Musical review: Come From Away

The hit musical returns to Melbourne for a victory lap.

Come From Away had its Australian premiere in Melbourne in July of 2019. I was in attendance and the audience was blown away by this extraordinary and uplifting musical.

Since then this acclaimed production has embarked on a national tour, endured multiple COVID shutdowns and it now returns to The Comedy Theatre for a victory lap.

The last time I saw the show, a lot of the excitement stemmed from the fact that this was a relatively unknown piece; a small-scale musical not based on an existing property but buzzing with word-of-mouth and critical praise. So, did this return season illicit a similar response?

For those unfamiliar with the plot, Come From Away tells the incredible true story of how the community of the small Canadian town of Gander opened their hearts and homes to hundreds of stranded passengers and air crew whose flights were grounded in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The show is an ensemble piece, with the cast of 12 playing several roles each. From the opening number, it never stops moving and evolving until the final touching moments. Come From Away is an ingenious blend of song, movement and storytelling. 

Viewing the show for a second time, my attention was particularly drawn to the technical elements of the production: the striking lighting design; the often poetic quality of the movement direction, and the clever use of a deceptively simple set. A revolve in the floor of the stage doesn’t really get a workout until about a third of the way through the show, but when it does the effect is thrilling. All these components work seamlessly and in perfect collaboration with the performers. It’s quite a feat.  

To my relatively untrained eye it appears that only three members of the original Australian cast remain: Zoe Gertz as Beverley, Douglas Hansell as Kevin, and Emma Powell as Beulah. All three have well and truly settled into their roles, although Gertz’s performance of ‘Me and the Sky’ lacked power on opening night, and it’s a joy to see them take to the stage again.

All of the new performers are superb, but of particular note are Kyle Brown’s hilarious portrayal of Bob, Joe Kosky’s incredible accent work and Phillip Lowe’s sweet and bumbling Nick. At the curtain call the entire cast appeared genuinely moved by the rapturous response from the crowd; it seems that Come From Away has the power to transport audience and actor alike.

The element of novelty and surprise was obviously somewhat diminished this time around, but the power of the storytelling, brilliance of the staging and accomplishments of the performers remain intact and continue to enthral.

Read: Theatre review: Slow boat

Come From Away is a rare and beautiful piece of music theatre that overwhelms you with emotion and connects us all. The themes of community, healing and compassion arguably feel even more relevant given recent global climate change disasters and the ongoing war in Ukraine. It seems that being reminded to understand and care for everyone in this world will always be a message we need to hear. 

Come From Away
By Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Directed by Christopher Ashley
Comedy Theatre, Melbourne

Tickets: $85-$179
Come From Away will be performed in Melbourne until 30 October 2022 before touring to Sydney from 5 November 2022, and Canberra from 8 June 2023.

Reuben Liversidge is based in Melbourne. He has trained in music theatre at the VCA, film and theatre at LaTrobe University, and currently works as Head Talent Agent for the Talent Company of Australia.