By Paul Kiely
Photo by Jeff Busby
Come from Away
By Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Directed by Christopher Ashley
13 Campbell Street
Season: Till 9/1/2022. Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au
Duration: Approx. 90 minutes no interval
There are some events in history that are so bizarre and rare that we remember precisely where we were the moment we learn of it. Sadly, one of those moments was the 9/11 attack in New York City.
For the people of Gander, Newfoundland, that event not only seared their memory, but they also actually became a living part of the tragedy.
Come from Away is the human story of a small town community faced with a modern ‘first world’ crisis on their doorstep. Through leadership, good teamwork and an acceptance of everything diverse that humanity is, they uplift our spirits and restore confidence that goodness is everywhere.
Currently playing at Sydney’s iconic Capitol Theatre, one cannot leave Come from Away without feeling elated. Let me begin at the end of the show: standing ovation, rapturous applause and a sea of happy audience faces (behind masks, of course!).
With music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the plot is simple and easy to follow. It is the morning of 11 September 2001, and the good folk of Gander are going about their usual business. Meanwhile, in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Centre, America’s airports are closed, and all existing flights ordered to land. Inbound from Europe are many flights, thirty-eight of which are diverted to Gander Airport. As the town now grapples with an influx of seven thousand unexpected visitors, airline passengers deal with the mental anguish of having to remain on board uninformed.
Ultimately, the passengers are welcomed by the Gander community whose hospitality, generosity and care create a lasting bond of friendship.
Directed by Christopher Ashley, this production is first class in every sense. From the moment the ensemble first enter the stage with the opening song Welcome to The Rock, the pace is frenetic and non-stop. Unfortunately, there is not even any time for applause after each musical number.
The stage is wide and deep with sets that tower into the lighting braces above. The musical numbers have a Celtic style, copied in dance. A few notable solos and duets such as I am here, Prayer, Me and the sky and Stop the world personalise characters who are experiencing grief, self-reflection or new-found love.
Ensemble performances including 38 planes, On the bus, Lead us out of the night and Something’s missing are catchy and great to watch.
The energy of the stellar cast is contagious. Each have multiple roles (either playing a resident of Gander or a passenger) and perform dance, song or dialogue with passion and vigour. They really do enjoy their characters.
They play a diverse bunch, including Mayor, TV reporter, Police officer, teacher, animal welfare officer, pilot, oil executive and environment advocate.
The term ‘Come form Away’ is what Newfoundlanders refer to travellers from other areas. As the people of Gander clothe, feed and fuel the passengers’ spirits, they realise that anything is possible if you want to help your fellow man. The passengers, many awestruck and bewildered by the kindness shown to them, put down their guard and embrace the unfettered lifestyle slogan of Gander, “Be anxious for nothing.”
It has a great message, is an uplifting story and an outstanding production. Perfect for all ages and creeds, Come from Away is a must-see!