Come From Away, Melbourne (2021) – Theatre Review

Ten months after COVID shut the doors on live theatre in Melbourne, the incredible musical Come From Away has returned to the Comedy Theatre for an encore run of shows ending on the 14th March, 2021. Having already seen the show last year before everything shut down, is this return production any different? The short answer is no, it is just as fantastic as it was last year.

Come From Away is an incredible true story following the fateful events of the September 11 attacks in America. With the US Air Space shut down, and thousands of passengers still in the air, each flight is redirected to Gander International Airport in Newfoundland, Canada. With 38 flights carrying just over 6,500 passengers having to make emergency landings, the population of this small remote community almost doubled overnight. What comes next is a fantastic display of the human spirit and willingness to help those in need without a second thought.

This production is unlike anything I have ever seen before. It runs for 100 minutes, no interval, and has a relatively small company of 12 members. All of which are on stage for the entirety of the performance. Each have their own title role; however, they can quickly switch into new characters at the blink of an eye. Whether it be a change in body language, shift in accent, or an addition or removal of clothing.

This choice in casting is fantastic and gives the illusion that this production has cast that is twice the size that it actually is.

The short run time also means that there are no fancy ‘fade to black’ scene transitions or breaks for the production crew. Everything is full tilt the entire way through. I feel this decision perfectly reflects the urgency and panic that these people would have felt during their fateful time. It is truly an interestingly exhilarating performance to witness.

The entire cast are to be commended on their performances, however for me, there are a few that really stood out. Kolby Kindle, returning to Australia from New York to reprise his role of Bob. It was extremely captivating watching Kolby change in and out of characters. Something as simple as changing from a well postured walk to the classic ‘cool strut’ was so perfect, it could have been two different people on stage, and his comedy is utterly fantastic. Another returning cast member, Zoe Gertz, as Beverly the Female Flight Captain has a beautiful solo in ‘Me and the Sky’, a fantastic number that touches on the misogyny of the aviation industry and how dreams can indeed come true. An honourable mention to Angela Kennedy who stepped out of standby and into the role of Diane for our show, who put on a brilliant performance.

So, how has COVID had an impact on the show? I would say that it has not really impacted the performance or production quality at all. If anything, the excitement and determination from the whole production made this feel even more exciting than the first time I saw it. You can definitely tell when watching this production that every cast member is exhilarated to be back up on-stage and doing what they love the most.

I was however, surprised by the seating arrangements. Having been to a few films and live shows since Melbourne has begun to re-open, I was expecting to see some ‘checkerboard’ style seating with gaps between bookings. But with the condition of entry being that you must wear your mask the entire time once you enter the venue, this has allowed for a larger capacity to fill the venue. Personally, I didn’t find this an issue at all and I was just excited be able to be there to witness theatre thriving in Melbourne again.

There is one thing about the narrative of this show that now eerily reflect the events following the COVID outbreak. Post 9-11, international travel was never the same, with additional security checks at every airport. Now, with COVID, there are even more checks in place to ensure passengers remain safe. In addition, planes were grounded all over the world in wake of that fateful day. Now, leading into the 20th Anniversary of those events, there are large fields in the desert of aircraft that remain grounded. As mentioned in the production, planes are not meant to sit still, they are built to move, and when they do not, they break down.

Having seen this show previously, I am extremely grateful to have been able to see it again. And with the brilliant number, ‘Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere’ being stuck in my head ever since (and the final show happening to be on my birthday), it is safe to say that I will definitely be back for more before it leaves Melbourne to travel to Sydney’s Capitol Theatre from June.

Come From Away is easily one of the best productions I have ever seen and is one that I implore you to go and see for yourself, before it disappears from Melbourne forever.

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Photography by Jeff Busby.

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