In March I went to see the heartwarming musical ‘Come From Away’ at the Phoenix Theatre in London for the second time. My first trip to ‘The Rock’ was actually just over two years ago in February 2020, a few weeks before the theatres closed for the first national lockdown. Based on a true story about Gander in Newfoundland, Come From Away tells the tale of a community of caring Canadians who helped stranded passengers in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. Nick Curtis from The Sunday Times referred to it as ‘the show we all need right now’ and I could not agree more. Come From Away focuses on the importance of human kindness during dark times and it is impossible to exit the theatre not feeling inspired by the selfless actions of the people of Gander. I urge you to go and support this tremendous musical, but if you need more convincing, read on to find out why the production is one of the best shows playing in the West End right now.
When US airspace was shut on September 11th 2001, US-bound planes had to be diverted to Gander: a small town in the easternmost province of Canada. A town with around 10,000 residents, the locals housed just shy of 7,000 passengers for 5 days after the attacks: the length of time it took for US airspace to reopen. Offering to do everything in their power to help these stranded people, the Gander residents welcomed the ‘Come From Aways’ (a term that Newfoundlanders use to describe people not from the island) into their homes, ensuring they were fed, looked after and comforted during a time of uncertainty and fear. This group of people’s compassionate actions inspired a musical that is currently playing to cheering crowds in London, after its post-lockdown reopening on 22nd July 2021.
Come From Away runs for 1h 40m without an interval and it’s been curated in this way so that the audience can understand how fast-paced these five days were for the citizens of Gander. The twelve cast members all play multiple roles (there are eighty four in the show) and the switching of characters and accessories constantly makes it a very demanding show to be a part of. Additionally, each character takes a turn narrating part of the story. This multi-narrator format is really clever, showcasing each person’s thoughts to the audience.
Newfoundland has Irish heritage and this can be noticed in the accents and soundtrack. The songs have a combined celtic and country feel, reflecting the diverse culture of The Rock. My favourite tracks include the very celtic sounding ‘Heave Away’ and the show’s power ballad ‘Me and the Sky’. When Captain Beverley Bass sang ‘Me and the Sky’ the audience fell totally silent. Alice Fearn’s vocals were mesmerising. In my opinion Come From Away has one of the best theatre soundtracks in years. It’s so unique and represents Newfoundland really well. Hopefully I’ll make it to the province on my travels one day and get to hear some local music live.
I don’t think a single member of the audience can watch Come From Away and not take their hat off to the performers. The cast have such incredible stamina! At the Saturday matinee performance we saw nine of the principal cast and three standby performers: Micha Richardson, Alexander McMorran and Matthew Whennell-Clark. Before our visit I had read such wonderful things on Twitter about the Come From Away standbys and after seeing them live, I too have to vouch for how talented they are. Micha actually had us in tears at the back of the stalls with her emotional performance as Hannah and others.
Why it’s worth a watch
Before Come From Away, I had zero knowledge of what happened in Newfoundland on the days following 9/11. In a world where there has been so much sadness lately, a positive and heart-warming story is just what audiences need. The people of Gander are inspirational and their story needs to be told all over the world. Additional reasons to go are the ultra-talented multitasking cast and the fabulous soundtrack. Did you know that Come From Away won ‘Best New Musical’ at the Olivier Awards in 2019?
I am thrilled that I was able to watch the musical again. It had such a positive impact on me back in 2020 that I actually contacted my friend in Calgary to see if she had heard of the events. Seeing the production made me adore Canada even more! I think we can all learn a thing or two from the amazing people of Newfoundland. Performances are currently running until October 2022 and tickets can be purchased via the ATG Tickets website.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx