Left – Zoe Gertz. Cover – Nicholas Brown, Douglas Hansell and company. Photos – Jeff Busby
Let’s be honest, the world can feel pretty bleak at the moment. Political upheaval, climate change, not to mention the fact Instagram removed the like count. Combined with the icy chill of the Melbourne winter, it’s difficult to see the light in the darkness. I’m happy to report that the ground breaking musical Come From Away is not only the light, but the much needed warmth of the season.
In what is still a highly sensitive subject, the events of the September 11 attacks remain etched in the memories of audience members. This binds us all together, the shared knowledge of that day and the ongoing repercussions. So how do you write a musical about such a dark period of American history?
With respect, humour and the right amount of pathos to remain true to the victims without becoming indulgent or depressingly sad. Creators Irene Sankoff and David Hein have balanced the troubling subject matter with the enduring spirit of humanity and how the worst situations really can bring out the best in people.
Based on the true story of the 38 planes carrying almost 7000 passengers that were diverted to the small town of Gander, Newfoundland on the morning of September 11 2001, Sankoff and Hein gathered 100s of hours of interviews from stranded passengers to write the one act musical.
The ensemble cast is quite extraordinary, switching characters, costumes and accents all in the blink of 8 bars, Zoe Gertzas as an American Airlines pilot, Sarah Morrison as the local news reporter, LA couple Kevin and Kevin, Nicholas Brown and Douglas Hansell keep the pace of the narrative humming without ever missing a beat and the skill of these performers is truly remarkable. Simon Maiden is wonderfully comical as multiple characters, from local cop to stranded Aussie and Kolby Kindle gets some of the best lines in the show.
The score is undeniably Irish-folk, infectiously joyful and the addition of the band on stage sticks to the inclusive ethos of the production. Directed by Tony Award winner Christopher Ashley, the refreshingly upbeat but not saccharine sweet production is 100 minutes of stunning music and incredible performances.
It’s a musical for actors, and proof that the musical theatre world is changing, becoming more inclusive. While there will always be a place for the big budget, show stopping productions, Come From Away is an example of how musicals can make an impact on the world.
Whether it’s the Gander accent, the wholesomeness of the characters or the fact that the events of September 11 have a direct emotional impact, Come From Away is a truly unique piece of theatre. It may not be the musical we deserve. But it’s the one we need.
Rodney Rigby and Junkyard Dog Productions present
Come From Away
book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Director Christopher Ashley
Venue: Comedy Theatre | 240 Exhibition Street, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 18 July – 10 November 2019
Tickets: $55 – $150