Come From Away: Review

‘Come From Away’ to witness the extraordinary true story now playing at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC. Opening night of the smash hit new musical was thrilling live theatre at its finest concluding with an instant standing ovation from the emotive audience. ‘Come From Away’ is a beautiful one act piece of art that shares the story of Newfoundland and the people that gave up their lives when tragedy struck and 7000 passengers and around 19 animals from 38 planes were stranded on the small Canadian island on September 11, 2001 when their flights were diverted on the day the world stopped.

Some of the passengers and flight crew were on the planes for over 28 hours scared not knowing if they would get off or what happened outside. The show reveals the unrivaled community support and immense compassion that the townsfolk gave to complete strangers, quickly providing them with food, a place to stay, clothing and comfort.

The ensemble of actors restores your hope in humanity as they dive wholeheartedly into the open soul of these real-life heroes amid unimaginable fear and terror. They embody both the Newfoundlanders and the roles of the plane people who were stuck on the island. Giving the storytellers both perspectives to draw from when performing this powerful story of love and understanding.

This production is filled with unforgettable performances including the incredible Zoe Gertz who portrays the comedic relief Annette and most notably Captain Beverley Bass. Beverley’s story is wonderfully inspiring as she is the very first female American Airlines pilot. Zoe is spectacular in this role and brings to life the bravery and undeniable human spirit as she is just as scared as her passengers. Zoe soars as she breathtakingly belts out the show-stopping anthem ‘Me and the Sky.’

Her character is very instrumental to this story and the time, especially representing women in a typically male driven career. She also displays immense compassion, particularly when a Muslim passenger played by the captivating Joseph Naim is taken in for questioning and pat down. The other passengers were afraid of him and discriminating against him due to the way he looked. The racist remarks mirror what is happening today with racism towards Asians because of the pandemic. Zoe’s portrayal is beautiful as her character apologises profusely to him after they check him out before they get back on the plane.  

The brilliant Sharriese Hamilton plays the fearful passenger Hannah and the marvelous Emma Powell embodies Beulah one of the caring and considerate Gander townsfolk. The two women share a common thread that their sons are both firefighters. However, Hannah’s son is missing, and she is not sure if he was caught in the events of 9/11 as she tries to get access to a phone. The song ‘I am here’ is so hauntingly beautiful and anyone who has been in that situation can relate to this gorgeous song. Hannah asks Beulah to take her to a Catholic church, and several characters make their way to other houses of worship around town, and they perform the emotional ballad ‘Prayer’. The amalgamation of different cultures and creeds coming together on stage is moving to witness as an audience.

Douglas Hansell and Joseph Naim play the two Kevin’s among others and really display the struggle that a tragic situation can have on a relationship. The talented actors keep the viewer on their toes with their playful comedy throughout the show and alternatively find out how to balance their differences in the difficult situation they are in. This is shown especially when they are asked to come down to the local pub and four of them volunteer to be initiated as a Newfoundlander. This scene is so entertaining especially when they sing the folk inspired song ‘Screech in’ and they kiss the fish and take a shot of ‘Screech’ which is hilarious as they are introduced into the community during a such a tough time. The islanders begin dancing so joyously to the toe-tapping sounds of the native folk music and brings a smile to every face in the theatre, particularly when the band is already on stage the entire show and joins in the centre for this number for a wonderful jam session.  

Kolby Kindle was born to play the character of Bob in the show. He is one of the hilarious plane people that is skeptical at first with how unusually accommodating and nice the townsfolk are. Kolby delivers the comical one-liners so perfectly that the audience is in stitches about an otherwise scary situation. One of the funniest moments is when Bob is at Walmart and the store clerk ‘Brittany’ (Sarah Morrison) says with a straight face ‘You want to come to my house and use my shower,’ the audience bursts out into laughter seeing Kolby’s weirded out face. He eventually comes around to the idea of the community going above and beyond for them.  

Brisbane local Sarah Morrison is glorious as the newly inducted Gander Reporter. Sarah portrays the initially nervous news presenter Janice with absolute commitment as she is thrown in the deep end on her first day of her new job as the 9/11 attacks occur. She is imperative to the show as she updates the town and audience with every important date and time. She also interviews the Mayor of Gander Claude (Gene Weygandt) about the supplies needed and reports on how the town drops everything to help the ‘Come from Away’s.’ Sarah is a wonderful presence on stage and coveys the emotions of all the people around her to the audience.

Philip Lowe and Katrina Retallick take on the roles of plane people Nick and Diane, respectively. The dazzling performers find the joy in these characters and emulate what it would be like if they were stuck in this awful situation. It is heartwarming as they form a sweet friendship and confide in each other as they are seated next to each other on the plane. They grow closer especially during the night at the pub when they kiss each other instead of the fish. Katrina and Philip showcase their characters beautiful relationship when they sing ‘Stop the World’ and rely on one another for comfort. At this moment they use the chairs so creatively when they stand on them and the turntable moves as the rest of the cast remove a chair each time they step on another and harmoniously sing in unison.

Gene Weygandt steps into the role of Claude, the Mayor of Gander. Gene sets the tone of the show with great intention as he introduces the show with the first line in the number ‘Welcome to the Rock.’ Gene puts his whole heart in to this man who just wants the best for the town and the ‘Come from Aways.’ He is very realistic and fights tooth and nail to make sure they get what they need, and no one is turned away. He steals the scene during the pub’s ‘Screech in’ number with his incredibly commanding Newfoundland accent. His presence on stage is unmatched with his powerful voice which carries the show to the conclusion.

Kellie Rode makes the character of Bonnie her own as the town’s animal carer and SPCA worker. Kellie finds the humour in Bonnie’s mission but also the strength in her character to take care of the furry friends and treat them as if they were people too. She finds and rescues over 19 animals, including dogs, cats, and rare bonobo monkeys from the stranded planes.

Simon Maiden portrays Police Constable Oz Fudge with such care and light humour which makes the story even more relatable. You discover the small-town charm in his interactions with the other characters and it is quite remarkable, particularly in the myriad of other roles he plays. Simon continually captivates the audience through his vitals scenes as the people of Gander didn’t hardly sleep for 5 days straight. A notable moment in the show when they sing the tune ‘Wherever we are’ is when they locate the booze on the plane, and all get crazy drunk to pass the time and they do the Mexican wave and some of the girls flash the locals outside.

Go see ‘Come From Away’. You will laugh non-stop and cry at the drop of a hat. Even though the show is based in America and Canada, the themes of love, hope and acceptance are universal. The show illustrates the raw and real emotions of a moment captured in a very devastating time in history. Come for the story and stay for the joyful music, inspiring love for live theatre and to realise we are all on this earth together no matter where we come from.  

Come From Away Musical
Playing now until 9 May, 2021
Lyric Theatre, QPAC