Last weekend, I went with my family (Mum, Dad, Jo and Jordan) to see “Come From Away” at the Phoenix Theatre in London. The musical tells the story of 38 aeroplanes that were diverted to a small town called Gander in the wake of 9/11, when American airspace was closed. It is an extraordinary tale of a small town that doubled in size overnight, and of the residents who came together to make sure that everyone was catered for.
The story contains moments that are incredibly moving, as passengers worry about friends and relatives who may have been caught up in the disaster, struggle to deal with the uncertain circumstances and find themselves reevaluating their lives. However, that doesn’t mean that the musical is depressing or miserable or hard-hitting. In fact, it is very much the opposite.
This is one of the most uplifting pieces of theatre I have ever seen, and it’s something the world needs more than ever right now. The cast of twelve tell the story of lots of different people, multi-roling their way through the show with ease. With a slight change of costume, the actors jump from one character to another in a way that is never confusing. Each character feels real, and not a caricature - this is probably helped by the fact that all of the characters and their stories are based on real people, from Diane and Nick, an American and an Englishman who met in Gander and fell in love, to Kevin J and Kevin T, a gay couple whose relationship was pushed to the limit whilst in Gander.
The set consists of twelve chairs and two tables, which may seem bare, but the stage never felt that way. The chairs are used in such a way that you can immediately tell which surroundings the scene is set in - a plane, a church, a café. And the way the actors transform the stage is so well choreographed that everything feels smooth and scenes lead directly into each other with no pausing.
The music is very folksy and up-tempo, and you are sure to have your foot tapping throughout. The only minor gripe is that some of the songs were a bit fast to properly catch every word that was being sang - and the Canadian accent wasn’t always helpful either.
Overall, this was a great musical, and it felt so good to be back in a theatre packed to the rafters with audience members. The cast finished to a standing ovation, and then the band came out on stage and played a medley of songs from the musical whilst the audience stood, clapped and danced in the aisles. A truly joyous piece of theatre and one that will stay with me for a very long time.
Tom Morley, July 2021