Sometimes emotions around theatre are an interesting thing. Twice I had tried to see Come From Away and twice the universe had thwarted it from happening. Despite that, I couldn’t shrug off the need of wanting to see it – it really felt like my life wouldn’t be complete until I had seen it.
Now, after seeing it, I know why I had that feeling. Because if I hadn’t seen it then, I wouldn’t have seen a production that is now up there alongside Oliver! and Once as one of my favourite productions of all time.
Set in September 2001, Come From Away tells the true story of the events that occurred in the township of Gander, Newfoundland, when the terrorist attacks in New York and subsequent US air space closure results in 38 planeloads of people being diverted to a township of 5000 people.
For the people of the town it was just another day – Beulah (Emma Powell) was preparing to teach at school, Bonnie (Kat Harrison) was preparing to look after her beloved animals and local Police Officer Oz (Joe Kosky) was preparing for another busy day behind the radar gun.
But suddenly, with the influx of planes landing in the town, they find themselves having to help out people like brave pilot Beverley (Zoe Gert) who is determined to make sure everybody on her flight is okay, Kevin T (Douglas Hansell) and his boyfriend Kevin J (Joseph Naim) and lonely businessman Nick (Phillip Lowe).
When I originally read how many actors and actresses involved with the show were playing multiple characters, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the plot would be so confusing, that it would just fall away into a convoluted mess. But that is the first special thing I noticed about the production. It is so well set out and planned by director Christopher Ashley and creators Irene Sankoff and David Hein, that it becomes a beautiful, magical jigsaw that fits together in one of the most special ways possible.
The script at hand here is one of the best I have ever seen brought to the stage. This production feels like it takes you on a journey. It reminds you that the pain of September 11 went further than just two buildings in New York and throughout Come From Away, I found myself at times laughing at other times, I wanted to cry. This is one production that will touch on every emotion possible, and it is for that reason it is so damn memorable.
The emotion that is so evident in the plot also shines through with the music. Songs like ‘Welcome To The Rock’ instantly make you want to sing along while the haunting ‘Prayer‘ and ‘Something’s Missing’ will bring a tear to the even most hardened soul. Musically, the highlight is Zoe Gertz’s brilliant rendition of ‘Me and The Sky’, so beautiful and so heartfelt that it gave me goosebumps.
Gertz’s performance was truly amazing. Her songs, her monologues came together effortlessly, with a performance that deserves to be award-winning. She is well supported by Phillip Lowe, Joe Kosky and Douglas Hansell who led one of the best ensemble casts that we have ever seen on stage in Melbourne.
Come From Away makes you think about how you may have acted on that fateful day, had you been placed you in the shoes of the people who lived through one of the hardest days of their lives. Throughout this production, I found myself thinking ‘Would I have taken people into my house if I had been there that day?’ or ‘How would I have reacted if there had been a Muslim on my plane that day?’. They say that good theatre will always make you think, and if that is the case, then Come From Away far exceeds ‘good’ and heads into greatness.
I guess the only way I can describe how much I loved Come From Away, is that I have already spent an hour convincing someone else to go and see it, and I am sure as hell going to buy tickets to go and see it with him. Come From Away will make you laugh, it will you cry, and above all, it will make you realise that you are watching one of the best productions that you will see in your lifetime.
Come From Away is now playing in Melbourne until October 16th. It will then head to Sydney in November, followed by Canberra, before heading over to New Zealand to play at Auckland and Wellington in 2023.
For more information on the rest of the national season and ticketing, visit:
Photography by Jeff Busby.