I was hoping to see Come From Away on my visit to New York last year but I just didn’t have the time between my other booked shows. So, I was so excited when I knew it was coming to London and MT organised a family trip to see it.
Come From Away has a book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. It was developed at the Canadian Music Theatre Project and Goodspeed Musicals’ Festival of New Artists and had a record breaking world premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse and Seattle Repertory Theatre. In late October 2016, Come From Away even traveled back to the heart of the story to perform two benefit concerts in Gander and became the winner of Best Musical all across North America. It opened on Broadway in March 2017, winning the hearts of audiences and critics alike.
It tells the story of the 10,000 residents of Gander, a town in Newfoundland and how they welcomed over 6,500 strangers into their community for five days when the American airspace closed on 9/11 and 38 planes were diverted. We meet residents and passengers throughout the musical, each sharing a part of their experience during this extraordinary time.
Director Christopher Ashley, Kelly Devine, Musical Staging, and the entire Creatives team have produced a triumphant production. There are special moments in theatre that will always stay with you and this performance was one of them for me. We went on the first Saturday of previews and the atmosphere was electric in the auditorium. The energy and passion from this marvellously talented cast and band reached every inch of the Phoenix Theatre.
There is no weak link in this diverse London cast as they all work together with flawless ability. It was refreshing to see actors of all ethnicity, age, gender and bodytype together on stage. The opening number of Welcome to the Rock gave me goosebumps as we are introduced to the characters and the town of Gander. The harmonies and sound that this company produce is simply breathtaking. The show is fast paced and has no interval, yet the cast maintain the same energy from start to finish. With a simple woodland backdrop to set the scene, the actors transport us to the different settings in the story using props such as chairs to recreate the plane and transport to Gander.
It is actually quite hard to pull out individual standout performances from this show as the cast are an ensemble and linked together in the telling of this story. The cast also play several characters, changing accent and character so quickly that if you blinked you would miss it. Some of my particular highlights were Me and the Sky, a personal favourite, performed by the remarkable Rachel Tucker and I am Here by the exceptional Cat Simmons as Hannah. I also adored the performance of Clive Carter, Claude and Others, and Nathanael Campbell, Bob and Others, who has such a presence on stage especially when delivering comedic lines.
With moments of heartbreaking sadness, reducing me to tears, there are also frequent moments where you simply have to laugh out loud. The power of the piece lies in the cast’s delivery and ability to draw on the day to day emotions of humankind when faced with atrocity.
Come From Away has a unique band that feel part of the production. The Band under Musical Director and UK Musical Supervisor Alan Berry, perform with vigour and ferocity. The Saturday night audience welcomed the opportunity to dance and cheer with them at the end of the show.
When the lights go out and everyone provides an instantaneous standing ovation from the Stalls to the Circle, you know you have something special. Come From Away is a rare musical packed full of emotion, humour and heart. It shows us what we are really capable of when we come together in moments of darkness and it reminds you of what can happen when communities come together.
As a frequent visitor to Canada and an aunt who is a resident ‘Newfie’, Come From Away already had a special place in my heart. This piece of theatre will stay with me every time I see it, (I plan to see it many more times), so do not miss out if you get a chance to see this in London, Broadway or on its international tour.
Theatretastic rating 5/5:
We say: “When the lights go out and everyone provides an instantaneous standing ovation from the Stalls to the Circle, you know you have something special. Come From Away is a rare musical packed full of emotion, humour and heart. It shows us what we are really capable of when we come together in moments of darkness and it reminds you of what can happen when communities come together.”