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BWW REVIEW: COME FROM AWAY Finally Sets Down In Sydney To Share The Celebration Of The Best Of The Human Spirit To Come Out Of One Of The 21st Century's Darkest Times

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COME FROM AWAY

BWW REVIEW: COME FROM AWAY Finally Sets Down In Sydney To Share The Celebration Of The Best Of The Human Spirit To Come Out Of One Of The 21st Century's Darkest Times

Thursday 10th June 2021, 7pm, Capitol Theatre (Opening Night)

(BroadwayWorld Sydney's Senior Editor Jade Kops also reviewed the 2019 Melbourne Season)

/australia-melbourne/article/BWW-REVIEW-COME-FROM-AWAY-A-Powerful-Expression-Of-The-Capacity-For-Human-Kindness-Opens-In-Melbourne-20190721

COME FROM AWAY, the warm welcoming hug of hope and the best of humanity has finally arrived in Sydney to the delight of audiences that have been waiting for this incredible piece of theatre based in truth to arrive after a pandemic induced delay. Irene Sankoff and David Hein's (Book, Music and Lyrics ) multi award winning ethno-drama/documentary theatre blends the real accounts of the people of Gander Newfoundland and the "Plane People" into a captivating 100 minutes of music, smart lyrics and heartfelt characterizations to present a piece of theatre that is not only honest but heartwarming and at times quite hilarious.

BWW REVIEW: COME FROM AWAY Finally Sets Down In Sydney To Share The Celebration Of The Best Of The Human Spirit To Come Out Of One Of The 21st Century's Darkest Times While we now have a world where there are young adults that werent alive when the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 changed global security, many people do still remember the constant news feed that focused on the unbelievable horror of the terrorist actions that hijacked four commercial airliners and used them as deadly weapons that killed 2,977 victims and injured a further 25,000. What many may not have known about was Canada's efforts to deal with the resulting shutdown of US airspace as Operation Yellow Ribbon was implemented to deal with diverted planes that would not have enough fuel to return to their port of origin. A key player in Operation Yellow Ribbon was the relatively small Gander International Airport on the remote island of Newfoundland, North East Canada as it was the closest landfall for transatlantic flights and it had the 'benefit' of not having potential major targets and a low population should one of the diverted planes also be a threat. Opened in 1938, the airport was once the largest in the world, providing a gas-and-go base for transatlantic flights in the 1940's through to the 1960's when traffic slowed as jet aircraft no longer needed the extra refueling stop. The quiet airport would take 38 of the over 00 flights that were diverted to ports across Canada, the second highest number of aircraft diverted to any airport behind Halifax and even greater than Vancouver. The 10,000 population of Gander almost doubled in a day as 6,579 passengers and crew (the third highest number of "plane people" landed into a Canadian airport behind Vancouver and Halifax) and 19 animals were welcomed with hospitality and resilience by the townsfolk of Gander and the surrounding towns of Gambo, Appleton, Glenwood, Noris Arm and Lewisporte. The stories from the "Come From Aways" as the locals had dubbed the "Plane People" and the locals caught the attention of producer Michael Rubinoff who encouraged Sankoff and Hein to create a work based on interviews, documentaries, and letters with many real people honored through the character names.

BWW REVIEW: COME FROM AWAY Finally Sets Down In Sydney To Share The Celebration Of The Best Of The Human Spirit To Come Out Of One Of The 21st Century's Darkest Times It is easy to understand why Christopher Ashley won a Tony Award for his direction of COME FROM AWAY as he ensures that the stories remain the focus of the work with a simple design and high degree of fourth wall breaking direct-to-audience style. Beowulf Boritt's (Scenic Design) rustic aesthetic reinforces the remoteness and unadorned simplicity of Gander and its surrounding forests while allowing the stories to engage the audience's imagination to see more than the odd assortment of tables and chairs. Toni-Leslie James' costuming is similarly understated with a simple change of a jacket or hat combined with a shift in the performer's physicality and vocal characteristics allowing the 12 performers to represent a multitude of characters.

