I have a confession to make. While I was aware of the terrorism in New York that occurred on September 11 in 2001, I did not know about ‘Operation Yellow Ribbon’ regarding the civilian flights being diverted to Canada in response to the September 11 attacks. Nor did I know the existence of the town of Gander. I’m going to peg this unfamiliarity down to my age and not being from either U.S.A. or Canada. So, you can imagine when I finally watched Come From Away, it was a very knowledgeable and eye-opening experience that I wished I had brought more tissues to.
In its Australian debut, Come From Away lands in Melbourne to tell the true story of the 38 planes in 2001 that landed in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon and the 6579 passengers who were stranded at their unexpected safe haven of little town, Gander, bringing the population of Gander up to 10,000 people. With a cast of only 12 on-stage, the actors in this incredible production take on multiple roles as both passengers and townsfolk to tell of this historical, inspiring tale.
Now normally at this point in the review, I would write about the standout performances in the production, but the truth is, nobody ‘stood out’ as everyone in the cast was solid and brilliant. The show was written in a way that every character, every cast member would have a chance to shine, all being equally impressive. This is something that I have never seen before in any production and was floored by the talent of the Australian cast consisting of; Nicholas Brown, Nathan Carter, Zoe Gertz, Sharriese Hamilton, Douglas Hansell, Kolby Kindle, Simon Maiden, Sarah Morrison, Richard Piper, Emma Powell, Angela Kennedy and Kellie Rode on the evening that I witnessed the show. Equipped with flawless writing, thoughtful lyrics, a talented cast, incredible vocals, impressive harmonising, a simplistic set design with a moving platform designed by Beowulf Boritt and skilful musicians at the wings, it is so comforting seeing a show that strips back from the usual glitz and glamour and replaces it with intimacy and depth.
Not since “Once” have I seen a musical so personal, captivating, tear-jerking and uplifting. Come From Away is a brilliant production that feels refreshing, unique, inspiring and faultless. In a bitter-sweet but beautiful reminder of the human spirit, this show is honestly one of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen, and something that you must witness for yourself. It is not only a show for musical fans and theatre enthusiasts, but for everyone. Trust me, you don’t have to be an avid theatre goer to appreciate this musical.
Come From Away broke my heart into a million pieces and slowly put it back together again. Not only was there not one dry eye in the audience by the end (including my own eyes), but I have also never seen a crowd shoot up so quickly before to give a standing ovation. I would not be surprised if this happens every night for the duration of the show’s stay in Melbourne. I strongly urge you to see this brilliant production; run, walk and/or fly to Melbourne while you can. To be honest, I have struggled to put my feelings into words as this musical is one of the rare pieces of theatre that has left me both in awe and speechless. I am thankful that I have had some time to collect my thoughts, and I am so grateful to have experienced this multi award-winning musical in its Australian debut. In short, I loved it and will definitely be seeing it again. But the next time that I do attend, I will make sure to not run out of tissues.
With book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein and direction by Christopher Ashley, Come From Away is exclusive to Melbourne and is currently playing at the Comedy Theatre until the 10th of November, 2019. For more information and ticketing, please visit: https://comefromaway.com.au
Photography by Jeff Busby.