Oz anew

The Wizard of Oz (Beenleigh Theatre Group)

Crete Street Theatre

November 18 – December 3

Thanks to its perennially popular 1939 Judy Garland film, “The Wizard of Oz” is iconic. Beenleigh Theatre Group audiences are reminded of this if not during the familiar story of Act One of the musical, then during interval, which features play of a number of Garland songs. Stepping into the acclaimed actress’ ruby slippers is certainly no easy feat, but Madeline Harper does it with aplomb, and this is not the only strength of the company’s final production for 2022.  

Like so many girls her age, Dorothy Gale dreams of what lies over the rainbow. When a tornado rips through her Kansas home, Dorothy and her dog, Toto (very cute Yorkies Peggotty Pickel Hunt and McGinty Hunt), are whisked away in their house to the magical merry ol’ land of Oz, where, on instruction from the Good Witch of the North, they follow the troublesome Yellow Brick Road toward the Emerald City to meet the Wizard, along the way meeting a Scarecrow in need of a brain, a Tin Man missing a heart, and a Cowardly Lion who longs for courage, who are all somewhat familiar.

Before Frank Baum’s wildly imaginative fairytale morphs into a technicolour account, it starts in the bleakness of Kansas prairie farm life where Uncle Henry (Darcy Morris) and stern Auntie Em (Holly Siemsen) attempt to convince young Dorothy of the need to hand over her pet dog Toto after he bites nasty neighbour Miss Gulch (Alison Pattinson)…. until a tornado strikes in impede of Dorothy’s attempt to run away. It is an opening scene full of foreshadowing through introduction of three farm workers, Hunk (Hudson Bertram), Hickory (Michael Mills) and Zeke (Michael Ware), the later Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion’s, and the wonderful Professor Marvel (Bradley Chapman). To their credit, the company takes its time with this and allows emphasis of the parallels with character appearances to come in the future dream world in which trees come to life and there is always threat of lions and tigers and bears #ohmy.

A multilayered approach ensures that the audience is given a fresh take on a story that is still full of familiar moments and music. Attention to detail is evident in Alicia Caruana and Blake Russell’s costume design (especially in the patchwork, straw-stuffed clothing of the clumsy scarecrow), detailed even down to the sparkle of Dorothy’s iconic blue gingham dress. And fluro hyper-coloured costuming works well to capture the essential cheeriness of the muchkin people who welcome Dorothy to their land in celebration of the ding-don demise of their Wicked Witch of the East tormenter.

The fantasy that lies at heart of the story and its transitions in place can post a challenge for smaller companies, however, BTG are up for the task, creatively making use of the whole Crete Street Theatre space to create levels and allow for clever revelation of the yellow brick road to lead Dorothy and her friends to the imperial capital. From-audience appearances are peppered throughout and Holly Leeson’s choreography keeps things interesting as dancers perform as the tornado transition from Kansas to Oz, with aid from effective sound (Chris Art) and lighting design (Design Brett Roberts, Perry Sanders & Chris Art).

Despite being let down by occasional missed microphone cues, members of the core cast all do a stellar job in their respective roles. From the moment she first appears in a puff overdone cloud of smoke, Abby Page conveys all that is good about Glinda the Good Witch of the North. And Alison Pattinson is magnificent as both the intimidating self-important Miss Gultch and then the curiously smoking Wicked Witch of the West, cackling with threats and intention to avenge her sister’s death and retrieve her ruby red slippers from Dorothy. The star of the show, however, is clearly Harper as the story’s headstrong but also kind-hearted young protagonist. Her vocal pitch is amazing and she doesn’t miss a vocal beat. Her muse to little dog Toto of why only bluebirds fly over the rainbow is a strong, soaring reminder of why the work’s signature song is of the most enduring standards of the 20th century, and she shows brilliant dance skills too in Act Two’s lively ‘Jitterbug’ musical number, which was cut from the MGM movie. 

Bertram makes for a delightful first friend to Dorothy, flopping about all over the place as it really stuffed only of straw and accompanying this with appropriately amplified facial expressions, and Mills gives the Tin Man some tender moments. It is Ware’s nerveless Lion, however, that is the clear audience favourite. Hyperbolically pantomimic in his cheeky animated reactions and repeated failed attempts to be the king of the forest, he draws attention in his every scene appearance.

