Book, Music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Directed by Christopher Ashley
Management – Newtheatricals
Canberra Theatre, Canberra Theatre Centre to 9 July
Reviewed by Len Power 8 June 2023
Who would have thought that there was a hit musical in a situation that happened in Newfoundland, Canada following the New York and Washington DC terrorist attacks of 9/11?
‘Come From Away’ has been embraced by audiences from Broadway to London and Melbourne, where it opened in 2019. Canberra has had to wait through two covid-cancelled seasons until now to see it.
The show follows the incredible real-life journey of 7,000 air passengers who became grounded in Gander, Newfoundland in the wake of the September 11 tragedy. The small community that welcomed the ‘come from aways’ into their lives provided hope and compassion to those in need.
Award-winning husband and wife duo David Hein and Irene Sankoff (book, music and lyrics) travelled to Newfoundland and interviewed thousands of locals, compiling their stories to share with the world.
This 100 minute without interval musical plays at a breathless pace. It may have only one set but the imaginative direction and the playing by the ensemble cast is astounding. This cast of twelve all play multiple roles so superbly that it feels like the show has a huge number of performers. It all takes place in a multitude of locations and the imaginative way they are staged is part of the fun of the show.
The music, played by six performers, drives the show forward with its insistent folk rhythms and delightful harmonies. One song, ‘Me And The Sky’ is a standout. Beverley, a flight captain, sings to us about her passion for flying. It’s incredibly uplifting and the actress, Zoe Gertz, sings it memorably.
Without our being aware of it, these characters are stealing our hearts. At the end of the show as the passengers leave Gander and everyone goes back to their normal lives, we find ourselves wanting to know what happened to these people afterwards. What they tell us is highly moving and a perfect ending to the show.
The audience reacted with a well-deserved standing ovation and a roar of approval. Following the curtain call for the cast, the band have their own chance to shine and they show their obvious enjoyment at playing this infectious music.
‘Come From Away’ is a memorable musical. It’s third time lucky for Canberra that this brilliant show is finally here!
Photos by Jeff Busby
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/