The tragic events of 9/11 shocked the world, left the globe in disbelief and changed the way we live. I wasn’t here when the two planes flew into the World Trade Centres and the Pentagon, I hadn’t yet been conceived, but the footage is enough to comprehend the enormity of the attacks. The day that was September 11 2001 will always be remembered for its horror, but a new stage production is telling a story of kindness that one community displayed in the darkest circumstances.
Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre has welcomed Come From Away to Australian shores this weekend, alongside its productions in New York, London and Toronto, which tells the remarkable story of 38 diverted planes and a community that opened their hearts and homes to 6,579 passengers.
The musical is set in the remote town of Gander, Newfoundland after the American airspace was closed for the first time in history. The town saw 38 planes land at its airport – much more than its usual numbers. Thousands of passengers had to sit on the Gander tarmac for up to 15 hours, some having already flown half way around the world. The local residents then banded together to accommodate their sudden spike in population, supporting the passengers and crew during one of the most testing times of the last century.
Before seeing the show I had heavily researched its storyline, writers and music. I listened to the original Broadway cast recording and learnt many of the catchy lyrics – I knew I was in for a treat. Today, I travelled to Melbourne with my Mum, seated towards the back of the stalls, looking towards a stage full of chairs and tables. This show is not your regular broadway hit.
Come From Away isn’t about the fancy lights, elaborate sets and decadent costumes. It’s about the story. The entire show is performed with chairs and tables that are moved to create a pub, plane, bus and cliff, whilst the band plays side stage, visible behind the static set of tree trunks. There’s no glitter, moving sets or special effects. This production proves that all you need is a captivating storyline, brilliant score and talented performers to create something spectacular.
The cast of 12 portray many characters each, all based on real people. I was concerned this would create confusion, however, I was completely wrong. Each performer brings an element to the stage that contributes to the performance: no lead roles as such. Zoe Gertz plays Captain Beverley Bass and sings one of my favourite songs, Me and the Sky. Kolby Kindle joins the Australian company from New York as Bob and gets everyone chuckling. Nicholas Brown and Douglas Hansell portray the two Kevin’s, a gay duo that resemble an old married couple. As I look in my program I realise that the list goes on… everyone in Come From Away is unique and needed. I can’t fault anyone.
As the Finale begins, the audience has been moved through all emotions – I laughed at the ongoing humour and almost shed a tear at the sad realities of 9/11, brought to the stage with empathy and delicacy. The cast take their bows and we – the audience – rise to our feet, with a smile from ear to ear. This is what kindness looks like. A standing ovation to signify our gratitude and movement brought on by this award winning one-act show.
My message: get your butt down to Melbourne and watch this spectacular, heart fluttering production before it’s too late. I was left speechless and I’m positive you will be as well.
-Producer & Anchor
-Founder of AC News in 2017