On-point harmonies result in some superb vocal moments, especially in resolution of dissent chords. The 20-piece orchestra, revealed at the rear of the stage once the story lands in Oz is sharp in its sound, especially when showcased in Entracte as we resume the story in the Emerald City where things aren’t actually so wonderful. Strings and woodwinds feature predominantly in the numbers that introduce each of Dorothy’s companions, ‘If I Only Had a Brain, ‘If I Only Had a Heart’ and ‘If I Only Had the Nerve’, but these also includes some lovely brass accents. And when everything combines to happy us towards interval with the quartet’s performance of ‘We’re Off to See the Wizard’, the result is simply joyous. Act Two provides more opportunities for the orchestra, under the baton of Musical Director Julie Whiting to showcase its versatility with the percussive march of witch’s Winkies and avant-garde ‘Merry Old Land of Oz’ opener, which is full of jazzy brass sounds (and even feature of a tap-dance number).

This is an energetic production brimming with talent in its every aspect. It is a charming retelling of a well-known story worth seeing because, because, because of its new takes as much as familiar reminders of why the classic story of Dorothy’s journey is so universally loved. And it is understandable, therefore, as to why its remaining tickets are selling so quickly.

Photos c/o – Creative Street

Seeing is interweaving

What the Rabbi Saw (Thundering Productions)

Helensvale Library and Cultural Centre

November 4 – 5

What the orthodox Rabbi Huchelman (Brad Kendrick) sees is a pre-wedding act of infidelity between groom Walter (Dan Pohlmann) and his fiancé Wendy’s (Mikayla Maree Melo) sister Claudia (Chantelle Miller). This is just the tip of the iceberg of the antics that ensure in Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore’s 1995’s slapstick comedy “What the Rabbi Saw”. The wedding stress is high from the outset of the Thundering Productions show. As the plot twists around interweaving character stories, there are appearances and reappearances and as-if-from-nowhere arrivals to keep audience members on their toes and always amused.

Under Jack Lovett’s detailed direction, the crazy comedy barely stops in the slapstick farce, thanks to the precision of the choreography of the chaos. Indeed, the production represents a finely tuned exercise in physical comedy as characters all try to hide their exploits and make it to the church on time. Although after the exhilaration of Act One, momentum does wane after interval as things move from mild misunderstandings to a heat-of-the-moment heist thanks to arrival of wedding singer Lainie (Kate Ridley) and her jealous mobster boyfriend Vinnie (George Pulley) via an over-stressed wedding coordinator (Lovett) and a mother-of-the-bride (Deb Danes) with whom you don’t want to mess.

Helensvale Library and Cultural Centre is an apt location for a play of such constant and extreme movement, although, there are moments, especially in the opening scenes where a lack of adequate projection means that some lines are lost to the audience. The play’s witty rapid-fire script is full of memorable quips and insults, which are delivered with effective comic timing and as needed animation or through-away drollness. Assistant Director Mikayla Maree Melo and Mitchell Treacy, who plays Walter’s best man and partner in crime Mitch, are early standouts in their comic timing and reactions, sometimes subtly played aside from the main focus. That is until arrival of Nicholas Hurst as pompous father of the bride Mr Kirschenbaum, who brings much amusement in his honest abruptness, especially in interaction with Mrs Kirschenbaum.

Like the light comedy of a bedroom farce’s mispairings in meet with the finely-tuned hilarity of “The Play That Goes Wrong”, “What the Rabbi Saw” is filled with over-the-top ridiculousness, which makes for upbeat and very entertaining night at the theatre. See it to laugh yourself silly and support independent theatre at the same time.

Contemporary courting

12 Angry Men (Ghostlight Theatre Company)

KSP Theatre

September 9 – 23

Reginald Rose’s iconic “12 Angry Men” is a classic of the theatre. The courtroom drama may be set in 1950s New York, but as brand new not-for-profit community theatre group Ghostlight Theatre Company shows us, the only thing truly dated about the work is its title. While we still have a dozen ‘men with ties’ deciding the fate of a teenager (in this case of a lowered, 16 years of age) accused of murdering his abusive father, this contemporary take includes female performers in some of the roles and the use gender neutral pronouns, amongst other tweaks that easily transport the story into consideration through a modern lens.

As the case’s judge reminds the titular jurors in introduction, “Murder in the first degree—premeditated homicide—is the most serious charge in our criminal courts… your verdict must be unanimous… (and) the death sentence is mandatory in this case”.  While eleven are convinced of his guilt, however, despite the testimony of an alleged eye witness to the killing, one has doubt… and reasonable doubt is a safeguard that has enormous value in the legal system. “This is somebody’s life,” Juror Number 8 tells his peers. “We can’t decide in five minutes.” And so the story continues over two and a bit tense hours (including interval) under Susan O’Toole Cridland’s taut direction which ensures that the audience remains gripped for its duration.

