Come From Away has undoubtedly become one of the biggest hits of the year and it’s all for a very good reason. This beautifully put together show is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, showing us that light can come in even the darkest of times. On September 11th 2001, the world changed forever and the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, suddenly found itself overflowing with thousands of plane passengers when their planes were diverted out of US Airspace and forced to land in Canada. 38 planes landed in Gander, almost doubling the town’s population, and they were welcomed with love, respect, understanding and a level of kindness that some of them had never experienced before. For five days, the townspeople of Gander cared for the ‘Plane People’ and during that time, their eyes were opened, new friendships were formed and everyone went home with a story to tell. And it was these true life stories that inspired Irene Sankoff and David Hein to create Come From Away, the inspiring musical that has been taking the world by storm.
Since arriving in London’s glittering West End earlier this year, Come From Away has become the show that everyone is talking about. With a number of big awards to it’s name, it’s a hot ticket and a firm favourite of many. It is a show that lifts people’s spirits, pulls on the heart strings and shows us how a little bit of kindness goes a long way. There is a wonderful simplicity about this show, with a small cast of just 12 performers, playing multiple roles, along with 12 chairs, two tables and scattering of props. It’s put together in such a clever way, creating a story that flows effortlessly for it’s 100 minute continuous run time. The minimal set takes us from planes, to school rooms, to lookouts to bars, all with small changes and clever movements. The talented cast flick between characters in the blink of an eye, highlighting the way in which anyone can go from the one giving the help to the one needing it at a moments notice.
I could celebrate every cast member of this wonderful production, but I don’t want to ramble so let me instead highlight a few moments. Rachel Tucker leads an all female chorus in the rousing ‘Me and The Sky’, the story of American Airlines pilot Beverley Bass to adoring applause and the ensemble numbers make your heart sour. Nathanael Campbell shines as Bob and others, Jenna Boyd warms hearts as Beulah and others and Emma Salvo has some brilliantly comedic moments as Janice and others. Mark Dugdale, who covers a number of roles in the show also impressed as Oz and others.
For a show with the topic of 9/11 as it’s main story, you may think that sorrow, pain and darkness may overtake everything else but this show brilliantly injects bursts of pure comedy into the story. These real laugh out loud moments not only provide light in the darkness but highlight the determination of the Gander residents to inject some happiness into the lives of the ‘plane people’ when it was hard to find happiness in the pain.
In a year where big Broadway transfers have been big business in the West End, Come From Away came into London as a quiet wonder. It didn’t need the big press and didn’t come with a big fuss, it just set up home at The Phoenix Theatre and blew everyone away. It may be small and simple but it makes a big noise, beautiful in it’s simplicity and in turn proving that something little can make a big impact.