September 11th, 2001 – forever remembered for the tragic events that changed the world. But amongst the tragedy of that event came a story of hope and kindness.
Come From Away tells the remarkable true story of what happened when 38 planes were diverted to Gander airport on the island of Newfoundland, Canada when the American airspace was closed in reaction to the terrorist attacks that took place that day. 6,579 passengers from all over the world found themselves stranded for the next five days and at the mercy of the locals who welcomed them into their community, their homes and their hearts.
Written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away was initially written with the hope of telling a Canadian story in local high schools. Instead, this one act musical has become a world-wide phenomenon. Indeed, this is much more than a Canadian story, this is a story that resonates with audiences around the world.
Come From Away made its Australian premiere in 2019, smashing box office records at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District, and has returned for a third and final season as part of an Australian tour before transferring to New Zealand.
Three years later, there have been a number of cast changes with just a small number of the original cast remaining. Joining them are a mix of international cast who have performed in overseas productions of Come From Away and experienced Australian performers. They all combine to form a cohesive cast who work brilliantly together and each new cast member brings a fresh take on these well-loved characters.
Despite being an ensemble work, Zoe Gertz shines as pilot Beverley Bass. Three years since she first took to the stage as Beverley Bass, Zoe Gertz has well and truly made this role her own. The show moves at a pace that doesn’t allow the audience to applaud at the conclusion of her big belting ‘Me and the Sky’ but my gosh, Gertz deserves it.
Experienced leading lady, Natalie O’Donnell joins the cast as Diane and brings a genuine and endearing warmth and tenderness to the character. Phillip Lowe is delightfully awkward and so very likeable as Englishman Nick Marson. O’Donnell and Lowe beautifully portray the incredible story of this couple and their vast wealth of experience is evident.
Douglas Hansell continues in his role as Kevin T, beautifully showing the positivity and joy experienced by many of the stranded passengers. The balance to this is captured by Joseph Naim in his role as Kevin J (and others). Naim poignantly reveals the racial vilification faced by Muslims as a result of this terrible event. It’s a powerful moment in the story and has implications far beyond what took place in Gander all those years ago.
Manon Gunderson-Briggs is convincing as Janice, the overwhelmed small town reporter who had to cover this unfolding emergency on her first day on the job, then moves effortlessly into her other, more confident, characters.
Kat Harrison brings an adorable enthusiasm to animal-loving Bonnie. Kyle Brown is excellent as the overly anxious and cautious Bob, Sarah Nairne brings a heartfelt tenderness to her portrayal of Hannah. Emma Powell continues to delight in her brilliant portrayal of Beulah. David Silvestri gives a solid performance as Claude.
Proving his incredibly comedic timing, Joe Kosky is stunning as Oz and the Spanish-speaking PE teacher, but then effortlessly delivering very different performances as each of his other unique characters.
Essential to this show is the musical score, performed on stage by a band of musicians and expertly lead by musical director Michael Tyack. The closing music creates almost a party feel and ensures the audience leaves with a smile on their face.
In its third Melbourne season, Come From Away feels familiar but with a new freshness. The show feels perfectly paced, diction is crisp and clear, and the cast are well settled into their roles.
There is something very special about this musical.
The incredible true stories presented in Come From Away are much more than just a history lesson. They serve as a lesson to us all – to be kind, to be generous, to take care of those in need, to be compassionate and to make the most of life because life itself is precious. Come From Away is quite simply an extraordinary piece of theatre.
Come From Away will make you laugh and make you cry. It is one of those musicals you can watch again and again and unpack a little more each time. Perhaps it’s because Come From Away is more than just an evening of entertainment, it’s an experience that will move you, will make you feel. will make you think and will inspire you to be a better person, but most importantly will fill your heart with joy.
This one really is a must-see show.
Come From Away is now playing at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District ahead of seasons in Sydney, Canberra, Auckland and Wellington.
For more information and tickets: https://comefromaway.com.au/
Photo Credit: Jeff Busby