Everything You Need to Know About ‘Come From Away’ in London
A 9/11 inspired show may not seem like an uplifting topic for a musical. But, get rid of any preconceived notion you may have about what could be featured in a 9/11 musical, and instead be wowed by the inspirational, courageous and true stories as told in Come From Away.
Based on interviews with some of the 7,000 air passengers and pilots stranded in Newfoundland on 11 Sept. 2001, Come From Away sees local residents and international travellers come together to form a global community like no other. Having made its mark on Broadway, the London production of Come From Away has had audiences wanting to “kiss the fish” in Gander.
Here’s our complete guide to the West End production of Come From Away, with Come From Away tickets now available on LondonTheatre.co.uk.
What is Come From Away about?
On 11 Sept. 2001, the world changed forever. At 8:46am, the first plane struck the Twin Towers in New York, changing the city’s landscape and future. The 9/11 attacks resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths, but new lives and communities were born out of tragedy.
As planes were diverted from New York, 38 planes were forced to land in Gander, a small town in Newfoundland with a population of just 11,000. Keeping 7,000 stranded passengers calm was no mean feat, but Come From Away tells of how a Canadian community welcomed them, open arms and all.
Come From Away does not have one plot, instead there’s snapshots of the many people that unexpectedly found themselves on Canadian soil. There’s Beverley Bass, the first female captain of an American Airlines plane. There’s Janice Mosher, a Gander reporter who comments on the developing story while on home turf. There’s Nick and Diane, two passengers who fall in love and eventually get married. As you watch the musical, you’ll discover just how incredible their stories are. Come From Away really is a tonic for humanity today.
Is Come From Away based on a true story?
Rather than based on one story, Come From Away is an amalgamation of hundreds of real life stories. In 2011, writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein travelled to the Newfoundland town to learn more about what happened during these fateful days. Upon meeting the residents, the duo found their new musical inspiration — a positive, aspirational musical that championed these individuals.
As part of developing the London production, cast members and the individuals portrayed in Come From Away met each other, discussing the importance of spreading their stories. You can watch interviews with cast members and show muses here.
When did Come From Away premiere?
The world premiere of Come From Away was held at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, with performances from 29 May - 12 July 2015. Out of town tryouts were then held across North America, with engagements at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC and the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. In 2016, a concert version of Come From Away was even staged at Steele Community Centre in Gander.
Highly anticipated after its regional runs, the Broadway premiere of Come From Away came to the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Performances began from 18 Feb. 2017, ahead of an opening night on 12 March, where Come From Away is currently running. Touring productions in the United States and Canada are still going strong too, with over two years of performances.
European audiences were finally treated to Come From Away in late 2018, with six weeks of shows at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre from 6 Dec. 2018. Eventually, the West End premiere came to London’s Phoenix Theatre from 31 Jan. 2019, with an opening night on 18 Feb. 2019.
Global productions of Come From Away are also scheduled for Australia and China; the “come from aways” are definitely welcomed in the worldwide theatre community.
Who wrote Come From Away?
Come From Away features a book, music and lyrics by husband and wife duo Irene Sankoff and David Hein. The Canadian couple met while studying at York University, both moving to New York in 1999. Living in New York during the 9/11 attacks, they worked on musical projects together, first striking a hit with My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding. Theatre producer Michael Rubinoff then approached the pair with an idea for a musical, which eventually snowballed and became Come From Away.
Who is in the cast of Come From Away?
As Come From Away cast members have to multi-role during the performance, all actors have to play at least two roles.
The current London cast of Come From Away includes Alice Fearn as Beverley/Annette and others. Her previous credits include Wicked as Elphaba and The Woman in White.
Jenna Boyd plays Beulah and others, with James Doherty as Claude and others, Mary Doherty as Bonnie and others, Mark Dugdale as Kevin T/Garth and others, Kate Graham as Diane and others, Alasdair Harvey as Nick/Doug and others, Jonathan Andrew Hume as Kevin J/Ali and others, Harry Morrison as Oz and others, Sam Oladeinde as Bob and others, Emma Salvo as Janice and others and Gemma Knight Jones as Hannah and others with Chiara Baronti, Ricardo Castro, Stuart Hickey, Sorelle Marsh, Alexander McMorran, Micha Richardson, Jennifer Tierney and Matthew Whennell-Clark.
What theatre in London is Come From Away playing at?
Come From Away is at the Phoenix Theatre in London. Opening in 1930, the Phoenix Theatre was once a music hall, casino and cabaret venue. Recent shows at the Phoenix Theatre include a 21st anniversary revival of Chicago, The Exorcist and The Girls.
What is the running time of Come From Away?
