left out in the cold, punished and eventually killed as thanks for his hard work. His sad death brought an undertone to the performance, a reminder of the lives that were lost unnecessarily through unjust punishment, unfair actions and those who let the power of rank go to their heads.

It was a powerful retelling of a story that we all know so well and the final scenes had me welling up as the bombs struck the harbour and so many lost their lives. The sudden reminder that this was not just a romanticized story being told in a theatre in London was a shock and it gave way to an emotional finish. This musical is probably one of the top five that I have seen, with others alongside it being The Phantom of the Opera, that classic, The Lion King and Chicago among others. As a new show, I would take advantage of the not too extortionate ticket prices and a chance to go and watch the show in the stunning Shaftesbury Theatre, which was lovely, especially since my sister had managed to get tickets almost in the centre of the third row from the front!

My final comment has to go to the conductor of the performance – he was almost enough entertainment in himself. Throwing himself around and passionately singing along to every word, it was amazing to watch and you could tell how much he loved the show. This really does make all the difference, as you may see from my previous review on The Snow Queen, if you have a cast whose heart and soul really isn’t in the production, it can really knock the performance down. Another amazing production and one that I would seriously recommend to anyone, families, children, parents, grandparents. And theatre tickets do make a lovely Christmas or birthday gift!

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