It is hard to believe that the tragedy of 9/11 happened nearly twenty years ago. Etched in our collective memories is the images of planes being deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center on that fateful morning of September 11. The world would never be the same again…
Following on from its success on Broadway and the West End, Melbourne audiences instantly fell in love with Come From Away when it opened in July 2019. Enjoying strong audiences and standing ovations at the Comedy Theatre each night until its closure in March 2020 – just as the affects of the pandemic were taking a stronghold in this country.
10 months later, following significant lockdowns and theatres closed across the globe, the return Melbourne season of Come From Away is like a light shining in the dark. There is so much to love about Irene Sankoff and David Hein’s musical about 38 planes that stranded nearly 7000 passengers in Gander, Newfoundland, almost doubling its population.
Written after attending the events 10th anniversary commemoration, Sankoff and Hein’s sprightly interval free 100-minute musical tells the inspiring story of the “come from aways” – those who don’t live in Newfoundland, and the people who looked after them. A story of hope and humanity, friendships are forged, relationships tested, as benevolence takes hold.
Even on a second viewing, Christopher Ashley’s direction and Kelly Devine’s musical staging is simply superb. Beowulf Boritt’s sparsely rustic design is taken full advantage of, creating an adaptable environment that allows the show to continually move forward and evolve.
With many Newfoundlanders coming from Irish descent, the Celtic sound is not lost on Melbourne audiences, adding to the musical’s appeal. Luke Hunter’s band is top-notch, sounding just as fresh and full of vigor and energy. The 12-strong ensemble is highly skilled and energetic, switching between locals and visitors with ease.
Primarily an ensemble show, Zoe Gertz shines as Beverley Bass, a trailblazing pilot who made history as American’s first female captain at age 34 in Me and the Sky; and Sharriese Hamilton as Hannah, the mother of a New York firefighter who isn’t answering his phone, in I Am Here.
As Australian theatres emerge from closure, if you only see one show this year, Come From Away is it. Following its Melbourne season, the musical will venture to Brisbane in March, and Sydney in June.
Come From Away
Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Performance: Tuesday 26 January – 7.00pm (media night)
Season continues to 21 March 2021
Following the Melbourne return season, Come From Away will play the Lyric Theatre – QPAC, Brisbane from 26 March and the Capitol Theatre, Sydney from 3 June 2021. For more information, visit: www.comefromaway.com.au for details.
Image: The Australian Cast of Come From Away – photo by Jeff Busby
Review: Rohan Shearn