On Reflection: FROM HERE TO ETERNITY
As the West End had a bit of a clear-out last night, with Stephen Ward, The Full Monty and The Duck House also making an exit, perhaps From Here To Eternity's departure might be a little overlooked.
It's no secret that I largely enjoyed the show when I reviewed it on press night; I thought the changes made in the following six weeks tightened it up considerably and focused the narrative. I saw it again on a February matinee because I wanted to catch the ever-reliable Stephen Webb as Sergeant Warden; and I concluded my quartet of trips last night for the final West End performance.
Even now, six months after its official opening, there were still notable tweaks in dialogue and score (and some melodrama continues to permeate the script, which I could certainly do without), indicating that perhaps a try-out period in front of an audience might have served the material well.
Indeed, Darius Campbell, in his longest spell in a lead West End role, impressed me on the final night; although he has always sung the role well, he's understandably taken some time to get to grips with characterising Warden in his own way, rather than imitating others or reprising his own previous performances and transplanting them to a different setting.
The love story between Private Robert E Lee Prewitt and the 'princess' prostitute Lorene remains the heart of the show. The outstanding Siubhan Harrison sheds real tears every performance and they were doubled last night as she bade farewell to the show, and she and Robert Lonsdale were clearly heartbroken to be leaving it behind.
I've interviewed Lonsdale twice since the beginning of the run; a thoughtful and articulate interlocuter, he's clearly had a great emotional engagement with Prewitt, and was honest about his own nerves and challenges taking on an immense first singing role. He moves across to television now for his next job, but it would be good to see him return to the West End - and in a musical - again in the future.
Sir Tim Rice gave a speech at the curtain call; in his own inimitable style he apologised to the investors who had lost money, but pointed out that he too was out-of-pocket. He paid tribute to first-time West End composer Stuart Brayson, who seems adamant that the show will go on, albeit outside Theatreland - and we got the first hints of that this week with the mentions of a film release and possible move to Broadway.
The company as a whole, impressive from the outset, can be proud of their work; and from the creatives, Javier De Frutos's wonderful choreography will stay with me for some time. It's not your usual glossy West End musical (although it would be nice to see a sizeable female ensemble in a new show that doesn't cast them as whores). Now, it's a show that gives us everyday heroes and villains, not idealised or demonised, but just as conflicted and complicated as any of us. And it's done with some great tunes along the way.