BWW REVIEW: COME FROM AWAY Finally Sets Down In Sydney To Share The Celebration Of The Best Of The Human Spirit To Come Out Of One Of The 21st Century's Darkest Times With Newfoundland's strong connection to Irish immigrants, Sankoff and Hein have drawn on traditional Irish reels and ballads as a base for the music and lyrics which in turn influences the choreography. The result is a lively and welcoming expression of the Newfoundlander's hospitality and spirit which at times feels like a large pub gig of singers sharing their yarns particularly when Luke Hunter's (Musical Director, role shared with Michael Tyack AM) on stage 8 piece band are bought forward into the story in moments like In The Bar/Heave Away.

BWW REVIEW: COME FROM AWAY Finally Sets Down In Sydney To Share The Celebration Of The Best Of The Human Spirit To Come Out Of One Of The 21st Century's Darkest Times The strong Australian and American cast is largely unchanged from the 2019 Melbourne season. Australian Philip Lowe steps into the role of Nick Marson and Doug and others while Chicago based American Gene Weygandt joins this season as Gander Mayor Claude Elliott, along with the mayors of the other Towns and other roles. As with the 2019 industry preview previously reviewed, Angela Kennedy presented the role of Diane Gray and others (filling in for Katrina Retallick). Ash Roussety presented the role of Kevin J for the 2021 Sydney opening night (filling in for Joseph Naim). For the 2021 season it is also noted that the list of standbys has been increased to 8 (potentially as a result of increased health precautions) which includes the previously mentioned Kennedy and Roussety along with Josh Marin, Kathleen Moore, Jensen Overend, Kilty Reidy, Alana Tranter and Jasmine Vaughns. BWW REVIEW: COME FROM AWAY Finally Sets Down In Sydney To Share The Celebration Of The Best Of The Human Spirit To Come Out Of One Of The 21st Century's Darkest Times With the majority of the cast reprising their performances and having had an encore Melbourne season and Brisbane season before arriving in Sydney, all are well settled into their expressions of their characters while still ensuring that the audience gets a fresh experience. Sharriese Hamilton's ability to tap into Hannah's emotions ensure that her fears for her firefighter son are palpable. Philip Lowe delivers a delightfully dorky and socially awkward Nick and a lovingly devoted Doug, capturing an innocence and naivety to his wistful longing in Stop The World. Kolby Kindle's direct to audience thoughts on being trusted by the Mayor of Appleton is delightfully amusing as he captures the cynicism of African American New Yorker Bob who is so used to having to watch his back for prejudicial stereotyping. Zoe Gertz has further developed her connection to the role of Captain Beverly Bass with an even more poignant expression of the moment the stoic leader's façade starts to crack once she's back home.

COME FROM AWAY has captured the best of humanity that was shared without any promise of reward or fame, just simply accepting that it was the right thing to do at a time when the worst of humanity was showing itself 2,000 km to the south in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Sankoff and Hein however ensure that the truths of the prejudice and fear that still showed themselves in the face of the care and compassion provided by strangers remains part of the narrative which is refreshing in its honesty.

BWW REVIEW: COME FROM AWAY Finally Sets Down In Sydney To Share The Celebration Of The Best Of The Human Spirit To Come Out Of One Of The 21st Century's Darkest Times The heartwarming message of hope and kindness within COME FROM AWAY makes this a piece of theatre that all audiences should see. It has an accessibility in its recognizable music styles while containing clever new music and the story helps unite people in a collective desire to try to be better to others. DO NOT MISS THIS!

COME FROM AWAY

https://comefromaway.com.au/

Photos: Jeff Busby (from 2019 Melbourne Season)

Photos from the 2021 Melbourne Encore Season: /article/Photo-Flash-First-Look-at-the-Melbourne-Production-of-COME-FROM-AWAY-20210128


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