Review by Lucy Eyre
Once in a while a show comes along that not only captures a moment in time, but reminds us that, regardless of the aspects of identity that make up the individual, we have a shared humanity that binds us together. Come From Away is that show!
It’s bewildering to think that a musical about 9/11 would ever be written, never mind deliver one of the most brilliantly penned and performed shows of the 21st century. I know we’re only in the first quarter, but I’m calling it! Having received rave reviews across the globe, I can assure Perth audiences that the phenomenon that is Come From Away, is real.
After the opening ‘Welcome to the Rock’ we join the story from the moment that Newfoundland residents learn of the terrorist attack unfolding in the United States; and the realisation that their small population is about to double in size as they prepare to receive nearly 7000 passengers in thirty-eight planes that have been forced to land.
Blending song, monologue, movement and dialogue this contemporary production allows us to get to know some of the people who were on the planes, as well as the locals who welcomed and cared for them until America reopened its airspace and flights resumed. The twelve performers shine in multiple roles with flawless changes to accent, physicality, and the overall essence of each character – beautifully supported by Toni-Leslie James’ costume design. But these ‘characters’ are real people who were in this situation, so the performances are even more meaningful. It is difficult to single out a performer as each one so brilliantly embodies the emotion and state of mind of each person they are playing. The transitions between individual stories and solo songs that bring the company together as a chorus, moving and singing in unison, are captivating and exquisitely staged by Kelly Devine; who won the 2019 Olivier Award for Best Choreography for Come From Away. Likewise, director Christopher Ashley is a multi-award winner for his work on this musical, as well as Gareth Owen (Olivier Award for Sound Design); and of course, the writers of the book, music and lyrics, Irene Sankoff and David Hein, are multi-award winners (including the 2019 Olivier award) for Come From Away.
My only criticism, which is perhaps more a pondering, is whether the loss of a loved one for one of the ‘characters’ could be given more attention. I know the production is reaching for a bigger idea, which it certainly achieves, but a reminder, or brief emphasis on the massive loss of life that day could be given just one more moment.
We all remember what we were doing on September 11, 2001 and it seemed that the world stopped while we dealt with our own trauma of witnessing the horrific events. Though some may say the world has never been the same, Come From Away shows us that the communities in Newfoundland who rallied together to help thousands of strangers, are a microcosm of the best of humanity that we all need to remember still exists.
Perth and other WA audiences – do not miss this show! It will bring you such joy and hope, and, if you need it, renew your faith in humanity. It is truly an extraordinary experience. Showing at Crown Theatre, Burswood until 28th May, 2023 – https://comefromaway.com.au/tickets/perth/