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BWW Review: COME FROM AWAY at Östgötateatern

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Come From Away, Pressnight, 25 of September, 2020

BWW Review: COME FROM AWAY at Östgötateatern Pressnight/sneak premiere of Come From Away at Östgötateatern, in Norrköping, Sweden

It's more than 6 months since I saw a musical and it was a very special feeling to have the opportunity to be one of 50 to see the sneak premiere on Come From Away. The theater hade prepared very well with the social distancing. Separate entrances, 25 on each side of the foyer, 1,5 meter between each seat sideways, back and front. Each seat marked with a yellow sheet marked "This is your seat". And everyone in Sweden is really good at keeping 1,5-2 meter distance after more than 6 month of practicing. But the government is still reluctant to increase the number of 50.

Come From Away by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, premiered in 2013 at Sheridan Collage, Oakville Ontario, was staged on Broadway 2017 and last year premiered at the West End in London. Now that Östgötateatern is staging it, it is the Nordic premiere. Come From Away is about some of the nearly 7,000 aircraft passengers on board the 38 planes that were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland after the terror attack 9/11, 2001 and how the residents of the small town opened their doors and received these strangers with great compassion and warmth.

This is the first time I've seen it Come From Away. Two years ago in New York, the last rush tickets were sold to the people in front of us. At the end of March, it was on the list of the musicals I would see in London, but that trip was canceled, just as all theaters have been since then due to Covid-19. After seeing this set, I'm really happy that this is the set that will be my "original" set. It is a musical that touches from the first moment when the whole ensemble greets us to Gander and the people in Gander are introduced to the audience. Then all of a sudden they hear about the attack. Then they change their roles and become air passengers and aircraft crew on the various planes who suddenly get the information that they have to make a stopover on Gander instead of flying directly to their destination. No one gets to know what happened until they landed. All the time, the actors switch between the different roles they have, but it is done so smoothly and elegantly that its not confusing. A jacket is put on or taken off, or a cap, etc. Small details that highlight the different roles. There are basically all types of people on the plane, different nationalities and religions, different ages (but no children) etc. Most have no personal connection to New York, except for a woman whose son is a firefighter in New York.

This is mainly an ensemble musical as the whole ensemble is almost always on stage except in a couple of scenes when individual roles get a more prominent role. It is a very strong and cohesive ensemble where no one stands out in those numbers but everyone maintains the same high level and all roles are equally important to drive the story forward. But Linda Olsson, who among other things plays flight captain Bass and teacher Annette, has a couple of solo numbers that are performed with an incredible amount of emotion, nerve and presence. Especially in the song "Me and the sky". She is singing with such happiness until the end when the feeling is turned to the greatest sorrow now that her place among the clouds is threatened. That mood change in the song is so strong and overwhelming. Overall, the musical is permeated by warmth, positivism and compassion, but from time to time it swings and shows people's fear of the unknown and distrust of Muslims. Hani Arrabi's pain when he is Ali and is met by the suspicion of the other passengers and the locals or just because he is Arab is so obvious that it hurts to see.

Behind this fantastic set is a fantastic team with technicians etc. and the master director Markus Virta has once again shown what magic he can create on stage. Had not heard much of the music from this musical in advance, basically just the 3 numbers that were shown at the special screening on September 11. I really enjoyed them then and they got even better when they were put into context. Throughout the musical, the music has a drive that makes you get involved and it is performed in the best way by the musicians who sit at the back of the stage.

It is such a shame that Östgötateatern is staging this musical this year when there are restrictions so only 50 people can see it at each performance. This is a real masterpiece that deserves to be sold out with a full house. There is no doubt it would have been a great success. Each performance is sold out as only 50 are allowed. Everyone who has managed to get a ticket can count themselves a lucky winner. Incredibly good, I completely knocked!


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