*Our tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review
Musicals are one of my passions in life. I adore going to the theatre, I adore singing and music and if I could do any job in the world it would have to be to star in one (if I could act, sing and dance, that is!) So, when Encore Tickets got in touch to ask if I’d like to review a new musical called ‘Come From Away’ I was very, very excited!
I hadn’t previously heard of this musical even though it has been a hit in America, and I definitely had never heard of the story, which I now find really surprising as it is truly heart-warming.
Based on true-life events, ‘Come From Away’ tells the story of what happened to 38 planes that needed to be diverted due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. With no airports to land safely at in the USA, these planes had no choice but to go to a small area of Canada called Gander. The townspeople welcomed 7,000 passengers into their town and provided them with shelter, food and clothes. The show tells of friendship, prejudice, worry, anxiety, care, romance and everything that these passengers felt in their time of being stranded in an unfamiliar place. With no choice but to stay and wait for the all-clear to leave, both the ‘come from aways’ and the town (which doubled in size overnight) have to adjust to living with new faces and with it the mix of religions, race, sexuality, opinions and views.
The show is currently being held at London’s Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road. From Waterloo, it was a quick tube ride on the Northern Line with just 4 stops. So easy to get to, even for a tube novice like me! It is a smaller theatre but perfect for this show.
We were welcomed by the staff who were very friendly, drinks were served in the foyer or up in the bar and we were even allowed to take them to our seats with us. Our seats were up in the dress circle and I am usually a bit wary of having seats outside of the stalls as I’ve had a bad experience in the past with not being able to see or hear the cast very well which ruined the whole experience (Charlie and The Chocolate Factory). However, I was very surprised to sit down and find that our view was absolutely brilliant! It’s always really important to me as I want to enjoy every moment inside a theatre and to be able to soak up the atmosphere without any distractions.
The theatre is very pretty and quaint and we loved the fact that it wasn’t huge. The seats were very comfortable but I’d say the only downside was that there wasn’t actually anywhere to place our drinks. It meant that we had to be very careful not to knock them over on the floor.
It also got very hot in the theatre towards the end. I think the fact that this is a non-stop show, with a lot of singing and choreography (and no interval), there is no chance for the theatre to cool and it became very noticeable how warm the air had become in the final number. I would recommend wearing something with layers and having a bottle of water with you.
The Cast, Show and Songs
Ok, all I can say is wow!
The cast is made of just 12 members and they play 84 characters between them!! They all have different accents, different mannerisms, many lines, different songs (which then have to be sung in the right accent) and outfit changes. The thing is, I didn’t even notice the changes going on! It was flawless. A jacket went on and the actor immediately changed into another character seamlessly. The accents ranged from Canadian to American, Irish, British, African, Egyptian and more and I sat there in awe of their ability and skills.
The show takes place on the one set which only alters with lighting, the moving floor, the wall on the back and props, yet it works perfectly and is very clever. It’s surprising how 12 wooden chairs can be made into a bus, a plane, a cafe, a bar and so on, simple but effective.
At 100 minutes long with no interval you may read that and worry that you’d need a break to stretch your legs, use the toilet or to get a drink but it just flies by and you don’t feel that you want it to stop anyway. It is so fast-paced, the story is so interesting, it is so much fun and the songs draw you in, so an interval isn’t missed at all.
Talking of the songs, there are 15 original numbers which run almost continuously throughout the musical and they give a very clear narrative of what is going on, how the characters are feeling and so on. The words are extremely clear to hear and every cast member has a truly beautiful voice and for only 12 of them, I am not entirely sure how they create such a sound. I am in a choir of over 40 people so I know how hard it is to harmonise and blend your notes and tones and to hear it fill an entire theatre with such few voices, well I was just mesmerised. From upbeat numbers to funny lyrics, moving solos and cast-filled song explosions, there is something for everyone. If I had to just pick out a few songs as my favourite I would have to say that the chamberesque feel of the ‘Prayer’ song gave me chills with its mix of prayers from different cultures, Hannah’s moving song called ‘I am here’ in which she sings about trying to get in touch with her son brought tears to my eyes and the opening and closing song ‘welcome to the rock’ which has a contagious beat just made me want to join in. If you get the chance to see this show keep an ear out for these repertoires. ‘
All The Feels
‘Come From Away’ left me with all the feels. I have seen quite a lot of shows over the years but I can’t recall one that has made me roar with laughter one minute and made me cry the next!… Yes, really.
As it is based on a true story I don’t think there is any way that you couldn’t feel emotional watching it. We all remember where we were when we heard the news, no matter how old and the actors reliving the moment that the ‘come from aways’ found out left me with goosebumps. You see, they had no idea. They were trapped on the planes for up to 28 hours, they were sat on the runway with no answers, with little technology and with very few people having mobile phones. They were told the devasting news much later on and the atmosphere in the theatre changed in the moment in which that was captured. But it certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom and those sad moments were broken by funny lines, well-timed jokes, with clever plays on words and absolutely brilliant humour (adult language is used by the way!)
I obviously don’t want to give any spoilers but I cried with laughter (as did the entire audience) at one surprising but brilliant scene and I wish I could watch that part over and over again!
The stories of many of the characters left me feeling what they were and wanting to know so much more. The show includes the ten-year reunion for the ‘come from aways’ and the residents of Gander which allows the audience to find out a little bit more on what happened after they returned to their normal lives.
The ending was uplifting with the entire cast singing and bringing the house down. I have never seen such a fast standing ovation!
The band, who had been on either side of the stage throughout, got their moment on the main stage for one of the numbers and then again at the very end. It brought the show to a fun and exhilarating end with the audience clapping, dancing and cheering!
A show to remember and a must-see. We couldn’t stop talking about it all the way home and we both said we would recommend this to friends and family. If you like musicals, you will love this!
*We were gifted these tickets by Encore Tickets in exchange for an honest blog review. For further information please refer to my disclosure page.
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