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Come From Away - Theatre Review

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Based on the remarkable true story of stranded passengers
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Images © Jeff Busby

The Tony® and Olivier Award winning musical Come From Away is based on the remarkable true story of thousands of stranded passengers, and the small town in Newfoundland, Canada that welcomed them all. That was 38 planes with 6579 passengers, but in total 255 aircrafts were diverted to 17 different airports across Canada. With the population of Gander at the time fewer than 10,000 people, there were more people at the airport than in the town that fateful day on 9/11.

The title Come From Away is derived from a reference the native Newfoundlanders make of those not born on the island, as 'Come From Aways'. The travellers who landed in Newfoundland on diverted planes on 11 September 2001 were said to have "Come From Away". The show takes place in Newfoundland, an island off the far north east coast of Canada - the planes landing in the town of Gander. However, the musical shares stories from Gander and its neighbouring towns of Glenwood, Lewisporte, Appleton, Gambo, and Norris Arm.

With book, music and lyrics by Canadian writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Irene and David travelled to Newfoundland for the 10th Anniversary commemoration of 9/11 and collected 100s of hours of interviews. This has culminated into a 100 minute show with a cast of 12, a sparse stage consisting of tables and chairs and a backdrop that doubles as a wall and a cargo hold that are amazingly sufficient to cover every aspect of the story-telling. The musicians are based on either side of the stage, largely out of view, or situated at the back of the stage, but do jump in for some of the musical numbers. However their presence was felt throughout and played a major part in setting the mood and supporting the unfolding tale.

A unique combination of Celtic instruments played in Newfoundland, and instruments from all around the world gave the music a distinctive sound that perfectly represented and resonated with the warm hug of a Newfoundlander to strangers who landed on their shores. It's hard to ignore the sounds of the Irish Flute, or the mop head with a boot. The bodhrán was another particular favourite of mine, expertly played with deft hands by the musician who was a joy to watch.

Playing various parts, the cast includes Kyle Brown, Zoe Gertz, Manon Gunderson-Briggs, Douglas Hansell, Kat Harrison, Joe Kosky, Phillip Lowe, Joseph Naim, Sarah Nairne, Natalie O'Donnell, Emma Powell and David Silvestri playing main characters and other roles as well. On standby are Kaya Byrne, Jeremy Carver-James, Noni McCallum, Michael Lee Porter, Alana Tranter and Jasmine Vaughns.

From beginning to end this musical is a joy to watch. It'll make you laugh from the get-go with a good dose of uncontrived humour injected throughout. Then there are the touching moments coupled with musical numbers like 'I Am Here' and 'Something's Missing' that may bring a tear to your eye. There are so many stories, characters and scenes woven into the one space, it's a remarkable feat that clearly displays the genius of the creative minds behind this production. At no time are you confused about where the scene is set, or the characters the cast are portraying. It is well defined and the cast rises to the occasion and plays their roles to perfection.

Vocally strong and choreographically engaging, the cast did not let up on song and movement that provided the beat and timing to every stomping number. Every performer engages you to be invested in their multiple characters with their strong and warm, and very likeable performances, not to mention their vocal talents.

Every aspect of this true tale is covered in this condensed format, with no interval. There's the fear and confusion of passengers landing in the dark, in a place they don't know where. Worst still, they are clueless about major events happening and are a little bit afraid, suspicious and cautious, not to mention confused, scrambling to get in touch with loved ones.

What shines through strongly is of course the generosity and open hearts of the Newfoundlanders who embraced them, fed them, clothed them, and comforted them. Long friendships were born, romance bloomed and died, prejudice and racism rose to the surface in a time of fear and mistrust, confusion and loss was suffered; all this conveyed and performed beautifully by each and everyone on stage, each performance and performer as strong as the other, each character engaging and memorable.

In spite of the chaos of the times, the production is uplifting, joyful, and had everyone on their feet in joyful applause, guffawing at the humour along the way and ending with a long and purposeful standing ovation. If there's one musical you need to see, this is it. Especially since it's based on true events. Get into the city, head to the Comedy Theatre at 240 Exhibition Street in the city, and be in awe of the marvel of theatre at this feel-good musical sensation before Come From Away leaves Melbourne for good on 16 October 2022. Get your tickets here. Stay in touch via the website and see Facebook for updates and interesting content to get to know more about the musical via interviews and more. Just don't miss the show!

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Why? Come From Away Theatre Review
When: 27 Aug to 16 Oct 2022 in Melbourne
Where: Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition St, Melbourne, VIC
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by Ann about Town on 10/09/2022
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