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Come From Away - A New Musical

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by Tricia Ziemer (subscribe)
Television Producer & Photojournalist with a passion for sharing adventures in and around Melbourne, Australia. See my for other adventures. Subscribe to me so I can tell you of upcoming fab things not to miss.
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Move over Les Miserables, Come From Away has hit Melbourne
It was an honour and privilege to cover the media launch of this new world-class musical production that is coming to Melbourne in July 2019, Come From Away. Move over
Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera, you have competition. This new show is taking the world by storm. It is a musical worth a road trip from all over Australia and beyond.

Award Winning Musical Coming to Melbourne
Award Winning Musical Coming to Melbourne - All Photos by Tricia Ziemer

This show has been named the 'Best Musical Across North America". It has received a Tony, the Drama Desk Award, Toronto Theatre Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Helen Hayes Award, San Diego Critics Circle Award, and Gypsy Rose Lee Award. It has premiered to sold-out audiences across, Canada, the US, and Dublin and Melbourne has been selected for its debut landing. Peter Bingeman CEO of Visit Victoria, was proud to boast that this show is exclusive to Melbourne because everyone knows Melbourne is the Global Theatre of the Australasia Region.

Elite Australian Cast for Come From Away
Elite Australian Cast for Come From Away

And I was honoured to meet the elite Australian talent who were selected to perform this newest musical here at the newly refurbished Melbourne Comedy Theatre. Better than that, I got to hear them sing. They belted out three of the songs in the show and the hair on my arms was standing on end. It was brilliant.

Only 12 to sing 16,000 stirring stories
Only 12 to sing 16,000 stirring stories

Trust me, I have listened to the Broadway production CD and it gave me happy vibes to hear our Australian cast singing was even better. This is a must-see show that will break your heart and then raise it back up to its highest joy.

Even better singers than Broadway Cast
Even better singers than Broadway Cast

The storyline comes from the biggest tragedy that the western world has experienced in modern times. It begins on September 11, 2001, when the New York Trade Towers were targeted by planes and thousands of people lost their lives.

Inspirational True Story about Gander, Newfoundland
The towers fell the town redeemed an inspirational True Story about Gander, Newfoundland

Newsweek cheers, "It takes you to a place you never want to leave!"

The story takes you to a tiny town called Gander in Newfoundland. This is an island in the North Atlantic and the east most providence of Canada. With less than 7000 people, this town gave their whole heart to people from around the world in an extraordinary true story of courage and resourcefulness when they were stranded for five days.

"On September 11, 2001, the world stopped. On September 12, 2001, their stories moved us all." On September 11, the towers went down. Thousands of flights were still in the air headed to the US from all over the world. All airspace across the United States had to be shut down for 5 days. But all these planes were still in the air. Where to land?

The joy of finding family in the dark nights of 911
The joy of finding family in the dark nights of 911

Newfoundland had one the biggest aircraft fields from way back in the 1940's when planes could not fly direct from the US to Europe due to the distance. They all stopped and refuelled in Gander, Newfoundland. It is now called the Gander International Airport but the field was still there for the use of the local islanders to travel. It only has four runways. Its longest runway is only 10,500 feet. It's not meant for monster Boeing planes, but cope the airport did and so did the Islanders.

The islanders call everyone who comes to the island to visit people who "come from away". And so the title of the musical was born from this very quirky cultural quip.

September 11, the world stopped, airspace stopped, but planes with friends and loved ones were still circling looking for a place to land before their fuel ran out. On September 12, thirty-eight aircraft carrying hundreds of people safely landed in Gander. Some aircraft were almost too heavy for the landing field to manage. They landed in a steady stream of chaos as air traffic controllers tried to handle the steady flow of planes coming in with their tiny crew. In 24 hours, a town of 7000 had almost doubled in population. The people of Gander somehow needed to house, cloth and feed over 6,122 passengers and 473 crew. No one was allowed to access to their luggage. It remained on board the flights due to security. How were they going to cope?

We need more.....of everything to help
We need more.....of everything to help these people

The town pulled out all the stops to support these people breaking down the fears, national barriers, even allowing them to use their phones for international calls; mobiles were rare. Gander took these stranded, lost and scared passengers into their hearts and their homes.

The people who landed in Gander say, "We arrived 7000 people, we became 7000 friends, we now have 7000 family".

