Come From Away – Comedy Theatre (VIC)

Book, Music and Lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein

Reviewed by Annika Loci

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Comedy Theatre – Melbourne, Vic
Playing until 16th October 2022

Tickets: www.comefromaway.com.au or Ticketek

On a fateful morning in New York on Sept 11, 2001, the world changed forever.  We had witnessed what hate and anger could evolve to.

In the chaos, American airspace was closed, and 38 planes diverted to an airport on a remote island in Canada called Newfoundland in a town called Gander. The townsfolk suddenly found themselves needing to find ways to feed, shelter and entertain nearly 7000 people for an unknown time.  Becoming fondly known by locals as the “plane people”, they were initially forced to sit on their aircraft for upwards of 15hrs, whilst town council worked out a plan. It does seem like a strange topic for a musical. 

Writing team of Irene Sankoff and David Hein have created a beautiful book based on these real events, honouring and retelling stories they heard on their visit to Gander and neighbouring towns in 2011. The authenticity of the situations and moments translates cleverly to stage in 100mins multifaceted storytelling, where each of the 12 diverse performers are given the challenge to bring to life multiple roles, with various accents and ethnicities. In no instant are you confused of the scene, and this cast plays every role convincingly.

Using a single set, effective lighting, chairs, tables, and a few props combined with a selection of jackets, hats and, most importantly, accents, we are transported between concurrently running moments of township.

Come From Away is a true piece of ensemble theatre at its finest.  The tight dialogue delivers quick changes between character stories, and emotional placement incorporating joy, celebration,  sadness and loss.  No one cast member is the star, however there are certainly stand out moments. 

Zoe Gertz reprises her role as the Captain of American Airlines Beverley Bass and brings us along her journey with her wonderful vocals and strong Texan accent.  Her performance during ‘Me and The Sky’ is commanding and you can’t take your eyes of her.

Emma Powell as Gander Academy teacher Beulah delivers a spot-on newfoundland accent and dry humour.  Powell finds a beautiful balance between lightness and warmth in contrast to her stressed and ultimately drunk passenger Delores, which provides great comedic relief. 

…a true piece of ensemble theatre at its finest.

Canadian Sarah Nairne gives a heart wrenching performance as New York mother Hannah as she worries about her son, a NY fireman at Ground Zero. She shows the extraordinary stress, fear and guilt so many people felt for loved ones through her performance ‘I Am Here’ highlighting these emotions via her strong vocal control.

Other highlights include Joseph Naim as Kevin J who also portrays Egyptian–Muslim Ali, the subject of racism but finds kindness in the townsfolk. Naim did a great job of his accent transitions between Ali and the sassy Kevin J, one half of the “Kevins”, a gay couple worried about potential homophobia.

Newcomer Joe Kosky has great comedic timing as police chief Oz along with a number of other fun roles and does a lovely job switching into the quietly spoken Rabbi.  Manon Gunderson-Briggs also brings an enjoyable energy nailing the juxtaposition between humorous and serious moments as the new to town reporter, Janice. Kyle Brown is entertaining as the paranoid New Yorker who succumbs to trusting the kindness of strangers. 

Returning member Douglas Hansell as the other half of the ‘Kevins’ expertly moves through his roles, as does Kat Harrison as SPCA volunteer, Bonnie.  American actor David Silvestri makes his Australian debut as Claude the Mayor of Gander who is the backbone to the township. Philip Lowe as Englishman Nick, and Natalie O’Donnell as Texan Diane tell a engrossing love story against all odds.   

Under the Musical Direction of Michael Tyack is the live band, who play a unique combination of instruments from around the world alongside Celtic instruments played in Newfoundland.  The variety of guitars, drums, percussions, fiddles, flutes/pipes underpin the Newfoundland cultural history and supports the emotions portrayed.

The topic of 9/11 is obviously a sensitive one for many, and the production does not shy away from the variety of impacts this event had on people’s lives, whether that be direct or indirect. Certainly, the combination of the production quality and its subject matter lead you on an emotional rollercoaster, but what is not expected is walking out feeling deeply moved by an uplifting message about the best of humanity.

Come From Away is playing at Comedy Theatre, Melbourne until 30 October, 2022
Theatre Royal, Sydney from November, 2022
Tickets available at www.comefromaway.com.au or Ticketek

CAST
Kyle Brown Bob & Others
Zoe Gertz Beverley & Others
Manon Gunderson-Briggs Janice & Others
Douglas Hansell Kevin T & Others
Kat Harrison Bonnie & Others
Joe Kosky Oz & Others
Phillip Lowe Nick & Others
Joseph Nai Kevin J & Others
Sarah Nairne Hannah & Others
Natalie O’Donnell Diane & Others
Emma Powell Beulah & Others
David Silvestri Claude & Others
Jeremy Carver-James Standby
Kaya Byrne Standby & Assistant Dance Captain
Noni McCallum Standby
Michael Lee Porter Standby
Alana Tranter Standby & Dance Captain
Jasmine Vaughns Standby

CREATIVES
IRENE SANKOFF AND DAVID HEIN BOOK, MUSIC & LYRICS
CHRISTOPHER ASHLEY DIRECTOR
KELLY DEVINE MUSICAL STAGING
IAN EISENDRATH MUSICAL SUPERVISOR, MUSICAL ARRANGEMENTS
BEOWULF BORITT SCENIC DESIGNER
TONI-LESLIE JAMES COSTUME DESIGNER
HOWELL BINKLEY LIGHTING DESIGNER
GARETH OWEN SOUND DESIGN
DAVID BRIAN BROWN HAIR DESIGN
AUGUST ERIKSMOEN ORCHESTRATIONS
MICHAEL TYACK AM MUSICAL DIRECTOR
LAUREN WILEY CASTING DIRECTOR
TELSEY & COMPANY – RACHEL HOFFMAN C.S.A CASTING U.S.
JOEL GOLDES DIALECT COACH
MICHAEL RUBINOFF CREATIVE CONSULTANT


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