A busy and expensive time of year for me with Nikki’s birthday and her (our) 25th wedding anniversary in quick succession and part of the celebrations, we are set take in a West End musical and this holds some trepidation for me.
You see, not really my thing, musicals. Too formulaic. Big opening number (usually, very loud and shouty) to get our attention followed by too often, rather pointless songs and without a discernible tune for my tone-deaf ear at any rate and then the big rousing shouty number to finish things up.
We have booked tickets (er, Nikki has) and not for a known quantity, either. Not a Phantom in site, or a Joseph, not Mamma Mia, Hamilton or Mormon – so what then, a new musical!
“What”s it called?” I ask, a day or so out.
“What is what called?”
“The play. The thing we are seeing at the theatre.”
“Er…” She pauses to think. “Erm…”
How can she not know? Surely, this is not a good sign.
“Come away with me.”
“No. That’s not it. Erm… Maybe, something like, Come Over Here… look, I’m not sure. But definitely, something about coming somewhere, anyway.”
“How can you not know what it’s called?” I ask, not unreasonably.
“I can’t remember what it’s called. But it’s about 9/11…”
A musical about the world’s biggest ever terrorist atrocity. Oh God.
Knowing me well (25 years, remember), Nikki picks up on this and is keen to reassure me. ‘It’s got great reviews’ but this is little comfort since critics and I agree largely on nothing.
Once again, Nikki picks up on this and so she opts for personal endorsements and much closer to home.
“Steve loved it.”
This is not much consolation either. Not if we are thinking of the same Steve because the Steve I am thinking of is an avid fan of Strictly Come Dancing and even refers to it as Strictly.
It is the same Steve btw.
I always enjoy the excitement of entering an auditorium and particularly so when I am not expected to take to the stage myself. The Phoenix Theatre – a little along from Leicester Square, one of the many West End stages I have not yet managed to grace in my stop-start stand-up career.
Some good news before curtain up – only one act – we are set to go straight through with no interval, which is great. Down by 9pm – home by 10 – perfect for a man of my advancing years.
And btw – Come From Away – is the title. A silly name because it is so difficult to recall but more of this later.
And at 7.30 – the place is rammed and so it begins…
A shouty loud number to get things underway. Who knew? So, things do not bode well.
There follows 90 minutes of a dozen actors on stage with a minimalist set, collaborating with the audience and our imaginations to recreate the chaos of what happens when hundreds of flights are diverted from across the US to land in Newfoundland and the immediate days thereafter.
Yes. This is it. Nothing more. 7000 people unexpectedly descending from the skies to overwhelm a small rural community. All with just a dozen actors with little more than a few chairs.
During these 90 minutes, there are many songs – none of which are sufficiently memorable so that I can hum them now. Included are a few moments of levity but only an occasional laugh-out-moment and yet by the 90th minute… like everyone else in the theatre, I was on my feet, clapping, stamping and cheering the brilliance of what I had just seen.
It is a remarkable experience – completely exhilarating. Rather cleverly, it avoids mention of the twin towers completely – unnecessary perhaps, since we all have graphic memories of our own and don’t need reminding of a day where everyone over a certain age, recalls exactly where they were and what they were doing.
This is a true story of humanity and beauty. What we lost that day and what these protagonists gained – which because of this remarkable play, we can now share in also.
Come From Away – a pesky title to remember but appropriate since this is the phrase of the local Newfoundlanders to describe visitors of people to their remote idyll.
A poster to promote the musical features a quote by the journalist, Nick Curtis – “THE IS THE SHOW THAT WE ALL NEED RIGHT NOW”
A clever reference to the heart of the show and the unsteady and uncertain political times that we are amidst.
I’ve met Nick Curtis. He has been to my house, no less. A while ago now, to interview Tom when The Impossible was released. The piece he wrote was generous and kind and I recall vividly how it ended. “Tom Holland. Good actor. Nice kid.”
I agreed with Nick then and I agree with him now.
This is a wonderful play – and today being September 11th, this is a timely date to post this blog.