Following the premiere, watch our interview with athlete Jonathan Buese.
Running on Broadway since 2017, the Tony Award-winning Come From Away is now set to open in London’s West End from the 30 January 2019.
The musical has celebrated widespread acclaim, not least bagging the Outstanding Broadway Musical award at the 2017 Outer Critics Circle Awards and the coveted Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical, won by Christopher Ashley – who returns to direct the UK production. Breaking records on Broadway, across the United States, and into Canada, the show has proven to be a sell-out success.
With a story based on the beauty of humanity in the face of tragedy, here’s what you need to know about Come From Away.
In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States, 38 planes are diverted to the small community of Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. Met by 7,000 strangers, the people of Gander battle with mistrust and unease to offer hope and homes to those uprooted from their everyday lives. The musical explores the interpersonal relationships, and the positives of humanity, all blossoming on the Canadian island.
As director Christopher Ashley told us when we caught up with him and the cast in Dublin ahead of the show’s premiere there, “Ultimately it’s a story about kindness and generosity and taking care of each other and it’s a real pleasure to tell that story now in a world that finds it challenging to take care of people from other cultures.”
The universal tale has seen sell-out runs on Broadway and in Canada, a North American tour, and is confirmed to open in Australia in the summer of 2019. There is also a feature film in the works.
The UK production will welcome West End and Broadway legend Rachel Tucker, renowned for her portrayal of Elphaba in Wicked. Tucker will take on the roles of Beverley, Anette and others.
Jenna Boyd, Nathanael Campbell, Clive Carter, Mary Doherty, Robert Hands, Helen Hobson, Jonathan Andrew Hume, Harry Morrison, Emma Salvo, David Shannon, and Cat Simmons also join the bill. Mark Dugdale, Bob Harms, Kiara Jay, Kirsty Malpass, Tania Mathurin, Alexander McMorran, Brandon Lee Sears and Jennifer Tierney complete the West End cast.
Come From Away is a profound musical that really speaks volumes about the power of human kindness during uncertain or unfriendly times. It is particularly noteworthy that the London production is happening now, in a world that is so torn up by political turmoil, in the middle of Brexit – although the real strength of Come From Away goes far beyond what is happening in the outside world. The real magic is happening on stage.
Played out against a score that mixes traditional Irish folk music with stirring musical theatre ballads, orchestrations and prayer music, Come From Away hurtles through it’s 90-minutes with panache and emboldened warmth. The ensemble – for this really is an ensemble show – are on stage throughout, switching between roles as Ganderites and Comes From Aways in the blink of an eye.
We hear from travellers whose lives are rocked by the attacks at home, foreigners misplaced in a country that doesn’t speak their language, and homemakers, governmental officials and leaders whose lives are flipped upside down by the arrival of 7,000 strangers.
There are love stories, friendships, and achingly powerful moments where characters struggle to find out what has happened to loved ones back home – through it all though, there is an unrivalled wit and humour to the piece, which just proves that even in the toughest of times, it helps to laugh.
The cast are astounding, shifting between high-octane crowd pleasers like show opener Welcome to the Rock, Heave Away and Screech In, to slower, more isolated moments of storytelling such as Somewhere in the Middle of the Nowhere, Something’s Missing and the epic Me and the Sky with aplomb.
While the simple set (half of the band are also visible on stage, in the wings throughout) only goes to strengthen that the thing that really matters here are the stories at the heart of the show.
As star Jonathan Andrew Hume put it when we met with the cast in Dublin, “There’s a saying that we have in the show where we say this isn’t really 9/11 story, it’s a 9/12 story. It’s really about the days after the tragedy in New York and it’s ultimately about how this one town taught the world how to be human.”
Having premiered in Ireland, Come From Away has celebrated further critical acclaim.
“Theatrical magic. A magnificent musical” – Broadway World
“The show has a heart of gold” – The Irish Times
“An inspiring, uplifting production that engages you from beginning to end” – Dublin Live
“Irresistible! Go and see this show again and again” – The Arts Review
Come From Away previewers at London’s Phoenix Theatre from 30 January 2019, with opening night set for the 18 February 2019.
Tickets for Come From Away are on sale now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.