Review: Come From Away

2 years ago
Aidan Johnson

When you start to watch the award-winning musical Come From Away, initial thoughts could be something like “how could they make a musical about what was, in essence, a problem of logistics?”. This thought is rapidly dispelled after about 15 minutes. Come From Away is a human story that is about the many positive things people do when faced with terrible tragedies – a message that is still sorely needed, even after the many years since the fateful September 11 attacks. Written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, it is a story of kindness and compassion, with strong music, acting, and theatrics – definitely worth seeing.

Come From Away is the story about a tiny town in Newfoundland that suddenly finds itself straddled with a large number travelers who were stranded after the September 11 attacks – in effect doubling the tiny town’s population (and the problems and friendliness that arise from this situation). What makes the story so powerful is that it is based on real-life events, with characters and stories that were taken directly from the events that happened. Whilst some research into the show indicates that some characters were amalgamated from real-life people, in general they stayed fairly true to the source material, which in turn makes the uplifting and general feel-good moments truly touching – and likewise the tragedies all the more potent.

There is a message in there about getting along and helping each other, even when it is stressful and frightening. Not subtly hidden mind you, but clear as day – as one would expect from a musical.

The music of course was a constant stream of sound, lifting the spirits high when positive messages were being conveyed onstage, while matching the emotional impacts. Instrumentally it is an interesting mixture of rock sounds with a violin, tin whistle, and a bodhran, which gives the show the Broadway glam with a rustic edge. And every now and again the musicians would actually come onstage (a nice change from having them hidden in a pit), and literally played the finale onstage, much to audience delight.

Christopher Ashley clearly knew what he was doing with the show from a directing position. Visually it was well done, with impressive props and lighting that was smooth and seamless. Even when there were no props, the actors managed to convey what was happening, and it seemed very believable. The stage itself was used, with moving parts that kept the action flowing constantly. And yet somehow it was never completely overwhelming, despite a swarm of small stories and constant changes.

The performers themselves somehow managed to convey all their characters really well, with only the occasional accent slip up (and even then, those were only when a performer had been a completely different character seconds before). Even then, these were clearly well-trained professionals who know what they were doing, and who brought the audience along swimmingly.

In conclusion, a strong musical that has a resonance in this age of divisive nationalism and corrosive hatreds. It is well put together, with strong performing and great music – if you get a chance, check it out!

Come From Away is from 20th of July and will be running until October 2019. Get your tickets here.

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