BWW Interviews: Robert Lonsdale Of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY
Just six months after opening, From Here to Eternity will be closing in March.
Despite largely positive reviews, the new musical - with lyrics by the legendary Sir Tim Rice - simply hasn't managed to find an audience.
Unsurprisingly, Robert Lonsdale, who leads the cast as Prewitt, is disappointed.
"More than anything else, you feel that something has gone wrong, and I don't feel that's anything to do with the production," he says. "The response is so electric. It's disheartening to think that we've all worked so hard, and been through extraordinary stress to get it up and running, and now it's going to be over before we know it.
"While the show feels that it's coming to an end, we have a couple of months to do, and word-of-mouth does seem to be having an impact."
Like many actors, Lonsdale tries not to read reviews, either good or bad.
"Matthew Warchus told me about being in a play, I think he was at school, and someone had said to him, 'That was brilliant in that scene - your face!' He said he spent the rest of the run trying to recapture this expression. It's so true. You can dismantle yourself trying to recreate it, or end up really pushing that, and then losing all its mystery.
"We didn't do a show that was a complete mimic of the movie. We followed the book, and we created an exciting and interesting show. We made some dramatic changes to do the story more succinctly, but not to please the audience - but then the audience was polarised anyway, because some people wanted to see the movie! I'm glad there were some people who did want to see what they saw. We didn't compromise on what we wanted to do - tell a story, and tell it in an uncompromising way."
Lonsdale talks fascinatingly about his character, and how he's faced the new challenge of acting through song having done straight theatre previously.
"What's good about a role this size is that you don't have the chance to think or get bored - you're on stage the whole time," he says. "But you can do a show for many, many years and never get bored with it, if you're truly creative."
When the show first opened, he spoke to BWW:UK about feeling it was the right time to step up and lead a company after years of learning from highly talented leading men, but the new skills of musical theatre have been an added weight for him.
"I knew there'd be a teething process," he admits. "If it had been a play I would have had certain responsibilities, but I wouldn't have had to go through the anxieties with my voice every day. Every time I speak I'm listening to the timbre of my voice! It becomes obsessive - so much of your voice is psychological. It's all right when I'm an actor, I can go on and have a husky voice, but some of these notes are extremely exposing.
"But in terms of leading the company, I've thoroughly enjoyed it - I've loved leading the company!"
Of course, one of the responsibilities of leading men in big West End musicals is the mainstream interest that goes along with it, and Lonsdale and co-star Darius Campbell have been very present on the media circuit lately, including a performance on ITV's This Morning.
"Live TV - those things have the capacity to terrify!" he says. "If you think about it in literal figures, how many people are watching, what would happen if you messed up, forgot the words...but it's good to do the things that terrify you."
"That was all very unexpected! My dresser said, 'You'll be able to tell your grandkids you released a single!' I don't want to be a pop star or anything like that; I just want to fill a theatre, and hopefully that'll have some impact, but it's fun! It's a cool thing to have, that video, it's so brilliantly shot."
He's clearly very fond of his colleagues in the company.
"They're outstanding. I love them all so much. I just think what they do is so breathtaking. Our dance captain, Matthew Wesley, has to coordinate that show every time someone's off, and it's a mammoth task. Everyone's doing a different thing with a huge amount of responsibility one way or another - fights, sweeping choreography, lifts. It's an enormous undertaking."
He's unsure what the immediate future holds for him, but looks forward to taking on another acting challenge which leaves him with character research to do. Whatever he does next, he thinks his time in From Here to Eternity has been a great experience.
"I've learnt more on this show than from anything," he maintains. "The future is very exciting."
From Here To Eternity runs at the Shaftesbury Theatre until March.
From This Author Carrie Dunn