Greg Delchau’s stage design places us firmly within the 1954 court jury room. There is nothing to hide within the confines of the locked room and the resulting tension is engrossing. Far from coming across like a play reading from around its centrepiece table, however, the action is ongoing with natural movement that does not distract from where focus is required. Blocking is effective to ensure authentic physical movement maintains audience interest while adding to the action of rising tensions as the group attempt to come to a consensus through discussion of probability vs possibility, because before DNA and CCTV, there was just speculation.

Even if the evolution of the afternoon’s heat into an Act Two rain storm threatens to overwhelm the audibility of some dialogue, this is a play of words much more than action. Its success relies on its cast in bringing its words to life while creating their own characters, with its range of personalities adding to its conflict. Jon Darbro gives a controlled performance as the central character of the play, Juror 8, the only one to initially vote not guilty, thus preventing an immediate unanimous guilty decision. He effectively balances the architect’s mild-mannered nature with the charisma needed to build a case of reasonable doubt in the minds of others, methodically taking us along for the ride through his reasoning. In contrast, Mark Blackmore balances Juror 3’s entitled rising self-righteousness with the grief of an angry father determined for some sort of justice.

Also of note, Luke Lilley is excellent in portrayal of die-hard baseball fan Juror 7, frustrated by the sceptical caution which forces the group to more carefully consider the evidence before jumping to the initially anticipated hasty verdict. It’s an absorbing performance physicalised by anxious moments to keep us focussed on the fast-talking salesman’s motivations and mindset. John Stibbard also insightfully establishes his character, the elderly Juror 9, as one who may not speak much, but when he does, speaks thoughtful sense arising from quiet observation of the trial’s witnesses. And they are well supported by David Murdoch, Aether Beyond, Mark Blackmore, Lindi Milbourne, Tallis Tutunoa, Greg Delchau, Sandra Harman, Amanda Burgess and Julia Cox as the other jury members we see gradually reconsidering their positions.

Each of the jurors has their own agenda and Murdoch is solid as the calm and methodical, but consequently frustrated, foreman trying to keep the group of headstrong strangers in order, especially when under fire from Harmon’s brash Juror 10, who is without tact or any sense of civic duty. Rude and prejudiced in a deep-seated ‘us versus them’ mentality, Juror 10’s explosive xenophobic rant results in one of the most memorable moments of the play. When, provoked by consideration of the accused’s upbringing in the worst part of town, into unleash about how ‘the kids who crawl outa those places are real trash’, the in-turn movement of other characters turning their back from their various vantage points around the room, creates a clever statement both in and of itself but simultaneously about how far we have come from the context of the story’s first creation.

It is this considered approach to the play’s reimagining, that makes for a powerful production from start to the finish. Indeed, Ghostlight Theatre Company’s “12 Angry Men” is a riveting, rewarding revisit of a classic that not only respects the original text, but finds a place for it from a contemporary perspective. One can now only await with anticipation the new company’s next work.

SpongeBob silliness

The SpongeBob Musical (Phoenix Ensemble)

Pavilion Theatre

August 5 – 27

Those with even just passing familiarity with the iconic Nickelodeon, animated tv series “SpongeBob SquarePants”, created by marine science educator and animator Stephen Hillenburg, should have some idea of what to expect from its 2017 musical adaptation. As expected, from its ‘Bikini Bottom Day’ opening number, which sees SpongeBob (Clark Kent Bryon-Moss) awakening to welcome the day with his pet sea snail Gary, it’s all energetic colour, movement and pool noodle kelp silliness.

The dynamic and critically acclaimed stage musical (with 12 Tony Award nominations) sees SpongeBob amongst the motley inhabitants of the fictional benthic underwater Pacific Ocean city of Bikini Bottom (beneath the real-life coral reef Bikini Atoll) face the total annihilation of their world, thanks to threatened eruption of the inconveniently located volcanic Mount Humongous. SpongeBob, his bestie Patrick Star (Harley Roy) and his squirrel friend, Sandy Cheeks (Ebony Banks) devise a scheme to keep it from erupting. But the supervillain Sheldon J Plankton (Joshua Moore) has other plans. As chaos and corruption ensure under the doomsday clock’s countdown, lives hang in the balance until a most unexpected hero rises up with a message about the life-saving power of optimism!

