Tim Rice is hoping his musical From Here to Eternity doesn’t take an eternity to get to Broadway.
The celebrated lyricist is hoping a filmed version of the West End production broadcast this month will generate some interest in America. The ambitious adaptation of James Jones’ novel lasted only six months in London but has some great songs and characters.
“To be brutally frank, I don’t know what its future is,” said Rice by phone this week. “It didn’t quite work. We got some nice reviews and there were things about it I was quite pleased with, but it didn’t get the public’s imagination.”
Rice, whose credits include Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Lion King, thinks the new show might find a more fertile home in America, where it’s set and where the events depicted in it have more weight. He said he’s already gotten some interest from people who want to back it financially.
Set in the days before the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, the dark story follows two U.S. soldiers in Hawaii who fall in love with the wrong women. A 1953 film version is perhaps most famous for its scene of Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster kissing on a beach.
The musical stays truer to the darker original novel, which also explores homosexuality, brutality in the service and has plenty of expletives. Stuart Brayson supplied the songs and Bill Oakes wrote the story. Rice wrote the lyrics and is a producer.
“It’s very hard these days to get a show off the ground unless you’ve got something already that resonates with the public, be it a hit record, a recent hit film or a star. And we didn’t have any of those things,” said Rice. “It’s very difficult to get a brand new musical off the ground. We nearly did it.”
Americans will get a chance to see the attempt when Fathom Events and Omniverse broadcast “From Here to Eternity” in 460 movie theaters nationwide on Oct. 2, Oct. 5 and Oct. 9. The show was recorded over two nights from the Shaftesbury Theatre this spring.
They’ll see actors Robert Lonsdale, Siubhan Harrison, Darius Campbell, Rebecca Thornhill and Ryan Sampson perform under the direction of Tamara Harvey. The score includes the lovely torch song “Run Along Joe,” the foot-stomping “Ain’t Where I Wanna Be Blues” and the pitch-dark ballad “I Love the Army.”
Rice said he’s hoping on another production because the work has a strong story and songs: “I think if we can just put the other parts of the jigsaw back a bit more strongly, then I think we have a chance in America.”
One key piece is a new director who can make the story “come alive,” said Rice. “What we need is a director — a director who gets it, who likes the basic songs and likes the story and can think of a new way of doing it.”
Rice said he and Brayson have several songs in reserve and might add new ones, should they be needed. He added that he’s open to any suggestions for changes – to a degree. “If somebody said, `Cut “I Love the Army” I would almost certainly say, `Take a walk!’ But, in theory, I’m open to suggestions.”