7 March 2022
COME FROM AWAY (Phoenix Theatre) Review

I’d been dodging this production for a nice long while.  Not a fan of musicals at best of times, I’ve seen my share of them nevertheless, and most of them invariably leave me wondering why we couldn’t just have a nice clever play about the subject instead.  That being the case, I wasn’t overly inclined to go see a bunch of singing and dancing about the people that got grounded in Newfoundland after the 9/11 attacks.  Talk about a subject about which we don’t need to have an evening of lighthearted music.  Yet several friends have been to see it over the years, and they all said this one was clever and wonderful and enjoyable and all that.  With the show due to end in London this October, coupled finding a cheap ticket, I figured why not and went to see it.

Shockingly, I was pleasantly surprised, my scepticism notwithstanding.  It was very nicely done.  Yes, there was a lot of singing and dancing, but it somehow didn’t feel like the actors were randomly breaking into a song mid-sentence.  With a cast of 12 each representing several people on stage, the costume “tweaks” were extra smooth (can’t really call them “changes” as such: a jacket here, a hat there, etc.), so there was never any confusion as to who was who.

There are lots of humorous bits, but, tactfully, none are about the tragedy at hand.  The drunk passenger singing Celine Dion got a jolly laugh, as did the chef asking for the recipe of the questionable “fish with cheese” dish.  Little things, really, but they managed to lift the mood in just the right way.

The central stories are well though-out and are streamlined to avoid everyone becoming a mess of indistinguishable faces.  Can’t believe I am saying it, but this might actually work better as a musical than it would as a play!

What made me sad throughout the play is the realisation that this overwhelming coming together only happened because it did in a small remote community.  I am sorry, but I just don’t see this playing out in London or New York or any massively urban place.  That’s not to say, of course, that people in these cities wouldn’t be of generous spirit.  I just think everything would get bogged down by semantics and eventually break down.

A thought-provoking drama this is not, but it still makes for a wonderful night of positivity and optimism, of which we could all use a bit more these days.

Cheapskate enjoyment value: £5.

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