There are quite a few musicals on in the West End right now, each of them offering something unique for the theatre-goer. One of the musicals on offer right now until 15th February 2020 is Come From Away and what a musical it is.
Written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, they create the world of Gander in Newfoundland in a simple yet very effective way. The cast wear costumes of simplicity. The staging and lighting are simple and that’s all it has to be. They sing their way through a set of musical numbers that tell the story of what happened in Gander after 9/11. 38 planes were forced to land at the airport near Gander after the American airspace was grounded. 7,000 people join a community of just over 9000. It feels utterly surreal when you’re sat there watching this unfold on the stage in front of you.
The local characters and the style of the musical numbers reflect on the Celtic roots of the region and the generosity that still exists out there. It’s so easy to forget this kindness is still apparent in our world. In a period of heightened conflict and inequality, it’s refreshing to see a show that reminds us all it still exists.
Actors swap between playing locals and the stranded passengers with such fluidity, you hardly notice. Rachel Tucker plays Annette, a local, as well as Beverley Bass. She is absolutely incredible and “Me and The Sky” really shows her ability. It’s a beautiful song laced with sadness as Beverley loses her love of her job.
The community stretches itself so they can accommodate the stranded travellers. Characters argue over transport as the school buses are on strike, people head down to supermarkets to get food and water (a funny moment within this musical,) the animal shelter worker Bonnie hurries to rescue the animals from the cargo and a schoolteacher Beulah who offers comfort to Hannah whose firefighter son is missing in New York. Equally, there are darker moments such as a Muslim traveller being treated with suspicion. It’s tense, scary and frightening.
Some other parts of the show which I really enjoyed are Nick and Diane’s bubbling relationship. Robert Hands and Helen Hobson are both sincere and sweet in their performances. The two Kevins who are in a relationship offer a particularly funny scene to me. There’s a sense of nerves there as they are in a same-sex relationship but the people of Gander are welcoming and supportive. This ends up with Kevin J remarking “We somehow ended up in the gayest town.” It’s funny but at the same time it’s amazing to see how welcoming Gander was and is to LGBT+ people.
The other cast members are excellent. Other highlights include Clive Carter brings a sense of charm to Claude, the mayor of Gander who is in charge of getting the town ready to accommodate the stranded passengers. Cat Simmons has a beautiful voice which is shown during “I am Here”. She plays Hannah and her grief and worries are shown expertly through her voice. Jonathan Andrew Hume is both hilarious and touching as Kevin J and Ali. The majority of his scenes provide a hilarious moment to the show. His ability to contrast between the two people is impeccable. Of course, everyone is incredible.
The songs in Come From Away are some of the most beautiful songs in musical theatre. “Welcome to the Rock,” the opening number is catchy and inviting, “Darkness and Trees” is absolutely beautiful, “Prayer” is emotional, “Heave Away” uses traditional Newfoundland instruments and of course “Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere” is incredible.
Once 100 minutes is done, everyone jumps up in a standing ovation and the band come out to play “Screech Out” which is amazing. It’s an appropriate ending to an amazing and must-see musical and it will leave you wanting to return to the rock the minute you leave that auditorium.