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Film Review

COME FROM AWAY (2021) Review

“A tour de force of musical genius” says Neil in his review of Apple TV+’s upcoming COME FROM AWAY film, streaming September 10.

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Petrina Bromley, Jenn Colella, Tony LePage, Caesar Samayoa, Astrid Van Wieren, Emily Walton, Jim Walton, Sharon Wheatley and Paul Whitty in “Come From Away,” premiering September 10, 2021 on Apple TV+.

Come From Away premieres globally on Apple TV+ on Friday, September 10.

Synopsis

Come From Away tells the story of 7,000 people stranded in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland after all flights into the US are grounded on September 11, 2001. As the people of Newfoundland graciously welcome the “come from aways” into their community in the aftermath, the passengers and locals alike process what’s happened while finding love, laughter, and new hope in the unlikely and lasting bonds that they forge.

Review

Shortly before watching Apple TV+’s Come From Away I had the great pleasure of seeing the musical first-hand in London’s West End. Given this year marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks the timing feels perfect to take this theatrical gem and beam it in to the living rooms of millions across the globe.

Directed by Tony Award-winner Christopher Ashley, who directed the original Broadway production, this filmed performance of Come From Away reunites much of the show’s original cast.

Despite the intrusion of a full camera crew and having to deal with Covid-19 restrictions, this cast slots perfectly back in to their roles and back on to the stage. The bonds built between them over 100s of performances are clear and translate beautifully to the screen.

The story of Come From Away requires the 12-strong lead cast to take on multiple characters. Each communicated to the audience by a subtle change in costume or by the use of a prop. Seasoned pros like Jenn Colella and Ceaser Samayoa transition between roles with ease, never removing the audience from the story.

It’s striking how many characters inhabit the stage throughout the story. But not as striking as just how much each of their stories will impact on you. From struggles of Beulah, the schoolteacher housing 7,000 refugees, to Ali, the chef who is scorned by his fellow passengers for his Middle Eastern roots. Even the story of Unga, the rare Bonobo Monkey found in the cargo hold of one of the planes, will leave a tear in your eye.

The broadway production itself is choreographed by Tony Award nominee and Olivier Award winner, Kelly Devine, and music supervision by Olivier Award winner and Grammy Award nominee, Ian Eisendrath. The original book, music and lyrics were written by Tony and Grammy Award nominees and Olivier Award winners Irene Sankoff and David Hein,both act as executive producers on this film.

The live performance was filmed at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre this past May in New York City, where the Broadway production is staged, for an audience that included 9/11 survivors and front-line workers; and, employed over 200 people including members of the Broadway crew, staff and creative teams.  

What concerned me most having just seen the stage show was whether the emotion would translate well to the screen. I need not have worried. Come From Away perfectly encapsulates the feeling of hopelessness that followed the events of September 11 without focussing directly on events themselves.

The story effortlessly balances comedy and grief to strike deep in to the heart of the scenario. The selfless people of Gander opened up their town, their homes and their hearts to these weary travellers and together they found solace in a time of great tragedy. During the closing moments of the show, during the song “Something’s Missing,” the character of Bob puts it best. He says “My Dad asks: Were you okay where you were stranded? How do I tell him that I wasn’t just okay, I was so much better.”

There are no major dance numbers here. Come From Away is a mostly recitative musical which runs straight through without an interval. The consistent tempo and Celtic-inspired sounds give the piece a great through-line. It’s almost like witnessing a visual album, albeit one with an incredible story. It’s also not a vehicle designed to push any character to the centre ahead of others. It’s a true ensemble piece in every sense of the word.

Verdict

Come From Away is a tour de force of musical genius, it’s sophisticated and flawlessly executed. With no interference from the production team this film is as close to the theatre experience as you can get.


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