By Paul Kiely
Come from Away
By Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Directed by Christopher Ashley
A Junkyard Dog Productions et al
Season: 11 June – 29 August. Duration: 100 minutes, no interval. Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au
Draw a route on a map from London to New York and you will intersect Gander, Newfoundland. By a geographical twist of fate, Gander is the central location in Come from Away, a fabulous new musical now on at the Capitol Theatre.
Gander is not just a town – it is an identity; it is a way of life and it’s an inspiration! For its people rose to an occasion they never saw coming and their actions filled the hearts of thousands with joy and gratitude.
Come from Away is the term the Newfoundlanders use for visitors from across the sea. On September 11, 2001, as the Twin Towers became rubble, 38 international flights are en-route from Europe to the United States. With US airspace closed, Gander is the emergency port of call, having once been the world’s largest airfield and a strategic base in WWII.
This heart-warming story is about a little town that welcomes nearly 7000 tired and frightened passengers on that infamous day in recent modern history.
In an effort not seen since the feeding of the five thousand, the people of Gander unite and miraculously accommodate, clothe and feed this motley bunch of people from all corners of the globe.
Using true events and real experiences Come from Away is a vibrant, colourful and immersive production. The story focuses on selected local townsfolk and passengers and crew, but their tales are samples of what unfolded a hundred times over.
There is Beverley (Zoe Gertz), airline pilot, confident and calm and who witnesses a humiliating strip search of a Middle Eastern passenger. The two Kevins (Douglas Hansell and Joseph Naim) whose relationship will be tested during their four days in Gander. Claude (Gene Weygandt) is the easy-going Mayor who coordinates the logistics of town resources and Oz (Simon Maiden), one of only two cops in town. Romance ignites on several fronts amongst the characters, drawn together by mutual fears and a yearning for comfort.
Passenger Bob (Kolby Kindle) is asked to round up BBQ’s from homes and cannot believe the townspeople’s enthusiasm in helping him steal their goods.
Let us not forget that 19 animals are also enduring this layover in Gander. However, the SPCA steps in to ensure their welfare.
As hours turn into days, the ‘Come from Away’s’ are invited to become honorary islanders. The initiation involves kissing a codfish and downing a shot of rum.
In a moving scene, people gather to pray, respectful of other customs and beliefs. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others, united in a common search for meaning.
There is something in this show for everyone. With music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, emotional buttons are pushed and heartstrings pulled.
The entire cast is outstanding. All members have dual roles, each playing a local and a visitor. All talents are on full alert as dancing, singing and dialogue interchange rapidly. Credit too for mastering the unique Newfoundland accent – a twang of Scottish, Irish, Welsh, American and French-Canadian tones (if you can imagine that).
With expert Direction from Christopher Ashley, this is a production to behold. The generous Capitol Theatre stage dimensions allow for great creativity and artistry in lighting, set design and choreography. The slatted timber backdrop and forest-like lighting poles give a sense of warmth and security, much like the townspeople of Gander. And the revolving floor is a clever move.
Of course, the music and lyrics are magical. With a definite Celtic influence, all songs are melodic and lively. Standouts for me were Welcome to the Rock, I am Here, Prayer, 38 Planes and Me and the Sky, but there are nine other solo or company songs.
Come from Away is a real feel-good treat for all ages. Quite possible, it is the best all-round musical for a long time. It will lift your spirits and re-jig your faith in humanity.
Do not miss this one!