Japanese bombs will have ripped through Pearl Harbor 76 years ago in December, killing more than 2,000 people. The Ogunquit Playhouse humanizes that loss, closing out its 85th season with the gripping American premiere of “From Here to Eternity.”

Based on James Jones’ award-winning 1951 novel, the new musical features lyrics by acclaimed lyricist Tim Rice, book by Donald Rice and Bill Oakes and music by Stuart Brayson. It offers a gritty romanticism of the weeks leading up to the bombing, drawing the audience into the shocking reality of a horrific event that most of us have only experienced through the annals of history.

Jones’ daughter, Kaylie, opened the performance Friday night with a reminder that “From Here to Eternity” was much more than a story for her father. He was a member of the 25th Infantry “Tropic Lightning” Division stationed at Schofield Barracks on Oahu that fateful day, and his novel was based on real people and events.

Rice and the creative team have been on site collaborating with Ogunquit Playhouse to develop the musical for Broadway. The result thus far is dynamic and engaging. Rice and Brayson have created a score that has soaring harmonies and an intoxicating rhythm that’s matched by syncopated fight-scene choreography by director Brett Smock. The “G Company” men are unbelievable as they deliver “Thirty Year Man” while executing push-ups and basic-training maneuvers.

The impressive 27-member cast stars Derek Carley as the epic story’s protagonist, Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt, and Kevin Aichele as his ranking officer, Sgt. Milt Warden. Jenna Nicole Schoen and Robyn Hurder are their star-crossed lovers: the beautiful escort, Lorene, and the captain’s wife, Karen Holmes. The four harmonize memorably as their stories blend on “Something in Return.” Michael Tacconi joins them as Prewitt’s smart-aleck friend, Pvt. Angelo Maggio.

The score brilliantly highlights each of the primary characters with heart-wrenching ballads that showcase both the characters’ personal struggles and the actors’ stunning vocals. Schoen and Hurder deliver soaring, gutsy performances on their laments, “Run Along Joe” and I’ll Remember the Day.” Carley and Aichele captivate with rich tenor vocals on their infectious solos, “Fight the Fight” and “At Ease,” and the beautifully rendered duet, “Ain’t Where I Wanna Be Blues.”

Other standouts include Bradley Dean as Capt. Dana Holmes, Jodi Kimura as the Madam, Mrs. Kipfer, and Jason Michael Evans as the company’s champion boxer, Pvt. Isaac Bloom.

Sobering tragedy strikes as the story unfolds, leading up to the graphic bombing on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. Lighting designer Richard Latta and sound designer Kevin Heard drive home the taut realism with startling effects that keep the audience on the edge of its seats. The bombing at the end is particularly effective, with full-immersion sound and visual effects and slow-motion performances from the cast.

“From Here to Eternity” is a powerful theatrical production that utilizes a skilled cast and acclaimed creative team to capture a pivotal time in history. It’s a stirring look at the losses sustained and the extraordinary men and women who experienced it firsthand.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

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Twitter: @ahboyle