Welcome to the Rock

Come From Away is such an amazing show and I thought it would be worth talking about on here! I have seen Come From Away twice now, both times seeing the Toronto company at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, and both times I was blown away. I actually missed the show during the inital, pre-Broadway Toronto run but when it came back I knew I couldn’t miss it again! I did have the pleasure of seeing Jenn Colella sing “Me and the Sky” at BroadwayCon and then I saw the Broadway Company perform “Welcome to the Rock” when I went to Stars in the Alley. Both of those performances made me regret even more missing the show the first time it was in Toronto and reaffirmed that I needed to see it when I could! And now I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it twice. If you are not aware, Come From Away is based on the true story of when 38 planes were diverted to the small town of Gander in Newfoundland on September 11, 2001. The actors play multiple characters including those who live in the town as well as people who were on the planes. There’s no denying it is a very emotional show. I found myself on the verge of tears throughout but didn’t let them fall until closer to the end- if you’ve seen the show, you probably know the moment(s) when I couldn’t hold it in anymore (admittedly I do also cry fairly easily at things). But it’s also a very heartwarming story about people from different backgrounds coming together in the face of tragedy, and what happens when this small Newfoundland town of 9000 is doubled in size from the passengers of those planes. The show moves very well between light, humourous moments and the more serious, emotional moments of the situation. The show runs without an intermission which is very much for the best. It never drags and runs so smoothly from start to finish.

The actors move seemlessly between their characters- whether they’re a Newfoundlander or one of the “plane people,” whether a named character we see throughout or someone only present for one scene- with just a slight change of costume (like the addition or subtraction of a piece like a hat or jacket) and/or a change of accent. It could easily be difficult to keep track of the characters and who is who when but it’s really not, it’s always clear, which is a testament to the actors, the direction, and the writing.

I love the simplicity of the show’s design (at least in terms of set and costume). Yes, there is a revolve on the stage, which adds to the technological complexity, but the set mainly consists of some chairs and tables, and a couple of doors in the back wall. The cast are the ones who move the furniture around the stage. I do love when the movement of the set becomes a part of the story, part of the choreography. The costumes too are quite simple each actor wearing one outfit throughout with hats, jackets, sweaters and/or props being used to differentiate the characters. They have to move so quickly between the characters that’s all there’s time for, but more than that, it’s all that’s needed. I love the simplicity of it and all of the actors do such a great job!

Then there’s the music. It’s such a wonderful story and the music they use to tell it is beautiful. (You know a show is emotional when it still gets you when you’re just listening to the cast recording!) The use of the band in the show is really great. The band members themselves are a part of the show being positioned (visibly) at the sides of the stage and being brought into the action on the stage in some scenes. Considering the strong presence of music in East Coast culture it makes sense and is just another significant element of this greatly successful show.

It’s so exciting that there is a Canadian show, a Canadian story written by Canadians, that is doing so well, and doing so well on a global scale. There’s the Tony nominated (and Tony winning for Best Director) Broadway production, the Toronto production which will be transferring from the Royal Alexandra to the Elgin theatre next year to keep the run going (there’s certainly a reason it keeps getting extended), the National Tour that’s about to start, and they just announced the cast for the London production. And there are plans for a movie as well.

If you get the chance to see this show, whichever production you can see, I would highly recommend it!

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