REVIEW – Come From Away at the Pheonix Theatre

We were recently invited to see new musical “Come From Away” at London’s Pheonix Theatre. We received complimentary tickets courtesy of Encore Tickets, but our opinions remain our own.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a HUGE musical theatre fan. There was a time, before Eden came along, where our lives mostly revolved around musical theatre in its many forms. I’d heard fantastic things about Come From Away on Broadway, so I was excited to see what a British Cast did with such an intrinsically Multinational story.

Here’s what the synopsis tells us:

Gander is a small Canadian town, but when 38 international aircrafts are diverted to Gander airport after 9/11, the townspeople welcome in 7,000 passengers to the town by giving them shelter, food and clothes. Initiated as honorary Newfoundlanders, the “come from aways” deal with their new-found surroundings before being able to fly out of Gander and return to the United States. In a place where romance blossoms, prejudice can also grow and the show discusses how individuals are treated after the atrocity. Reuniting years after the attack, the show commemorates the compassionate behaviour of those who live in Gander and the neighbouring area.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this show. I guess I thought it would be hard to write a musical about events around 9/11 without it being depressing. The Trade Center Attacks are a bit of a specialist subject for me, but I had read very little of the “Come From Aways”, so I went into the theatre not knowing what to expect, but with a bag of tissues all the same.

Somehow, this show manages to be entertaining and true to life at the same time. I laughed a LOT more than I thought I would, considering the subject matter. The show runs for 100 minutes with no interval, and I was on the edge of my seat the whole way through. Something I thought was interesting is that despite having only twelve actors in the show, they play nearly forty characters between them. Most of these characters are based on real life people, who gave their stories as part of the development of the musical.

Highlights for me were Rachel Tucker’s rendition of “Me and the Sky”, inspired by American Airlines’ first female captain, Beverley Bass. Imagine my surprise when I hit Google on the way home and discovered that basically every word of that song was true. The cast as a whole were excellent and the show provoked so many thoughts and emotions. There were so many stories tied into the show – a gay couple who worried about whether they could say they were together, a black man who was constantly worried about being shot or mugged, families who spoke no English, a mother worried about her New York Fire Fighter son and a Muslim who was continually treated with suspicion by those around him. You wouldn’t think that all this and more could be packed into a 100 minute show, but it is with much more too.

So, would I recommend it? Absolutely. Even for those without a specialist interest, this is a great show. 9/11 is part of world history now and I think this story really cannot be told enough. If you want to go along, tickets are available through reputable ticket agencies including Encore Tickets.

Disclaimer: We were gifted tickets for the purpose of a review. All opinions are our own.

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