Carrie Dunn writes about From Here to Eternity

03 May 2019

Once upon a time, I was a theatre reviewer and TV critic. When I got the press release about a musical of ‘From Here to Eternity’ opening in the West End starring Darius Campbell, I suggested to my sister that we go together; we’d seen Campbell make his breakthrough on Pop Idol, and since then on stage in Chicago and Gone With The Wind.

I knew the film, of course I did – Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the shallows? Obviously. Everyone knows that. When I hear about a film being adapted as a musical, I always want to know, “Why?” What do the songs add to the story being told?

With ‘From Here to Eternity’, they added plenty. Much of the script and lyrics had been taken from the original book; but the score…the score. In previews, when I first saw it, the curtain lifted with a single, tragic, solo line in the lower brass section, and as soon as I heard it, it grabbed my heart.

I knew I’d be going back several times; and I also knew that this show in its current form was likely to divide reviewers. When I got the chance to interview Stuart Brayson about his creative process, I had plenty of questions I wanted to ask. The meeting was arranged, and I expected the usual PR-managed ten or 15 minutes. Instead we headed to a pub and talked for around an hour and a half – about the show, yes, about the rewriting process before its official opening, and about its casting, but also British politics of the 1980s, David Bowie, and Brayson’s love of writing for an antihero character (his description of ‘From Here to Eternity’’s protagonist Prewitt as “an arsehole, yes, but an interesting, sexy arsehole” was a neat encapsulation of why a character who could be perceived as so resolutely unsympathetic on the page was so endearing on the stage). I asked my most awkward questions, and he answered them honestly – so much so that I couldn’t use most of the interview when I came to write up the feature.

‘From Here to Eternity’ in its West End incarnation was different every time I saw it, not just in terms of nuance of performance, but in terms of content and structure. Bits of the score I loved were cut (I messaged Brayson, disappointed, after one show, demanding to know where my favourite piece of counterpoint singing had gone), but new bits were added, and sounded simultaneously fresh and familiar. Its run was ultimately a relatively short one; by its end it still felt like it was not yet exactly finished. And I knew that the show would be back in some form – not because of Brayson’s tenacity and sheer force of will, but because, regardless of reviews and market forces, any piece of art which can deliver such emotion will live on.

Carrie Dunn

Note from Stu:

Carrie Dunn is a great writer and musical theatre expert. Carrie has interviewed me many times for Broadwayworld.

Thanks so much for this lovely piece Carrie, it makes great reading.