A musical about 9/11 isn’t something you’d expect to hear about.
However, Come From Away takes this tragic event and shares a lesser known side – detailing the story of Operation Yellow Ribbon, which handled and cared for 6,579 people stranded as a result of the forced plane groundings. The stories presented are real, stemming from hours of collated interviews done by writers David Hein and Irene Sankoff.
The show has been a hit across the globe, with current productions running in New York, London, and Toronto, as well as a North American Tour. This Australian premiere marks the fifth official company of the show, and it will remain as a Melbourne exclusive in accordance to an arrangement with Visit Victoria.
With this year marking 18 years since the tragedy, the show is a true tribute to the kindness of humanity, and how, in time of great need, a small town forever changed the lives of thousands.
Performed in a single act, every performer is incredibly strong for the duration of the show. A true ensemble piece, actors seamlessly switch between multiple roles, yet it is never hard to distinguish who they are in each scene. There isn’t a single empty moment on stage. Further, there is hardly room for applause with the score constantly driving the piece towards its heartfelt ending.
Nicholas Brown and Doug Hansell play well opposite each other as Kevin J. and Kevin T. Their playful banter helps keep the show’s mood up at times when it definitely needs to be – Hansell’s other characters, such as a dissatisfied bus driver, aid this as well. Brown also giving a truly moving performance in his portrayal of Ali, one of the other passengers. Nathan Carter is a lovable Nick, coupled well with Katrina Retallick’s bubbly Diane – their on stage chemistry is palpable. A massive achievement on the part of writers Sankoff and Hein for writing such a clever script and score, interweaving both relationship storylines seamlessly.
Zoe Gertz is a powerhouse as the inspirational Beverley Bass, and hilarious as the constantly fantasising Annette. Her rendition of the 11 o’clock number “Me and the Sky” is a fabulous display of storytelling. Simon Maiden, a master chameleon, switches between a ridiculously interesting combination of characters including police officer Oz Fudge, a disgruntled Australian passenger, and a gym teacher with an… interesting hobby. Meanwhile, Emma Powell’s Beulah brings a softness to the rowdy bunch, and her plane passenger garnering a solid laugh with her outbursts of karaoke. Richard Piper is a loud yet charming Claude (and… all the other mayors!), never failing to liven up a scene. An absolute highlight is the “Screech In” sequence lead by Piper, which perfectly captures the spirit of Newfoundland – generous, accepting and welcoming.
Sarah Morrison (Janice and others) and Kellie Rode (Bonnie and others) are both delightful in their performances, offering some insight into the ‘behind the scenes’ of the event – as a reporter and an SPCA worker respectively. American cast members Sharriese Hamilton (Hannah and others) and Kolby Kindle (Bob and others) are phenomenal additions to the show. Hamilton manages to break the heart of every person in the theatre as she sings “I Am Here”, while Kindle’s comedic timing is absolutely impeccable, helping bring the tone of the show back up.
Simple yet highly effective choreography/musical staging by Kelly Devine helps the one act musical fly by. Stylised movement is used brilliantly in the background of scenes to keep the piece moving. The lighting is expertly designed (a credit to Howell Binkley), helping shift through both location and mood seamlessly. Luke Hunter leads an extraordinarily talented band of 7, with their onstage presence a great addition to the show. Standout moments include the show’s opening number, “Welcome to the Rock” and the poignant “Prayer”.
Showcasing a triumph of the human spirit, Come From Away is like no other. Uplifting and thought provoking, the show will leave you reeling for hours after. Everyone remembers where they were on September 11th, but not many know of the gracious acts of kindness that happened in Newfoundland that same day, mere hours later. Their story deserves to be heard, and Come From Away does such justice to all involved.
Come From Away is open now at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre.
For tickets and more information, please visit comefromaway.com.au