Come From Away is not your everyday musical. “It breaks a lot of the predictable musical theatre rules” says Broadway veteran, Rachel Tucker, speaking to The University Times. It is set in the wake of the September 11th attacks, with 7,000 people finding themselves stranded in Gander, Newfoundland with no means of getting home. However, a community is formed and hope is found in the midst of the days following the devastation. In a unique opportunity, The University Times spoke to the ensemble about the landmark production.
In a first, the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s national theatre, is staging the European premiere of a Broadway smash-hit. Having toured North America for a number of months, the production reached Broadway in March 2017 and has been playing to full houses ever since. “I think it’s incredibly important that the Abbey, our national theatre, is co-producing a show of this scale” said Irish actor, David Shannon. Set in Newfoundland, the production plays on the island’s historical links to Ireland. “I think it will really resonate with the Irish people”, Shannon said. The production also gives patrons the opportunity to see a Broadway show at Abbey prices (including a free first preview). Tucker raved: “I would love people who don’t normally come to watch musicals to see this piece.” Speaking about the accessibility of the Abbey, she continued: “This musical is for everyone to see! Getting a West End/Broadway production for these prices? It’s a must!”
As stated previously, Come From Away is not your everyday musical. With an ensemble of 12, the show might appear to boast a cosy cast. However, that is far from the truth, with each ensemble member donning multiple characters. “It’s difficult to jump between characters with truth and maintaining the physicality during transitions”, Nathanael Campbell said. Playing characters such as Bob, and others, Campbell made sure to highlight the pros of such a task, saying: “We are able to play all kinds of people in the same show. As an actor, given the chance to play everyday is really fun”. On researching the story, Jenna Boyd gave an interesting insight. “YouTube has been my friend!”, she began, referencing to popular website. “The documentaries around the real-life events and also the interviews conducted with the people of Gander have been my rock!”.
Portraying the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, the production’s pace reflects the shock and confusion caused by the attacks, while also instilling hope, which some audience members might find surprising. Cast member Mary Doherty explained it best, saying: “It’s full on, as it must have felt to the community of Gander, I’m sure!” With reference to keeping the authenticity of the story, Doherty continued, “7,000 people suddenly getting stranded in their town happened incredibly quickly and so as the real life, true story is incredibly urgent and fast paced.” Running just over 100 minutes with no interval, the piece promises to keep audiences on their toes, with Tucker adding “there’s not a second to second guess or applaud even – it’s non-stop!”.
When each ensemble member was asked why this production speaks to the current moment, a variety of answers were given. However, it is clear that the messages of community and hope shine through.David Shannon emphasised the “humanity and kindness of strangers”, highlighting how it ties in with the refugee crisis. Jenna Boyd took a different angle, paying due to the “kindness, love and compassion extended to the animals” seen in the production, a moment of “true humanity” in her eyes. Rachel Tucker best summarised the entirety of the production’s relevance and essence. “It very much reminds us that being a kind and giving human being is still the best possible approach in the face of the worst human actions”, she began. “And given the state of world politics at the moment, Come From Away feels like it’s even more relevant now than when it first opened on Broadway in 2017.”