This critic has referenced his yearly journey into the West End as part of a broader summer trip a few times on this blog. The big new show he saw in 2019 was Come From Away. He was very sceptical upon hearing the vague premise. Who wants to see a 9/11 musical? Upon a friends recommendation, he took the plunge. As the curtain call closed out the show it was actively quite hard to process what he had just seen. Come From Away is a genuinely transcendent piece of work. It may seem like the worst idea ever pitched on paper. However viewers and listeners would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by it on some level.
A quick bit of research after the show unearthed that a documentary feature had also been made showcasing the extraordinary story. A showcase of how the people of Gander Newfoundland took in 38 planes of passengers that were diverted immediately following 9/11. It features some of the storeys and figures that book and lyrics writers Irene Sackhoff and David Hein used as inspiration. When this critic started using Letterboxed it was one of the titles that immediately went on his watch list despite being broadly unavailable in the UK.
Thankfully the Canadian High Commission within the UK made the piece available for 24 hours as part of or National Canadian Film Day. Knowing that the documentary was available it immediately shorted to the top of this watchlist for that evening. What follows t is this critic’s initial Letterboxed review of the documentary. Rewriting for a different opinion for a different platform was considered. Beyond the switch from 3rd to 1st person, it would be very repetitive, when compared to this viewer already published review. Feel free to follow this blogs creator on Letterboxed. They may also be hints as to what is likely to be covered on this sire. Following the review, there is a translation of this critics rating from the Letterboxed star-based rating system to the numbered approach used for this site. Major thanks to the Come From Away UK social media team (one of this authors favourite social channels for anything regardless of genre.) Also the Canadian High Commission the for putting the virtual screening on.
I remember going to see the West End production of Come From Away thanks to a friends recommendation. I knew it had won Oliviers and that it was 9/11related in some capacity but I had no idea what to expect. When the curtain call closed the show and was met with one of the biggest rounds of applause I’ve seen at any event you know you are in the presence of something special. The kind of morbidly insane pitch that should not get past the first meeting. Yet it would be hard for anyone not to look at the final product as moving on some level. It’s one of the most extraordinary pieces of work I’ve ever seen
This documentary showcasing the real-life story is mostly pretty solid for what it is. It’s fun to see the real inspirations for some of the characters and the accuracy of the little details in the lyrics. The musical is effectively honouring the gravitas of the events that brought the Come From Aways to Gander but ultimately is a feel-good story of human kindness. The documentary tries to juggle both of these tones. Ultimately I’m not sure it’s entirely successful
The final section with the real-life figures preparing for the Broadway premiere is fun for fans. It will be lost on those coming to this as an introduction to these events. While both have their merits, I do recommend the musical as a showcase and what is a truly remarkable story.
The West End production of Come From Away reopens at the Phoenix Theatre on July 22nd.
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