Come from Away: showcasing the best of humanity

Broadway’s feel good musical sensation Come From Away has flown back into Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre to give theatre goers the post-COVID uplift they need.

It’s the true story of how a small town in Newfoundland, Canada came together to welcome thousands of stranded passengers when American airspace closed on September 11, 2001.

Come from Away at the Comedy Theatre. (PHOTO: JACK WARD)

The Tony and Oliver Award winner is a must see for Victorians who love a trip to the theatre, but also for those theatre virgins too. Not only is the storyline the most inspirational piece of theatre, but the way the chorus presents it is a pheneonel testament to the creative team.

Written by Tony and Grammy nominees Irene Sankoff and David Hein, and helmed by Tony winning Best Director Christopher Ashley, the production is an emotional rollercoaster of laughs and cries.

While much of the world stopped on 9/11, thousands of people have stories to tell from that day. Including the locals of Ghanda who showed the pinnacle of humankind.

Thirty-eight planes containing some 6,700 people were grounded at the town’s airport for five days, almost doubling the town’s population. Locals shifted into gear – opening their homes to strangers, stripping supermarket shelves bare without payment and donated BBQs to help with the cooking effort.

The production isn’t new to Melbourne – having opened in 2019 – but was one of many hit by COVID-19 and forced to close. It has returned to finish what it started. 

Come From Away is staged with simplicity and relies heavily on Howell Binkley’s lighting design, which changes the space dramatically as required. Scenes which could have been staged with elaborate sets are stripped back and performed with chairs and tables.

The complexity of Ashley’s direction ensures there is never a dull moment. Performers change characters in the darkness on stage and the show is constantly catapulting forward. But in a way that allows for slower emotion and quick witty humour.

The talent of this production knows no bounds but it isn’t a one woman show. While Zoe Gertz’s portrayal of pilot Beverly Bass reaches an emotive crescendo in ‘Me and the Sky’, Come From Away at its heart is a truly ensemble-led show.

Each character has a moment that stays with you beyond the curtain call and each moment touches you with uniqueness. The audience sighs, applauds, laughs, cries and holds its breath. You feel like you understand the heartache of the passengers.

The emotional connection is what makes this production special. You see an element of 9/11 that has never really been explored anywhere else. Consisting of hours and hours of interviews with passengers and locals at the 10-year anniversary, the script seems unedited and natural.

It’s not all dark and gloomy like you may expect from a 9/11 performance. It is the courage, generosity and love that shines through. A story that reminds us of the best humanity has to offer in the worst of situations.

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