Review: Come From Away (Apple TV+, online)

On the 11 September 2021, it will mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. To commemorate the anniversary, Apple TV+ have filmed a performance of the Broadway production of Come From Away, released to subscribers on 10 September.

Come From Away is set in the town of Gander, Newfoundland, where 38 planes were diverted in the aftermath of the attacks. It may not seem obvious material for a musical, but the book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein look at the events of one week through the eyes of Newfoundlanders and the passengers from around the world who found themselves there.

This Apple Original film does not shy away from its stage origins; a deliberate decision was made to perform the show in front of an audience in order to keep the intimacy of the show. Director Christopher Ashley knows when to stand back and let the whole scene and staging do its work, and when to focus in on particular moments. In this way a five-star musical on stage becomes a five-star musical on screen.

There are no ‘stars’ in Come From Away. Each actor plays multiple roles with just a change of a garment or a slight adjustment to a physical characteristic. Most characters are based on real people who were caught up in the events depicted: the most affecting stories are that of Nick (Jim Walton) and Diane (Sharon Wheatley), who find love; airline pilot Beverly Bass (Jenn Colella) who has risen through the ranks; and Hannah O’Rourke (Q Smith), who is desperately trying to reach her firefighter son back home.

Promotional image for Apple TV+'s release of Come From Away

Smalller moments have their time, too, as jokes and kindness, and the Newfoundland cod, contribute to a feeling that somehow there is not simply death and disaster in the world. The music, played by a hugely talented band, both lifts the spirits and has moments of grace. As the camera captures the detail of the story, the twelve strong cast never miss a beat as they navigate romance, friendship, loneliness, misunderstanding, and generosity.

Come From Away is the musical we perhaps all need after a trying year of pandemic and uncertainty. It never stoops to lighten the situation by making it too saccharine, nor does it wallow in the doom and gloom of the fear of being stranded “on the edge of the world”. You’ll laugh, tap your feet, stop to think, and maybe wipe away a tear, as 7,000 people find a welcome at “the start of a moment”.

Filmed in May 2021 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater in New York, the audience included 9/11 survivors and front-line workers. As well as Colella, Wheatley, and Smith, other original Come From Away cast members in the film are Petrina Bromley (Bonnie), Joel Hatch (Claude), Caesar Samaoya (Kevin J/Ali) and Astrid Van Wieren (Beulah).They are joined by Emily Walton (Janice), Jim Walton (Nick), D’Lon Grant (Bob), Tony LePage (Kevin T) and Paul Whitty (Oz).

Come From Away premieres globally on Apple TV from 10 September.

LouReviews received complimentary access to review Come From Away.

Read my previous reviews of Come From Away: original London cast; reopening night 2021.