LIGHTS DOWN, CURTAIN UP…. ‘COME FROM AWAY’: THE MUSICAL
It is always special going to the theatre and seeing anything in London’s West End means you are almost certainly in for a treat!
This is no exception for the latest show in town… Come From Away.
We dressed up and headed to London’s Phoenix Theatre.
‘Come From Away’ has won many international awards, including 4 Olivier Awards including ‘Best New Musical’ and rightly so!
The musical is based on the true story of the citizens from the small town of Ganda, on Newfoundland Island in Canada, and the passengers on an American Airlines flight and the subsequent relationships created due to the town being used as a diversion airport in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
Ganda, with a population of just 9,000 has an international airport which was used as a major refuelling stop for trans-Atlantic flights. Today aircraft have advanced without requiring a refuelling stop.
On the 9th September 2001, when the U.S. shut down its airspace, Canada offered to accommodate inbound planes flying from Europe. Planes were diverted to Gander International Airport. Until they were allowed off the planes, the passengers had no idea why their flight had been diverted as this was pre-smartphone and social media.
That day, Ganda International Airport received 38 wide-bodied aircraft carrying 6,700 passengers from nearly 100 countries; all needed to be housed and fed. The citizens of Ganda welcomed them with open arms.
The musical with just 12 cast members play duo-roles; the passengers and crew on-board the American Airlines flight, as well as the roles of the locals in Ganda, from the Mayor, the Chief of Police, a teacher, librarian, Red Cross volunteers, Pharmacist, etc. Also highlighted was that the Pilot was the first female pilot American Airlines had ever had.
Local residents took the passengers moose hunting, toured the local sights and hosted a huge BBQ’s utilising every BBQ the city had! Music, dance and song were a popular distraction with the help of free flowing Irish Whiskey and many passengers were offered accommodation and showers in people’s homes.
Of course the requirements of so many in a town of so few presented its challenges and after a few days on being stranded in Ganda, tensions grew and religion became a factor of dispute. But even in times of darkness, human kindness triumphed.
With a simple stage set using a large revolving circle centre-stage, a few tables and 12 chairs, together with an 8-piece band just stage-side, the hour and 40 minute production (with no interval – fabulous!) set the scene and with fantastic Irish folk music, emotive songs simple yet effective dancing and superb acting by all, the time just flew by.
The experience changed everyone involved with many seeing their purpose in life change too for the better.
After 5 days, the American Airlines flight was able to depart from Ganda onto its final destination, Dallas. There were fond farewells and many passengers offered to pay the locals for their sincere hospitality, but it was flatly refused.
A few weeks later, letters and cards began arriving in Ganda to homes and businesses who had helped people, offering their most heartfelt thanks but also enclosed were donations, which totalled tens of thousands of dollars.
At the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 many of the passengers returned to Ganda for a reunion and till today many families are still touch with their friends who ‘Came From Away’.
In the bar of the theatre is a world map and one of the UK with an invitation to write your name on a label on to pin it on the map – as you can see, the board was over full, but a lovely idea to bring us al together.
What strikes me most is that being old enough to remember and understand the gravity of the situation on that day in 2001, unlike ‘Mademoiselle Alexandra’, who was not even born; I can remember where I was and what I was doing as events unfolded. That in turn connects us to the understanding of the musical but also gives a very different perspective on the events of that day and those that immediately followed.
This is a ‘must see’ musical and a wonderful evening of entertainment. You may think how such a topic can be successfully made into a musical; well, I just urge you all to book tickets and find out, you will not be disappointed!
Want to do something special to start off your week right? Then book tickets to see the musical ‘Come From Away’ at the Phoenix Theatre in London.
The music was great especially with the Irish beat going and the acting was impressive especially when there were only 12 actors playing multiple roles.
However, although I enjoyed it I was very confused as to what was going on and what was what and it didn’t help that the actors were playing multiple roles even though there was a distinction between the characters they had to switch between.
In addition, I would say that there was no set changes; the setting/props were the same throughout which although can show the ability of the actors it can be quite boring on the eyes - although I say that, it is not something that I would or did focus on because the music distracted you and the way the characters were interpreted by the actors was very well done.
If you understood and knew the events of the 9/11 incident then you would definitely enjoy this musical and will get an insight of how a group of people were affected at the time. If you are not so clear on the events of 9/11 then I would definitely suggest you look into it so you have a rough idea of what happened before going to see the musical.
But overall, it was very enjoyable and a great way to spend an evening in London - plus has won multiple international awards!