Something theatre fans have been crying out for for years is more proshot recordings of West End and Broadway shows. Previously these have been few and far between for fear releasing them would damage ticket sales in person. Hamilton changed all of that though. Between that and the boom in streaming theatre during the lockdowns, we are seeing more filmed productions of current shows than we are used to - the latest of which is the sensational Come From Away. Released to coincide with the 20th anniversary of that terrible day, people all over the world can now experience this unexpectedly beautiful story.
First opening on Broadway in 2017, Come From Away has been a whirlwind, winning critical acclaim and selling out audiences on both sides of the pond. It tells the true story of the residents of Gander in Newfoundland who opened their doors to 7000 people when their planes were forced to land there suddenly on 9/11 after the terrorist attack. That might sound like a dark subject for a musical, but Come From Away aims to show you all the good that is still in the world, while paying tribute to that tragic event. This version was filmed at its Broadway home of the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre with an audience of 9/11 survivors and frontline workers.
It's no secret that Come From Away is a show that I adore. I was there the first night it opened in the West End back in 2019 and was so profoundly moved by the whole thing, I had no hesitation jumping to my feet sooner than I've ever done before the moment the show finished. Since then, I have been a repeat visitor at the Phoenix theatre so was very intrigued to see how a filmed production would fare in comparison. Could it capture the heart, emotional and magic of being there in person?
With this filmed production, you notice all the intricacies and intimacies of certain moments that might otherwise be missed watching it in the theatre. The choice of camera angles gave me a new appreciation for the intense choreography (and chairography) while close ups allowed me to certain character reactions that might otherwise pass you by. With gorgeous lighting and a deceptively simple stage that proves its versatility, this production is beautifully shot in general. If I find myself moved every time I see the show in the West End, I actually found myself even more emotional watching this version. Perhaps it's the significance of the date or seeing it staged in New York - whatever it was, I was grateful to not be in public as I sobbed away!
Members of the original Broadway cast returned for this one off performance, some of whom had left the show years prior. One of the standout performers is Jenn Colella who originated the role of Beverley Bass. The raw emotion she puts into standout number (and my personal favourite) 'Me and the Sky' is incredible, and left me longing to give her a standing ovation from my living room. Jim Walton as Nick and Sharon Wheatley as Diane tell the beautiful story of the real life couple who got together in the face of tragedy and won't fail to warm even the coldest of hearts as they portray the loveable characters. If they will warm your heart, Q Smith will well and truly break it as she relives Hannah's story with the tenderness and sensitivity the story deserves.
This may not be the most conventional musical in the world, but some of the songs in it are up there with the best. 'Welcome To The Rock' is one of the best opening numbers in musical history and will have you stomping along with the cast, 'Stop The World' is a quiet moment of reflection while the 'Prayer' sequence is incredibly powerful and moving.
What makes Come From Away such a special show is the unexpected joy it can bring. One of the darkest moments in history, filled with profound loss which is still felt 20 years later. However, out of that darkness came something beautiful - a testament to the best part of humanity and proof that light can come out of even the darkest of places. While there are moments of intense pain - the moment we see the plane people watch what happened on the news is a genuine painful moment, there are also moments of peace such as the pivotal "Be anxious for nothing" line ' that also has the power to evoke tears. It's not one continuous sobfest though - there are some real laugh out loud moments peppered throughout, making this a real feast for the emotions.
If the story and message of Come From Away resonated with people originally, since the pandemic it has taken on a whole new meaning. With the amount of loss the world has faced over the last 18 months and the anxiety that is felt by so many of us, the hope and kindness that is at the heart of this story is more relatable than ever, and makes what is already an emotional show all the more intense.
In Come From Away, we honour what was lost but also commemorate what was found - this story demonstrates the very best in humanity and is a gorgeous tribute to all of those whose lives were cruelly taken away from them. Experiencing this show in the theatre is a revelation, and I'm pleased to say watching it at home is just as powerful. A beautiful addition to the legacy of an important and excellent show, if you plan to watch it at home - put a candle in the window, the kettle on, make sure you have a box of tissues nearby and get ready for musical theatre at its finest.
Come From Away is streaming now on AppleTV+. Here's the trailer: