Review: Come From Away

Comedy Theatre, Melbourne

Come From Away is back in Melbourne! The Tony-Award winning musical has been wowing audiences in Melbourne since it returned last month.

Come From Away tells the true story of the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, which unexpectedly played host to 7000 stranded passengers from 38 aircraft in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The musical captures the spirit of community and resilience that defined those dark days, and has been praised for its timely messages of hope and acceptance.

Cast of Come From Away
Photos by Jeff Busby

The cast is uniformly outstanding, with special mention going to Zoe Gertz as Beverley, the airline captain who was forced to land in Gander on September 11. Zoe captivates the audience from her first appearance on stage, and brings an emotional depth to the role that is both moving and uplifting. Zoe’s solo “Me and the Sky” is an incredibly moving number that is delivered with perfection.

The set design is simple but incredibly effective, using a few key pieces to create the various locations required by the show. The focus is very much on the human stories at the heart of Come From Away, and this really comes across in both the writing and performances. The set design helps to convey this by keeping the focus on the people onstage, rather than creating elaborate distractions. This approach, in addition to the absence of an intermission, allows the audience to fully engage with the story and the characters, making for a powerful and moving experience.

The entire orchestra is on stage, visible to the audience the whole time. This causes the music to play an even more integral role in the storytelling than it would on a more traditionally designed musical theatre set. There are even a few times when members of the orchestra move into the scene as additional cast members. Of particular note is violinist Xani Kolac, who’s stage presence is warm and filled with energy, just as the audience may imagine a resident from Newfoundland would be.

The music in Come from Away manages to convey both the joy and the sorrow of the characters’ experiences at various times during the show, and the onstage orchestra really helps to bring these emotions to life. The orchestra also serves as an extension of the Newfoundland community that rallied together and set aside their differences to help the plane people. 

Come from Away is a heart-wrenching story that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre, while simultaneously leaving you feel heartened by humanity, uplifted and wanting more.

Check out the latest on What’s on Stage in Melbourne here.

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Andrew G is a theatre promoter (@andrewgshowtime), a theatre producer (Green Day's American Idiot, The Wizard of Oz, Dogfight) and Editor of (formerly Melbourne Theatre Info).
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