Casting has been announced for Come From Away the Tony Award-winning musical which will land in London for its long-awaited UK premiere at the Phoenix Theatre next year. We were lucky enough to attend the launch event, here’s what our reviewer thought:
Come From Away is a multi-award winning musical making its European premiere in Dublin this December before sliding comfortably into the West End in late January 2019. I was at the official launch event at the gorgeous Canada House by Trafalgar Square, crammed full of industry types tucking into a Canadian-themed maple-syrup-heavy breakfast.
We were introduced to the bulk of the new cast, and they treated us to three songs from the show: a stirring, foot-stomping introductory song, “Welcome to the Rock”; a touching solo, “Me and the Sky”; and finally, “Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere”, a similarly rousing feel-good anthem that left everyone on a high. The musical tells the true story of the people of Gander, Newfoundland, who cared for and were hospitable to around 7,000 stranded air passengers whose flights were diverted to the tiny town in the aftermath of 9/11. It’s a fascinating story exploring kindness, friendship and community in the wake of a national crisis, and will make for a joyful and feel-good musical.
The songs on display here, though wordy and exposition-crammed, were wonderfully performed by a strong and diverse cast, with Rachel Tucker’s rendition of “Me and the Sky” the highlight of the three for its clear storytelling and emotional twist. This will be a popular show, telling a little known yet fascinating story that will inform, surprise and ultimately leave an audience tapping their feet, and wanting to get on down to Newfoundland to see what all the fuss is about. We look forward to its premiere in London next year.
The cast will be Jenna Boyd (Beulah and others), Nathanael Campbell (Bob and others), Clive Carter (Claude and others), Mary Doherty (Bonnie and others), Robert Hands (Nick, Doug and others), Helen Hobson (Diane and others), Jonathan Andrew Hume (Kevin J, Ali and others), Harry Morrison (Oz and others), Emma Salvo (Janice and others), David Shannon (Kevin T, Garth and others), Cat Simmons (Hannah and others) and Rachel Tucker (Beverley, Annette and others) with Mark Dugdale, Bob Harms, Kiara Jay, Kirsty Malpass, Tania Mathurin, Alexander McMorran, Brandon Lee Sears and Jennifer Tierney.
ComeFromAway features a book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein and is directed by Christopher Ashley, with musical staging by Kelly Devine, music supervision and arrangements by Ian Eisendrath, scenic design byBeowulf Boritt, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Gareth Owen, orchestrations by August Eriksmoen, and casting by Pippa Ailion CDG and Natalie Gallacher CDG.
Joseph Prestwich was at the Come From Away launch
Cast Photography by Helen Maybanks
Broadway Production Image by Matthew Murphy
COME FROM AWAY
Phoenix Theatre, London
previews from 30th January 2019 opening 18th February
“the evening becomes muddled when Music Hall and Musical Theatre seem to pitch battle against each other”
You can see why Lil Warren, the writer and creator behind “Oranges and Elephants”, fell in love with Hoxton Hall. Restored to its former glory it seems to bring history to life the moment you walk in. The perfect setting, then, for her new musical about rival Victorian gangs and their links to London’s Music Hall world.
Impeccably researched (Warren is an East End girl herself) it focuses on two all-female street gangs: the ‘Elephants’ and the more psychotic ‘Oranges’. We are at the tail end of a long running feud as they battle against their wits, each other, and extinction. The all female cast, far from being a modern day, buzz worthy contrivance, pinpoints the historical truth that this underworld wasn’t just the preserve of men. This is a story of how important your wits are to survive if you are poor and a woman in Victorian London. But gender aside, it is difficult to believe in the characters’ desperation and fear when they often drift into caricature.
The evening is presided over by the ringmaster figure of Susannah van den Berg who narrates with equal measures of gusto and smut, getting the audience firmly on her side. She leads us through the streets of London, and through the action. Into the midst of the gang warfare, the ingénue (but don’t be fooled by appearances) runaway Mary wanders. She wants to be a Music Hall star, while the leaders of the two gangs both want to ‘own’ her. Mary is initially ensnared by Flo (a convincingly cutthroat Kate Adams), the leader of the ‘Oranges’, until Nellie of the ‘Elephants’ falls in love with her and they try to escape from thievery to the bright lights of Piccadilly.
Although concisely conveyed, the evening becomes muddled when Music Hall and Musical Theatre seem to pitch battle against each other, and the strength of the narrative gets lost in the scuffle. That said, the level of musicianship is consistently excellent and there are some very memorable and outstanding numbers in Jo Collins’ score. Liz Kitchen’s Sondheimesque solo to name one, along with a fierce revenge ballad superbly delivered by the charismatic Rebecca Bainbridge. But the stars of the show are undoubtedly the multi-talented Christina Tedders who plays Nellie, and Sinead Long (the runaway Mary). It is no surprise to see them share a heart-wrenching duet before tragedy strikes. Tedders’ virtuosity on the violin is matched by her singing voice, while Long has star quality written all over her.
At over two hours this is initially a slow burner that does eventually win you over. With a bit of pruning it could make its job that much easier. Yes – it is the perfect musical for Hoxton Hall – but, like the characters within it, it might find it a struggle to outreach its life expectancy if it strays from its home turf. I’d like to think it has a long and healthy life, and if it can adapt and survive, it deserves to find a wider audience out there.