“I’m probably a bit of a pain to work with,” Sir Tim Rice says affably. An avuncular giant, Rice is talking to me about his latest production, From Here to Eternity which opens at the Shaftesbury Theatre this week, starring Robert Lonsdale, Rebecca Thornhill and Darius Campbell.
For the first time, Rice has been working with Composer Stuart Brayson, who approached him with the idea for the musical. “We’ve been trying to make it a very even partnership – his music is as good as my words – his tunes are as good as Andrew [Lloyd Webber]’s are.” Despite their writing partnership ending in 1975, the Composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber will probably always be in the background of a conversation with Sir Tim about any new collaboration. I am relieved not to have brought him up first.
When we met, From Here to Eternity had not been cast, but had been “finished and rewritten once already. When you’re writing you never quite know what the final version is.” That uncertainty aside, Rice knew the project was a winner from the start: “The key to any musical is a good story, and From Here to Eternity is a great story. The story of a boxer who plays the bugle and guitar – it’s a gift for a musical.”
In addition to working with Brayson, Rice also worked with Director Tamara Harvey for the first time: “Having not really done a proper musical for ten years I was out of touch… I wanted to work with somebody new and young.” So Harvey seemed an ideal choice.
“A completely new team gives it a freshness – there are so many new elements. They are good, hungry, full of bright ideas” he says of the creatives behind the show, “I can truly say they’ve inspired my work. It’s been a creative process – working with people quite new to the West End – working with old hands the magic can disappear.”
“I didn’t really think I would do another musical” says Sir Tim candidly, “I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to match my earlier work.” So this week, with the new musical From Here to Eternity premiering at The Shaftesbury Theatre, and another Lloyd Webber musical in rehearsal, it’s crunch time. But, as the male lead Prewitt says, “A man don’t go his own way, he’s nothing.”