Entertainment & Arts

From Here to Eternity: Sir Tim Rice unveils West End show

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Media captionDarius Campbell: "We have been given free reign. It hasn't been without some of the older audience walking out."

Sir Tim Rice has unveiled his new West End show From Here to Eternity, admitting that it might leave some audience members "mildly shocked".

The adaptation of James Jones' uncensored 1951 novel is Sir Tim's first totally new musical for 13 years.

Written with composer Stuart Brayson, the story follows the love affairs of US soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the run-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The new version includes swearing, nudity and a scene in a gay bar.

Some of the more explicit scenes will come as a surprise to fans of the 1953 Oscar-winning film, starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, which included a famous scene in which the couple share a passionate clinch on a beach.

"The film was wonderful but it was made in 1953 and, 60 years on, we can take different aspects of the book and look at it through 21st Century eyes," Sir Tim told the BBC after Wednesday's opening night.

Image caption It is Sir Tim Rice's first full-length new musical in 13 years

"Some people might be mildly shocked but I think we've all got used to a bit of that these days. It's quite mild compared with Book of Mormon or even Billy Elliot."

The cast includes Darius Campbell as Sergeant Warden, Rebecca Thornhill as his married lover Karen Holmes, Robert Lonsdale as Private Prewitt, Siubhan Harrison as his lover Lorene, and Ryan Sampson as Private Maggio.

Campbell said that, during previews, there had been some walkouts from the show due to its content.

"The James Jones novel really portrayed homosexuality and prostitution in the way that it existed in those days and we've dived in head first. We've explored that in a way that's very real and gritty, and honours the story."

The Scottish singing star, who shot to fame as Darius Danesh on TV show Pop Idol, went on: "It hasn't been without some of the older audience walking out.

"Maybe some of the nudity, swearing and explicitness have been too much for them, but a younger audience and an audience who have loved the film - and wanted to see more - have been giving us standing ovations and for that we are all grateful."

'Quite dangerous'

Sir Tim Rice is best known for his partnership with Andrew Lloyd Webber on shows such as Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.

Lord Lloyd-Webber's new West End musical Stephen Ward is due to open in December.

Sir Tim confirmed that his former writing partner had already seen a preview of From Here to Eternity.

Image caption The story follows the love affairs of US soldiers stationed in Hawaii in 1941

"He was very complimentary and I'm hoping to see his show," he said.

Sir Tim's last full musical was 2000's Aida, which he wrote with Elton John. The pair had earlier worked together on The Lion King.

From Here to Eternity sees the Oscar-winning lyricist team up with the relatively unknown Brayson.

The pair first met in the 1980s when Brayson approached Sir Tim in the street and asked him to listen one of his songs on cassette.

"I played it in car on way home. I rang him up and said this is rather good. I couldn't do much to help his pop career but when he began writing musicals I thought, 'maybe I can help,'" Sir Tim said.

Image caption The author's children said they were "thrilled" with the new production

Although Sir Tim hadn't intended to be involved in writing the musical, as the production took shape he "ended up doing all the lyrics apart from one or two lines".

Brayson told the BBC: "I must have sent him eight or nine musicals and this was the one that he really went for.

"We didn't set out to do the movie. We set out out to do something that was different and quite dangerous in parts."

In the audience on Wednesday night was James Jones' daughter, Kaylie, and her brother, Jamie.

"We had our doubts when the idea first came up," she admitted after the show, "but I'm thrilled - it's so sophisticated and moving."

She added: "I was so delighted they put in the gay bar scenes because my dad said this is just the way it was back then.

"I think my father would have been amazed."

From Here to Eternity, directed by Tamara Harvey, is booking at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, until 26 April 2014.

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