Kyle Jarrow’s book allows for the apocalyptic story to be fleshed out in a figurative way with social satire though science deniers, ineffectual politicians, an alarmist journalist and corrupt business people. This never detracts from the Phoenix Ensemble production’s essential sensibility and vibrant aesthetic. There is always something interesting to look at. Props are incredibly creative, Justin Tubb-Hearne’s costume design works with hairstyling and make-up to give each character a unique sea creature look and each character / group of characters (a school of sardines for example) has distinct physicality.

Even with all of its allegorical inclusions, the musical’s optimistic message remains at the forefront, with Act One’s closing number, ‘Tomorrow Is’, written by The Flaming Lips, reminding of the value of a moment. With an original pop and rock-infused score by a long list of legendary songwriters, including Cyndi Lauper, Panic! At the Disco and Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, the show is full of catchy musical motifs and a selection of original songs from across a range of musical styles. ‘BFF’, in which SpongeBob attempts to cheer up an upset Patrick by reiterating that they are best friends forever, is clearly country in in sensibility and ‘Super Sea Star Savior’ in a gospel-tinged chronicle (complete with tambourines) of Patrick’s appointment as cult leader to worshiping sardines, believing him to their saviour from the volcano. ‘When the Going Gets Tough’ in which the villainous Sheldon tries to convince the citizens to enter an escape pod as cover-up for he and his wife Karen’s (Kristen Barros) secret scheme to hypnotise citizens into liking what is served at their Chum Bucket restaurant, features an impressive speed rap. However, while in and of themselves, these numbers are all good, the eclecticism makes for a lack of musical cohesion overall.

Though momentum lags a little, Act Two gives the best vocal performances. Banks’ voice is strong in Sandy’s encouragement of SpongeBob to use karate knowledge to conquer climbing the volcano in ‘Chop to the Top’ and Roy’s voice is gently divine in John Legend’s ‘(I Guess I) Miss You’, in which he voices how nothing feels quite right without SpongeBob, corny lyrics and all.

Bryon Moss shows commendable commitment to the demanding role of the musical’s perky yellow sponge everyman protagonist, gleeful in his always-grinning over-the-top reactions and bouncing about in exhausting eternal optimism. Our sympathies, however, are with Zach Price’s Squidward Q Tentacles, downtrodden in his depression as the loser nobody likes he becomes a clear audience favourite, especially when his dream of performing is finalised realised in a colourful ensemble tap number of magenta Muppet-esque sea anemones.

Banks is solid as scapegoated squirrel Sandy, the Texas scientist and karate expert (because yes, there’s a squirrel under the sea) and Roy is wonderful as SpongeBob’s dim but brawny best friend Patrick whose scenes as accidental cult leader saviour to the sardines, give us some of the show’s funniest moments. The standout performances, however, come from Moore and Barros as evil genius Sheldon and his digital wife Karen the Computer. They complement each other well, not only in costumes layered in detail, but in their appealing chemistry and interplay as he gleefully gloats about his plans for domination. Moore’s comic performance is excellent, full of outrageous physical expressions and a mania that makes all eyes draw to him in his every scene.

Under Benjamin Tubb-Hearne’s detailed direction, Phoenix Ensemble’s “The SpongeBob Musical” is good old-fashioned fun. Kids in the audience love the pre-show and interval-end interaction from Patchy the Pirate, SpongeBob’s number one fan and it is clear that Nicholas Joy is having a great time in the role. Indeed, there is an infectious spirit of fun conveyed from the buoyancy of the whole cast, especially in interaction with creative props, meaning that it works for all ages. The musical’s narrative may be weak and the running time a little longer than it need be, but experience of its moments is jubilant and ladies, gentle-fish and younger folk alike, whether familiar with the beloved animated series or otherwise, will surely appreciate the vibrant production both in terms of its heartfelt humanity and theatricality alike.

Beast’s beauty abridged

Beauty and the Beast Junior (Rivermount College)

Rivermount College, Colin Young Community Centre

July 14 – 16

Rivermount College’s production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast Junior” is a reminder of all the colour, movement and energy that make Disney musicals so enchanting. So taut is its direction under Allison Fair, however, that it is difficult to remember how the junior edition of the popular musical has been abridged, even having experienced the complete version many times.

Good use is made of the Colin Young Community Centre stage, in the tale’s tell of transformation and tolerance, especially in terms of the big ensemble numbers, though things begin quietly as, in prologue upon the stage’s apron the kind and curious Belle (Annabelle Ross) tells of her yearning for more, (‘Belle’) in introduction of the sameness of each day’s life in her small-minded provincial town. Staging is appropriately simple but versatile, with the glass-encased enchanted rose mystical flower (that has since become the original 1991 animated movie and subsequent 1994 musical’s symbol) featuring front of stage throughout.

