Come From Away: The New 9/11 Musical Is An Utter Triumph

Come From Away, Phoenix Theatre ★★★★★

Hari Mountford
By Hari Mountford Last edited 12 months ago

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Come From Away: The New 9/11 Musical Is An Utter Triumph Come From Away, Phoenix Theatre 5
Photo: Matthew Murphy

A musical based on the events of 9/11 may not seem like a good idea on the face of it, but just hold that thought until you’ve seen Come From Away, a new production likely to change your mind — and have you offering up a standing ovation.

Transferring from Broadway to London’s Phoenix Theatre, Come from Away is a little-known but true (and now, musicalised) story, focusing on what happened to the planes that had to make an emergency landing in Newfoundland on 9/11. A total of 38 aircraft landed in a small town called Gander, where nearly 7000 passengers, unaware of what had happened in New York, immediately doubled the population.

Photo: Matthew Murphy

Gander’s confusing Irish/American hybrid accent takes a few minutes to understand, but it's a friendly sort of twang. The cast play multiple characters, rising to the challenge of switching between the unusual Newfoundland lilt, and other accents including British, Egyptian and American. Plenty of social groups are represented — we meet a homosexual couple, a Muslim chef, a rabbi and a catholic among the passengers: this, among other things, makes Come From Away seem like a real musical of our time. Rather than a mandatory ‘inclusivity’ tick, though, this mix emphasises the variety of strangers that the townsfolk of Gander took into their homes, and the individuality of each of their stories.

Photo: Matthew Murphy

Rather than gloss over the horror of 9/11, this production shines a light on the positivity that can be found in a time of crisis. Being a short, 1 hour 40 minutes production, this is a rare case of a musical with no interval: the memorable songs and the uplifting story, though, mean that the lack of a mid-way toilet break is, in actual fact, an utter blessing. Laugh out loud moments are interspersed with gasps of shock and (genuine) tears of despair that will give even the most hardened viewer serious goosebumps. Come From Away is this year’s must-see show about the kindness of strangers and the power of people.

Come From Away, Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road,  WC2H 0JG. Tickets from £18, until September 2019.

Last Updated 21 February 2019