Come From Away Review

The sold-out, record-breaking musical Come From Away has landed in the UK and you won’t want to miss it!

It’s based on the incredible true story of a small town Ganda in Newfoundland, Canada, where 7,000 passengers, aircrew and animals were diverted to when the United States of America closed its airspace during and in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 2001 attacks. Ganda threw open its arms to these ‘come from aways’. The musical commemorates that day whilst celebrating strength of community, friendship, love, unity and humanity. In the current global climate, these messages resonate perhaps more than ever.

Written by Tony and Grammy nominated husband and wife writing team Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the topic was managed sensitively. Hearing that many of the passengers were heading back to Ganda for the tenth anniversary in 2011, the Canadian couple spent a month interviewing people. Many of the stories have been amalgamated into the musical. One of the stand-out and favourite characters is based on an actual person – Captain Beverley Bass, the first female American Airlines captain. A good dose of humour had us chuckling away throughout.

A cast of six males and six females play a variety of roles including locals, passengers and aircrew. Character changes were made through a simple change of jacket, an addition of a headscarf or glasses, changing accents or through differing mannerisms. Christopher Ashley’s stage direction is sharp, quick and on-point, and made it easy to distinguish the characters.

There is an eight piece band onstage featuring guitar, piano, fiddles, accordion, pennywhistles and bodhrans (type of drum). We enjoyed when they joined the cast on stage for an Irish jig, and again when they continued playing after the bows giving the audience the opportunity to stand up and clap along. A soaring Celtic, folk-rock, up-beat score showcase many of the emotions faced in such a time. We loved the opening song ‘Welcome to the Rock’ about regional identity and the ballads ‘I am Here’ and ‘Something’s Missing’ about how we as a society changed in that moment. One of our favourites was the girl-power Aria ‘Me and the Sky’ sung by pilot Beverley combatting sexism in her dream to fly. Indeed I loved the soundtrack so much, I’ve been listening to it for the past week.

A simple but effective set showed the rurality of Ganda. There are wooden beams along the sides of the stage, and horizontal wood as the backdrop. Wooden chairs tables and chairs are arranged and re-arranged in a number of ways instantly transporting us to different locations. The revolving stage was used effectively. Running for 100 minutes with no intermission, the pace and atmosphere is kept, allowing us to become engrossed in the characters and invested in their lives.

After seeing the production, I can see why it has why it won a Tony for Best Direction of a Musical. The standing ovation was well-deserved.

A powerful and heart-warming tale, I am still in awe of this production. Utterly fabulous in every way, Come From Away is a must see production. Running until 14 September 2019 at the Phoenix Theatre, London.

Address: Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road, WC2H OJP




Twitter: @wecomefromaway


Written by Caitlin Neal