Ten years prior to the story’s start, the single rose was offered by an enchantresses seeking shelter in a young, spoiled prince’s castle. Rejected due to her appearance, she suggested that true beauty lies within, before turning the prince into the hideous beast of the musical’s title, with warning that the only way to break the spell is to learn to love another and earn her love in return by the time the last petal falls. That another is of course Belle.

What brings the titular characters together is the disappearance of Belle’s inventor-father, Maurice (Hayden Stork). This, and Belle’s brave of the wolf-filled woods in order to save him, also allows for some of the show’s richness, with green lighting (lighting design by Darryn Swaby and Daniel Wright) menacing character journeys, whether they be on way to, or in Belle’s subsequent escape from imprisonment at the Beast’s (Riku Silling) castle of cursed occupants.

Lead roles are all well-cast and performers do well to maintain their composure through many unfortunate microphone issues and missed sound cues. Ross is poised as the beautiful Belle, spirited with imagination but also determined to live in a world full of adventure. And her vocals are of a beauty befitting the show’s many gorgeous musical numbers (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice). This is especially evident in the lovely ‘Something There’, in which, having been rescued by him while attempting to flee from her castle captivity, Belle notes a change in the Beast’s personality, as also observed by the hopeful-of-being-human-again servants. Indeed, her tender touch evokes her sections of the song with an empathy towards his essential loneliness that accentuates it as the story’s turning point.

Silling matches this by giving the Beast an increasing softness as he tries to become a gentleman, no easy feat for a character so initially savage in his determination to punish his trespassers and unable to control his temper. It is Asher Emery, however, who truly shines as the village’s handsome but egotistical jerk Gaston, determined to marry Belle no matter what it takes.With Linda Woolverton’s book featuring puns aplenty and occasional dialogue directly to the audience, there is a real pantomime feel to this show, thanks in part of Emery’s stage presence, which immediately endears him to the audience. His strong vocals suit his character’s matinee-idol assuredness and his timing within dialogue delivery uses pace, pause, emphasis and trail aways to add much to characterisation, with younger audience members especially loving his lead of the servants and villagers’ attempted castle take-over. Along with bumbling sidekick LeFou (a confident Maya Barclay Ford), he gives us some of the show’s early comic highlights.

Later memorable moments come from the Beast’s servants in suffrage as animated objects. As the suave and debonair castle maître d’ (now candlestick) Lumiere, Sienna Barney maintains accent throughout, even in lead of the ensemble cabaret number ‘Be Our Guest’, working well in balance alongside the fusspot energy of Summer Palanca as the dignified household head (and now pendulum clock) Cogsworth. And Myshah Ali is a standout as the nurturing Mrs Potts, former head of the kitchen and now teapot. Her tottering, ‘pish posh’ dismissals and ‘my dear reassurances’ are accompanied by a committed physicality that draws attention to her ever appearance on stage (#inagoodway).

When it took to Broadway in 1994, “Beauty and the Beast” was a spectacle the likes of which had never before been seen on stage and even in its Junior version, it is easy to appreciate how, since then, it has played more performances than the four longest-running Broadway shows combined. “Beauty and the Beast Junior” is delightful entertainment for audience members of all ages especially in its magical enlivenment of everyday times. Costumes (designed and supplied by the All Saints Anglican School production of “Beauty and the Beast”) are wonderful, beyond just the iconic golden gown and blue coat of its protagonists.

Melissa Koch’s choreography (additional choreography by Gayle Lock) is similarly effective. While ‘Be Our Guest’, where the servants offer Belle dinner (and a show) despite their master’s orders, is a highlight big ensemble number, as always, with dancing utensils and even a cheese grater, it is ‘Gaston’ that shines the brightest. The song, in which LeFou and the village’s tavern patrons attempt to cheer up a sulking Gaston, who is miserable at the loss of a bride, is simple but perfectly synced in its choreography of intertwined beer steins and table thumping. It is clearly a joyous experience for all and also a fitting summary of the spirit of this outstanding reminder of the bold characters, unforgettable music and charming humour that has made the musical a long-time audience favourite.  

