FeaturedMusicalReviewSouth West

Come From Away – Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Reviewer Barbara Michaels

Book, music and lyrics: Irene Sankoff and David Hein

Director: Christopher Ashley

A rainy Tuesday evening and a packed theatre says it all. The hype preceding this highly charged and innovative musical based on the 9/11 air crash, Come From Away is – unusually – entirely justified.

The true to life story of how 6,579 passengers and crew on one of the planes divertedelsewhere following the collapse of the twin towers landed on Gander, a small isolated town in Newfoundland has been turned into an innovative musical that tugs at the heartstrings. Despite culture clashes and language barriers, the people of Gander rise to help the bewildered and apprehensive passengers whole heartedly with shelter, food, kindly reassurance, music and song.

Based on what happened on Gander immediately before their arrival, during their stay and their eventual departure five days’ later. there are subtle links to different cultures and contemporary mores that manage to come across without seeming to preach.

Highs and lows touching issues of class, race and culture follow one another at speed, linked and abetted by foot-tapping musical numbers which follow one another non-stop throughout. An incredibly small cast of 15 play all the parts, segueing with seeming ease from Gander residents to the crew and passengers of the re-routed airliner, plus, a bit of scene shifting when necessary.

On opening night in Cardiff, Kirsty Malpas replaced Rosie Glossop as Bonnie with a believable concern for the animals on the plane overriding that for the human element. Cat lovers in the audience could be forgiving for gulping back the tears at times!

The female lead, Amanda Henderson as Beulah will be well known to many through her TV appearances – notably as Staff nurse Robyn in BBC’s Casualty BBC’s Casualty With her all-embracing capacity for both acting and singing, plus a spot of dance thrown in, Henderson once again proved her worth. Opposite her, Nicholas Pound impresses as the Mayor of Gander, backed up by a multi-talented cast capable of some great Irish Dancing!

Necessary comic relief comes into its own in the last hour with a series of bons mots to make the audience laugh out loud.Great musical numbers, if occasionally a tad overloud but still appropriate (as in Costume Party early on), switching to the melodic as in Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere towards the end., and appropriate throughout with some numbers to set your feet tapping.

Scenery designed by Beowulf Boritt is sparse and easily movable, capturing atmosphere in addition to setting with a few but carefully chosen props.as the story moves between the occupants of Gander and their unexpected guests- from plane to the place of rescue. Howell Binkley’s clever lighting, plus Toni Lesley James’ true to the era costume design are added to the mix.

An immediate standing ovation at the end showed the audience’s appreciation of a musical that is in many ways unique.

Runs until 6th April 2024 and continues on tour.

The Reviews Hub Score

Emotionally Soars!

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The Reviews Hub - South West

The Southwest team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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