The running time of Come From Away in London is 1 hour and 40 minutes with no interval. Come From Away is a one act musical.
What are the songs in Come From Away?
Come From Away is a sung-through musical, this means that the entire story is told through song, rather than in scenes. As all actors multi-role, it can be confusing to listen to the soundtrack at first; you may think that one character sings when it’s actually another. The best way to combat the confusion is to see the show for yourself.
Here’s the full list of songs in Come From Away, with the original Broadway cast recording below.
"Welcome to the Rock" – Claude, Company
"38 Planes" – Company
"Blankets and Bedding" – Company
"28 Hours / Wherever We Are" – Company
"Darkness and Trees" – Company
"On the Bus" – Company
"Darkness and Trees (Reprise)" – Company
"Lead Us Out of the Night" – Company
"Phoning Home" – Company
"Costume Party" – Diane, Kevin T, Beverley, Hannah, Kevin J, Nick, Bob
"I Am Here" – Hannah
"Prayer" – Kevin T, Company
"On the Edge" – Company
"In the Bar/Heave Away" – Company
"Screech In" – Claude, Company
"Me and the Sky" – Beverley, Female Ensemble
"The Dover Fault" – Nick, Diane
"Stop the World" – Nick, Diane, Company
"38 Planes (Reprise) / Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere" – Beverley, Company
"Something's Missing" – Company
"Finale" – Claude, Company
What are the reviews of Come From Away?
Based on true events rather than a pre-existing film, television show or book, critics were able to watch Come From Away with an open mind. What reviewers didn’t expect was just how much Come From Away would take over their mind. In a five star review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, “Come From Away is in a category of its own: a genuinely original musical... that is full of heart, truth and genuine emotion. It's a show with an impact that’s difficult to describe: it feels like it creeps up on you unawares, before flooring you.”
It’s not just us that loved Come From Away though. The Stage’s Tim Bano said: “Under Christopher Ashley’s expansive direction, it flows from scene to scene without stopping for breath, giving a taste of the adrenaline, upheaval and exhaustion the Newfoundlanders must have felt. It’s hard not to be moved by a show this strong, and one that proves how good intentions can pave the way to heaven, or at least a higher form of humanity.” The Times' Dominic Maxwell shared a similar thought, at first questioning whether a 9/11 musical could be positive. His scepticism is quickly allayed, saying: “See the show in the West End, though, and it takes all of ten seconds to be in its generous embrace. You stay there for the next 100 minutes: laughing, tapping your foot, wiping away tears, feeling good about humanity — what a rare, welcome feeling that is these days — without ever feeling you’re just being sold gloopy musical-theatre good cheer.”
What awards has Come From Away won?
Critics gave Come From Away unanimous praise. Audiences leave the theatre in floods of tears, emotionally swept away by the poignant storylines. It’s no surprise really that the London production of Come From Away has taken home awards. Here’s all the major awards that Come From Away has won, both in London and Broadway.
Best New Musical
Outstanding Achievement in Music - David Hein, Irene Sankoff, Ian Eisendrath, August Eriksmoen, Alan Berry, and the band
Best Theatre Choreographer - Kelly Devine
Best Sound Design - Gareth Owen
Best Direction of a Musical - Christopher Ashley
Drama Desk Awards
Outstanding Book of a Musical - Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical - Jenn Colella
Will there be a movie adaptation of Come From Away?
On 2 February, it was confirmed that a film version of the stage production of Come From Away will happen. Come From Away will be released in September 2021 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Twin Towers attacks in New York. The performance will be filmed at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, starring the Broadway cast. Read more information on New York Theatre Guide.
At the moment, a Come From Away movie is in the works, but it’s in the early stages. In 2019, Irene Sankoff and David Hein confirmed their desire to create a Come From Away movie, with the pair wanting to showcase the kindred spirits that live in Gander and Newfoundland. In fact, they even want Gander residents to take part too, so the movie will have an added level of authenticity too. Where do we sign up to take part?
What are some fun facts about Come From Away?
There are over 70 characters presented in Come From Away. Just a simple hat change on stage or throwing on a jacket signifies a totally different character.
In the London production, real life siblings James Doherty and Mary Doherty star in the show. It’s the first time they’ve ever appeared on stage together.
255 aircraft were diverted to 17 different airports across Canada after 9/11. The 38 planes referenced in Come From Away were part of Operation Yellow Ribbon.
A “come from away” is now common Gander vernacular. It means a traveller who comes to Newfoundland that wasn’t born there.
How do I get tickets for Come From Away in London?
Come From Away performances are currently scheduled in London from 22 July to 18 Dec. 2021.
Come From Away tickets are available now.
Photo credit: Come From Away cast (Photo by Craig Sugden)