Coming Away again

Come from Away

Home of the Arts

July 2 – 31

“Come From Away” is the type of musical you can easily see multiple times (as I have now done), such is the joyousness of its experience and its always-applicable reminder about the human spirit’s triumph over adversity. The musical is quite unlike any other, not just because of the heart and soul that operates at its core. There are a lot of moving parts to its achievement ….. literally. Not only is there a revolve stage, but Beowulf Borritt’s apparently simple scenic design of a collection of chairs is anything but, as they are seamlessly repositioned to create all range of settings, including the transportation that brings the ‘plane people’ to the remote government and airport town at the centre of the extraordinary tale.

The documusical (book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein) tells theremarkable real-life story of stranded September 11 passengers and the small edge-of-the-Atlantic island town in Newfoundland (off the north east tip of Canada) that welcomed them when 38 planes were ordered to land there unexpectedly as part of closing United States airspace, effectively expanding the town’s population from 9000 to 16000 people overnight.

Not only are chairs moved about in transition from plane to community centre and local tavern scenes, but simple props and jacket and hat type costume changes allow the ensemble cast of 12 performers to jump in and out of roles as the scared and exhausted international plane passengers, and the Gander townspeople alike. Choreography not only allows for flawless transformations, but uses stylised movement to pause scenes in striking tableaus of reactions and responses, such as to transition things through the hours and hours that passengers were kept aboard before being permitted to deplane. And Howell Binkley’s lighting design gives some memorable moments such as when it is used to create the effect of frantic traffic controllers all at individual devices.

The performers are all excellent and authentic in their multiple roles, thanks, in part, to the work of dialect coach Joel Goldes. Indeed, cast members are all incredibly versatile in their talents, assuming so many character parts. Ash Roussett is a vocal standout as Kevin T, particularly in the emotional ballad ‘Prayer’ which sees several characters make their way to houses of worship around the town. Jasmine Vaughns gives a moving performance as Hannah, mother of a missing Manhattan firefighter, delivering a soulfully emotional ‘I Am Here’, in reflection of the helplessness she feels not knowing of his fate. And Noni McCallum projects an endearing charm as the warm-hearted and empathetic local Beulah who bonds with Hannah over the fact that both of their sons are firefighters. 

There is also a great deal of humour. Kyle Brown’s comic timing makes native New Yorker Bob’s scepticism as funny as it is endearing as he struggles to understand the kindness of the Canadian strangers. And Kat Harrison makes the character of Bonner her own, capturing the animal carer’s manic determination to take care of the animals on board the grounded flights, without venturing into dogmatism

Tight pacing means that the show’s 100 minutes duration (no interval) flies by. Even so, the story does not shy away from difficult aspects such as its reminder of the anti-Muslim sentiment that followed the 2001 attacks. This handled well through the quietly dignified Ali, thanks to an appropriately-pitched performance from Joseph Naim; as well as seeing the fellow-passenger fear and suspicious growing around him, we are witness also to the compassion shown by American Airlines captain Beverley Bass (Alana Tranter), American Airlines’ first female captain.

While the score contains only 15 songs, under Michael Tyack AM’s musical direction, it seems like the music never stops between the opening ‘Welcome to the Rock’ describing the town of Gander, to the tearfully reflective ‘Finale’ in which characters reunite to celebrate the lifelong friendships and strong connections they formed in spite of the terrorist attacks. A range of musical influences within August Eriksmoen’s orchestrations and arrangements sweep the story along through traditional Irish, American folk and sea-shanty type songs, to name but a few, and appropriately the end-of-show standing ovation continues beyond acknowledgment of the cast to celebration of the on-stage band members.

A high point comes from the fiddle-filled ‘Screech In’, during which the Newfoundlanders host a party for their guests, complete with an initiation ceremony involving a shot of the province’s 40% alcohol rum and other traditions, the second of its fiddle-filled drinking songs. There is also Tranter’s inspirational ‘Me and the Sky’, in which Bass attempts to reconcile her once optimistic view of the world with how it has suddenly changed. Again, the tone is well tempered, with up-tempo numbers sitting alongside more moving numbers, like when, in ‘Lead Us Out of the Night’, the passengers finally get to see what has actually happened for themselves and watch helpless, barely knowing where they are but still thankful it is not there.

“Come From Away” weaves together a rich tapestry of charm in all of its aspects. At the centre of the Tony and Olivier Award winning Canadian musical is its beautiful storytelling. The fact that it is the story of ordinary people (while some characters are amalgamated all are based on real testimony), makes it all the more captivating. And its messaging about how to welcome those who may be different to us is inspiring in the warmest of fuzzy, feel-good ways.