One flight came from deep Africa and the people had very little English language. The town had brought out all their old uniforms so everyone knew who to ask for help. These Africans, traumatised by war and military uniforms, were too scared to leave their plane. The lack of language was a true barrier, but they had their bibles in their language. One Gander resident thought to compare the English bible to their bible and found scriptures that gave the Africans the understanding that they were safe and did not need to be afraid.

But how did these stories of this heroic community gain air and come out? Well, that is due to the brilliance of Tony and Grammy nominees Irene Sankoff and David Hein, who are actually married. These singer, songwriters, scriptwriters extraordinaire have created this musical that soars into the night and takes your heart with it.

Ten years after September 12, 2001, there was a huge reunion in Gander to celebrate this heroic event. And Irene and David were there. They recorded 16,000 stories, collated, wrote, cut, scripted, cut, culled, streamlined, and reworked to highlight the best the town gave to these people. And out of that was born, Come From Away. They felt that all the stories were about "ordinary people doing extraordinary things". I feel the end result musical production is a moving tribute to all that is good within our humanity. David and Irene admit to Jennifer Hansen, who was hosting the launch, that they had to "kill a lot of darlings" to get the content down to fit into a standard musical. They actually began to write it just for amateur theatre but it grew greatness and is so well acclaimed across the world now, there are hints of a movie in the wings.
And the story is woven beautifully - there is not a dull moment. Irene and David also sang one of the ballads they had written, as a duet, and it was very special indeed. A life moment to treasure for me.

The Extradionairy Irene Sankoff and David Hein sing their lyrics
The Extradionairy Irene Sankoff and David Hein sing their lyrics

One beautiful story that flows through the musical is that of a female pilot and her journey from dreaming of flying, as a little girl, through to breaking the glass ceiling in a male-dominated flying world and finally becoming a pilot. The very first female American Airlines pilot.
Zoe Gretz steals the show that has not even opened yet
Zoe Gretz steals the show that has not even opened yet

The song, Zoe Gertz, Australian actress and singer, sings "Me and the Sky", was the highlight of the launch for me and hints of the brilliance to come in the full musical. The song is about this pilot's life and skill of landing this massive plane on a tiny runway and flying home again five days later. Some planes were so heavy they started to sink into the tarmac. Many pilots and crew weren't sure they would get the planes into the air again.

Bored Air Traffic makes Chilli for all
Bored Air Traffic makes Chilli for all

There are lovely sub-plots of people falling in love, an international chef who wanted to help feed the masses and about how the air traffic controllers who were so bored with nothing to do. Why? All the planes were grounded. So what did they get up to? They starting making chilli for all. That warms your stomach and your heart.

Channel 10 Newsreader Jennifer Hansen moved to tears
Channel 10 Newsreader Jennifer Hansen moved to tears

The host of this launch was our very own Jennifer Hansen.
And this must have been a moving moment for Jennifer Hansen because she was the Channel 10 reporter who had to announce to the people of Australia the tragic 911 incident. She broke down in tears. A full circle of life; Jennifer Hansen, superbly hosting this very special media launch.

What an honour to host this media release
Jennifer Hansen with Grammy acclaimed musical writers

Now you may think this massive musical, incorporating stories from over 12,000 people will be a massive cast. Think again. This is cleverly scripted for only 12 talented actors to make it shine.

The Australian cast includes Nicholas Brown, Nathan Carter, Zoe Gertz, Simon Maiden, Laura Murphy, Richard Piper, Emma Powell, Katrina Retallick, Kellie, Rode, Glen Hogstrom, Angela Kennedy, Kathleen Moore, Jensen Overend, Ash Roussety and Alana Tranter.

I started to include all their past performances in this article and as I started to research the depth of talent and the number of shows they have been in here and around the world, I realised it would be far too long an article. Trust me, they are the best of the best of Australia's talent. If you want more details on the talent, see

Media Launch with Pre-booking forms flying out the door and the race is on for seats
Media Launch with Pre-booking forms flying out the door and the race is on for seats

Luckily at the launch, pre-booking forms were being handed out, so everyone was already filling in their forms. This has sold out all over the world at 100% capacity. The season here runs from July 2019 to August 2019, if it does not get extended. Personally, I am not going to risk it and I am getting tickets for the whole family now.
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*Tricia Ziemer was invited as a guest
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Why? You love a musical for tragedy, love and the true spirit of humanity
Phone: see website for all details and tickets
Where: Melbourne Comedy Theatre
Cost: See website
Your Comment
by Jessie on 17/12/2018
by Belinda Price on 20/07/2019
Come From Away (article)
by Paula Benson on 16/07/2019
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