Musical Theatre

Review: Come From Away

24 July 2019

Before the preview showing of Come From Away even started we were welcomed into the cosy Comedy Theatre: refurbished with gorgeous blue curtains that matched the Come From Away logo, and a stage perfect for performance. Audience members took the chance to chat a little with one another, and the show’s spirit makes its mark before the actors even take the stage. The production team – Christopher Ashley (director), Luke Hunter (musical director) and Kelly Devine (musical staging) – should be more than proud of themselves for creating something which arguably exceeds the Broadway cast recording. 

Come From Away is an exploration of community and hope. Taking place in Gander, Newfoundland, the musical tells the true stories of 38 diverted planes on September 11 2001 and the days that followed. The Melbourne show’s 12 person cast delves into a series of characters – townsfolk and plane people – who share fears and hopes alike. The show will make you laugh and cry.

It’s hard to single out any one actor for their performance. Each holds themselves with strength, matching notes and providing comedic undertones. The accents were crisp and replicate that of the original soundtrack, and the singing flowed easily with the right amount of stressing and emotion.

Holding the passion and fear of the storyline the most is Sarah Morrison’s Janice, the only reporter in Gander. Morrison is powerful and passionate. This is another incredible role for her, and one that she has made her own.

Particularly charming was Emma Powell’s Beulah, whose comedic timing was honest and pure. Further, Nicholas Brown’s ability to switch between a number of characters was both riveting and chilling. Brown’s character complexity and care was so soft, you almost don’t notice how seamless and careful his performance is. It’s divine. 

This care follows into every aspect of the show. The set is simple but gorgeous: trees and a collection of mismatched chairs open the scene. Beowulf Boritt’s set designing has done the Comedy Theatre justice. But as the show continues, you are met with the use of a turntable enhancing the staging and choreography tenfold. The actors moved in time, captivating audience members. The set and use of stage was incredible, and I was glad to see members of the orchestra fully immersed in the beauty sitting on slightly visible on stage. I wish this was more common in musical theatre. 

Howell Binkley’s lighting decisions were also particularly thrilling. Throughout the show the light complimented each performance, changing and striking with the sounds and lighting up the night with stars that glow as much as the ones on stage. 

I would love to see more experimentation within this show as it continues to take hold on the world – something that may be seen with future amateur productions when the rights exist. But for now they create a beautiful performance, the cast working perfectly together on the stage. You are given the space to feel all kinds of emotions.

Come From Away was beautiful. You’ll be listening to the soundtrack for days afterwards and plotting trips to Canada in no time. A standing ovation before opening night, all the teams that brought this show to life should be proud of their work. 

Do not miss this show.

Come From Away is running until September 22 2019 at the Melbourne Comedy Theatre.

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