So it’s been a week since we found out the incredible cast for the UK & Ireland runs of hit musical Come From Away. West End favourite Rachel Tucker returns to lead a company that also includes David Shannon, Clive Carter, Nathanael Campbell, Jonathan Andrew Hume, Emma Salvo, Mary Doherty, Harry Morrison, Robert Hands, Cat Simmons, Helen Hobson and Jenna Boyd.
The cast hadn’t officially begun rehearsals, but a few of them were on hand to perform a few numbers for everyone gathered. Hopefully you were following my Instagram stories during the course of the morning, to catch a tantalising snippet of a couple of them.
— Mind the Blog (@Mind_the_Blog) October 10, 2018
I arrived at Canada House not knowing a thing about the show (aside from it being the ‘9/11 musical’), and left there having to resist the urge to immediately download the Broadway cast recording. But for those of you who weren’t there to hear the performances or experience Canada’s hospitality for yourselves, why should you make a date with the UK & Ireland production?
First and foremost, it’s a true story. More extraordinary things happen in real life than you might first think, and they pretty much always make for compelling viewing (whether on stage or screen). Come From Away is a timely reminder of the humanity we’re all capable of, showing how a little bit of kindness can go a long way – especially in times of adversity. Though if you were affected by the 9/11 attacks, I presume there’s a potential trigger risk at certain points so maybe try and find someone more helpful than me who can confirm or deny this.
From the little I’ve heard, it sounds like a great illustration of storytelling through song; the sheer amount of detail and context that’s provided in Welcome to the Rock is a good example, as it manages to get across so much information whilst also being an incredibly catchy and memorable song. As far as I can tell, the show is almost entirely sung-through – when this is done well it is a very powerful format, so I’m definitely intrigued to see if Irene Sankoff & David Hein’s music, book & lyrics can pull this off.
It’s 1 hour 40 minutes without an interval. Granted, this is off-putting to some, but we absolutely need some more of these straight-through shows back in our bigger venues – a balance of epics (Antony & Cleopatra at the National – 3 hours 30 minutes) with the short & sweet is vital. Whilst it’s nice to have a bit of time to stretch your legs/go to the toilet/check your phone, for me it’s far more satisfying for things to just carry on if there’s no natural break. And if you’re also someone who’s at shows most nights but has an early alarm for work the next day, it’s quite soul-destroying to have a chain of medium/long shows without a nice straight-through treat!
Not that it’s always the endorsement it should be (when you consider The Only Way Is Essex is on a list of BAFTA winners), but it’s multi-award-nominated and has a Tony for Best Direction of a Musical to its name. Consider the fact that it was up against Dear Evan Hansen, and its 14% success rate at the Tonys (one win out of seven nominations) is perhaps a little more understandable.
Finally, the Phoenix Theatre has never quite been the same since Once left in 2015 – this seems like the ideal location for another moving musical tale. With any luck it’ll get its feet under the table and stay with us for some time to come, once it’s made its European debut in Dublin.
Come From Away runs at the Abbey Theatre (Dublin) from 6 December 2018-19 January 2019 and then at the Phoenix Theatre (West End) from 30 January-25 May 2019. Tickets are available online and from individual box offices.