Come From Away is an empowering story that honours what is lost, but commemorates what is found during heart-wrenching tragedy. Telling the story of a small town’s kindness and selflessness when disaster struck, it’s a moving reminder that love triumphs all.
The day of the 9/11 terror attacks the US airspace closed, and 38 planes were rerouted to a tiny town called Gander in Newfoundland, Canada. That day the town’s population more than doubled and Come From Away tells the story of how the people of Newfoundland put their own lives on hold to welcome in the frightened 7000 people from the planes and make them feel at home. The focus of the musical isn’t on the terror attacks but the sheer kindness of the Canadian residents as it tells the true stories of these people’s lives.
During 100 minutes of compelling storytelling, writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein have crafted an incomparable piece of theatre. The slick production sees twelve actors take on multiple roles to tell this beautiful story. It’s refreshing to see such a diversity of age, race, shape and size for a group of actors. Making the production feel entirely real as you are sucked right into the heart of the story.
It’s an ensemble piece, but you find yourself connecting to these characters and really investing in their stories. Rachel Tucker plays American Airlines pilot Beverley Bass, the first female pilot in the USA whose flight is diverted to Newfoundland after the terror attack on the morning of September 11th. It’s an inspiring story as she sings about how she fell in love with flying and what she went through to achieve her career. Tucker is fierce in her solo number Me and The Sky. She gives a passionate performance and her vocals blow the roof off the Phoenix Theatre.
Cat Simmons gives a remarkable performance as Hannah, a woman who worries about her son, a firefighter back in New York. Scared, confused and unable to get in touch with her son, Simmons captures the fragility of the character whilst maintaining a mother’s strength. She appears strong and in control of her emotions, but when she sings her song ‘I’m Here’ the pain she depicts through her voice is heartbreaking.
Director Christopher Ashley has crafted this show superbly. It’s slick and sharp and the scenes move along swiftly and the way the stories unravel is genius. There are poignant pauses, but it never allows you to collect you’re feelings during the show until the final note.
Just as you’re about to cry, you find yourself howling with laughter. Tackling themes of race, gender and religion, it’s a story about acceptance. As an audience, we see these prejudices from a well-rounded perspective, and the writing speaks loudly about opening your heart and your mind.
The stories of these people that landed in Newfoundland, scared and alone touched me deeper than any show I’ve seen on stage before. What makes it so compelling is that it is wholly true, and once you’ve witnessed this masterpiece on stage you will find yourself delving deeply into the stories of these real people and investing in their lives. Whether it’s the marriage of Texan lady Diane and Nick from England who meet on board their flight and have instant
Come From Away is a heartfelt story about how can selfless compassion, kindness and understanding can spur from isolation and fear. It is a show that has left a mark on my heart that will stay with me forever.
Come From Away is on at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End.