How refreshing it was to experience a show with no interval, one that – despite all the set and props and costume quick changes and revolving stage – felt relaxed and took only the time it needed to tell its story. And what a story!
On 9/11, when all planes approaching the United States were ordered to divert, some ended up in Newfoundland, Canada. The locals didn’t hesitate to feed, clothe and provide shelter for thousands of stranded passengers. At first strangers to them (let along among each other), common ground and friendship are discovered, with maybe even some romance along the way.
The show is structured more fluidly than traditional musicals, which typically provide more applause breaks after numbers. In the show, when one of songs featuring a particularly incredible performance worthy of some recognition (Zoe Gertz’s stunning rendition of Me and the Sky, for example) transition back to the story in such a way as to prevent the audience from clapping because we’re far too engaged to think about missing a moment by putting our hands together.
It’s a credit to the writing, the band, Director Christopher Ashley, and his cast in how they’re able to tell this inspiring story in such a lovely and entertaining way.
There’s a terrific balance between tone (e.g. when the story perspective shifts, and we find ourselves moved from a comedic scene to a dramatic moment), between the unreal glorious spectacle of so much of the physicality and these pockets of stillness and sparse sound when narrowing in on a character’s dark experience or later epiphany.
Those multiple characters are shared across the cast, each playing more than one. As neat as the abbreviated performance of Welcome to the Rock was when the show was first announced, the completed ensemble – a superb melting pot of local actors and others from offshore – is exceptional here.
Picking favourites is like asking the character of Bonnie (played brilliantly by Kellie Rode) to pick a favourite animal, but Zoe Gertz and Sharriese Hamilton were standouts, as was Simon Maiden – fresh from his sparse, real turn in Lamb – with a gentler though no less present array of roles. Richard Piper stood, stomped, spoke and sung in tremendous fashion as Gander’s Mayor, Claude Elliot, as Kolby Kindle and Emma Powell did in equal measure.
Come From Away is a wonderful, moving, and fun celebration of a true story and the power of community; a marvellous theatrical hot water bottle on a late winter Melbourne night and is an absolute must-see.
Come From Away
Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Performance: Thursday 18 July 2019 – 7.00pm (media preview night)
Season continues to 10 November 2019
Information and Bookings: www.comefromaway.com.au
Image: Come From Away – Original Australian Company – photo by Jeff Busby
Review: David Collins