October 16, 2013

FHTE Day 5: Wow! What a Show "From Here To Eternity - The Musical" is Becoming

With the From Here To Eternity musical scheduled to be locked on Saturday, the cast and crew are working diligently to get it wrapped up. Led by the brilliant young director Tamara Harvey, a great cast and supporting staff necessary to get the job done, rehearsals with changes to the script are held daily each afternoon, then put in place on the stage each night in preview with the staff in the audience seeing how the changes work and how the audience reacts. I've seen three show since I arrived on Saturday, and the changes are remarkable.
Talking with my daughter, Jessica, on FaceTime, about how things were going, she reminded me how hectic the last week of shows she and Caitlin, her sister, had participated in been since second grade on. "It's stressful," Jessica said. "But when they're done with the show this week, that's the way it'll be 50 years from now."
Which is a formidable task.
Initially, I wasn't especially moved with Act One, although I wasn't too articulate with why.
Harvey told me later she thought it was because I hadn't slept for more than 30 hours. And that was undoubtedly accurate. Yet it was obvious from what I heard that there was work to be done to get the act to the point where it sets up Act Two and was much stronger. The squad of soldiers looked sharp in their uniforms, marched, fought, sang and danced very well and seemed to be comfortable in their roles. The women, Karen Holmes (Rebecca Thornhill) and Lorene (Siubhan Harrison) Prewitt's prostitute girl friend and the other prostitutes were all lovely and sang quite admirably. So I was anxious to see what was going to be done to change things to make the act work better.
I knew there would be a new song lyricist Stuart Brayson had written to replace the final song of the first act and watched the cast run through it at rehearsal yesterday afternoon. I knew it was a remarkable song when I first heard it, one that would appeal greatly to an American audience as well as a British one. The new song, "More Than America," looked great in rehearsals and topped off the first act, leading into the second act and setting it up in ways the previous one had not. It made me forget any criticism I may have had about the act, and I couldn't even remember the other song as I sat beside Brayson at the evening performance.
"That's fantastic," I said. "What was the song it replaced?
"If you can't remember it, it doesn't matter," he replied, smiling.
I couldn't argue with that and settled in for the second act, which had also had several additions that I thought quite remarkable and thought provoking, particularly near the end of the show. I'd seen what was planned in rehearsals for display behind the screen in the backdrop but wasn't quite prepared for it when the cast started singing "The Boys of '41." Tears well up in my eyes. It was quite effective, not only for the Boys of '41 but the entire 405,000 American servicemen who gave their lives and those who served during World War II and all the Allied troops who fought right along side them to save the Allied countries' way of life. I can't imagine this play not playing well in London and going on to a successful run in the United States. Maybe not for 50 years but for a long time to come as legacy families and friends retain the memory of those who served during the war — several of the people who are bringing this musical to the stage had fathers who served with the British in World War II.
After the show, I listened to discussion about the changes and how effective they were.
"I think we're there," Brayson said. "It's just fine tuning now."
No doubt. And there are three more days for that. The post show didn't last as long as previous nights, but there is still rehearsal this afternoon. Today, there is also a press photo call. Sounds like a bit of madness, but I'm here for the duration, until after the Oct. 23 premiere, and wouldn't miss it for the world. I'm quite honored to be around the excitement of seeing the play locked up and put to bed, and how it honors James Jones' work and the military in which he serves.
Until next time, then, if you're a fan of good musicals, I'd run, not walk, to figure out a way to get to London to see this play. And I mean it more that ever this time. The From Here To Eternity musical is going to be a smashing success, and I'm not just "blowing smoke." I'm confident that it'll make it to Broadway, but I don't know when. It's here in London now and do remember that I'm coming back with a tour Feb. 24-March 4. Still time to sign up for the ACIS "Showtime" tour by Nov. 1 at http://www.acis.com/tripsite/?key=RFJjUDVxSFMzOHpYQnBPYWZaTT0%3D.

See you later from London,

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