REVIEW: COME FROM AWAY @ THE PHOENIX THEATRE
🎭 Come From Away
📍 Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0JP
🗓 Saturday 17th September 2022
A TRUE STORY THAT SHOWCASES THE BEST OF HUMANITY
Come From Away tells the incredible true story of a small Canadian island community who stepped up and hosted the occupants of 38 airplanes which were grounded when American airspace was closed during the horrific 9/11 terror attacks.
This musical tells both sides of the story and the exceptional cast of 12 all play at least one person from the planes and one person from the Newfoundland town of Gander.
The show begins on the morning of September 11th 2001 and it's a normal day in the town of Gander with the residents going about their business. There's nothing special about the day until the first plane hits the World Trade Centre.
The people on the grounded planes are unaware of what's happening and are scared. In some cases, the passengers are on the planes for over 24 hours before they are finally allowed off.
What this musical does is show not only the horrors and how scared people are, but the warmth and human compassion of the community. This story restores your faith in humanity and has you laughing and crying in equal measures throughout.
This cast is possibly the hardest working in the West End and their team of super standbys cover 5 parts each! There were 3 covers on for this performance and they are just as professional and epic as the rest of the company. In fact, if you didn't know they were covers you'd never have guessed.
Having seen Alice Fearn (possibly the best Elphaba in the history of Wicked) in the role, I was looking forward to seeing Jennifer Tierney (Wicked, Mamma Mia!) as Beverley. She is the captain of one of the grounded planes and therefore was a colleague of some of those caught up in the atrocities. She was the first female pilot in history to become captain of a commercial airline and during the song Me and the Sky we learn about her story. This is possibly the best known song from the show and Tierney sang it beautifully and with heartfelt meaning. As the song hits the part about the planes being used as weapons in the attacks, the tone instantly changes and I had chills running throughout my body. Tierney captures the meaning of the moment wonderfully and my heart was breaking for her. It is interesting and rather poignant that the character isn't actually allowed to finish the song but just gets straight back into her work. This not only shows her dedication but also is a clever artistic choice because it means there's no applause for the performance, because why would you applaud such a horrific end to a story?
Gemma Knight Jones (Falsettos, The Lion King) gave a breathtaking performance as Hannah. She's stranded in Gander and is unable to reach her son who is a firefighter in New York. It takes a lot to push me to tears, but when she learns that her son didn't make it I had tears running down my cheeks, This is a testament to her acting skills and I was totally drawn into her story.
Hannah builds a friendship with Beulah from the community. Portrayed by Jenna Boyd (The Wind in the Willows, I Can't Sing!) Beulah is exactly the kind of person you want around in an emergency. She is a great organiser and is such a caring person with the warmest heart.
The greatest versatility was perhaps shown by Jonathan Andrew Hume (The Lion King, Jesus Christ Superstar) because his two main characters were both so different. Ali is a top chef but because he is Egyptian, the other passengers and townsfolk are suspicious and scared of him and his accent, because of what's happened. It's almost like they need someone to blame so he is used as a scapegoat, even having to have an internal body search before he's allowed to board the plane to leave. Hume perfectly shows how degrading this is to the character and gives a tear jerking performance.
On the flip side, his other character Kevin is hilariously camp and very much over dramatic. He has some of the best lines in the whole show and has you crying again, but this time with laughter!
Kevin's boyfriend Kevin (yes, they're both called Kevin!) is played by Mark Dugdale (Jersey Boys, The Commitments) and they work together wonderfully.
I could write so much about the entire cast as they were all extraordinary. The love story between Diane and Nick, played by Kate Graham (Mamma Mia!, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Robert Hinds (Mrs Henderson Presents, Chicago) is beautiful to witness and is played out wonderfully.
James Doherty (Chicago, Les Misérables) as Claude, Harry Morrison (Assasins, Half a Sixpence) as Oz and Kirsty Mappass (The Girl from the North Country, Groundhog Day) as Bonnie all give strong performances throughout and their characters are integral parts of the production and the Gander community.
This is a real ensemble piece of theatre, and aside from the aforementioned Me and the Sky, there are no solo songs. Each character is just as important as the next and they all bow together during the curtain call which cements this.
Completing the company were Ash Roussety (Come From Away Australia) as Bob and Helen Siveter (Matilda, We Will Rock You) as local reporter Helen.
What this company of 12 creates on the stage with only 14 chairs and 2 tables is nothing short of sensational. The simplistic set and lighting just adds to the whole experience. The band do appear on the stage and come centre stage once the actors depart and you leave the theatre uplifted by both the ending of the story and by this final musical performance.
Come From Away will be having its final performance at the Phoenix Theatre on 7th January 2023, so there's still plenty of time to catch this inspiring musical.
I for one will be back to see it again before it closes and I guarantee that no matter who's performing, you will not be disappointed by this show.
There is nothing that I didn't love about this show!
The show runs for 90 minutes without an interval which keeps the story flowing perfectly and the audience engaged.
Head to the shows website www.comefromawaylondon.co.uk for all information regarding the show.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.