They are here, at the start of 2021! After a premature closure due to the COVID pandemic, Come From Away is returning for a limited Melbourne season before heading to Brisbane and Sydney.
The musical tells the true story of the unexpected landing of 38 planes in Gander, Newfoundland, during the September 11 attack. All the characters of the show are based on either real residents of Gander, as well as some of the passengers who were stranded as a result of the landings. It’s a true display of humanity and kindness, showing how people can support one another in times of great struggle. The show premiered on Broadway in 2017, and has seen success globally since then.
Daniel Goldstein is the Come From Away‘s Associate Director, and was here in Melbourne to get the show back in shape for its reopening.
When not Associate Directing, Daniel is an acclaimed theatre director and writer. He has directed over 100 shows, including Walmartopia, Lower Ninth, Falsettos, Hello, Dolly!, and the 2011 Broadway revival of Godspell. As a writer, he is currently under commission by The Public Theatre, and has written a musical adaptation of Tori Murden McClure’s memoir A Pearl In The Storm. Another of his musicals, Unknown Soldier, premiered at Playwrights Horizons in New York, but unfortunately closed after one day due to the COVID pandemic.
Can you tell me about your history with Come From Away and your role as Assistant Director?
So, the original production is directed by Christopher Ashley, and he started with the show when he did it at the La Jolla Playhouse, and I believe it was 2015. And then I joined up with the production in the summer of 2017, when they sort of realised that it was a hit, that it would be on Broadway for a while, and that there would be multiple productions. My job is essentially to make sure that all the productions are up to the standard of of Chris’ original productions. So replicating the staging and acting. I’m sort of in charge of getting everything together in his absence. So I look after the Australian company, the Broadway one and the North American tour.
How do you keep a show fresh when sticking to the original direction?
All [the show’s staging] is exceptionally regimented and very specific and is pretty much exactly the same in every company. But we really want to allow for differences in the actors and their personalities and what they bring to the table to shine through in it. Because the show is so much about humanity and people in times of crisis, we want to respect and actually embrace who the people are that are playing these roles. Every person who plays the role is very, very different. In this current iteration, we have 9 of the 12 who opened the show last time in Melbourne, and we have three new actors, all of whom are very different than their previous counterparts. And so we really work hard to make sure that we embrace who they are and allow for the evolution of the storytelling to take them in.
It must be a little bit surreal for you to be working on a show given the current global climate?
It’s crazy. And, you know, none of our friends are working. I will post something on Instagram, and they’ll go “so, like, wait, are you actually in the theatre?” Or we’ll go out to dinner and they’re like “you’re in a restaurant?” But yeah, we know that no one’s working. I mean, Broadway has been shut down for over 300 days. And there’s no sign of opening up any time soon, we’re scheduled to be closed through the end of May – I just can’t imagine that that’s actually going to happen because our vaccine rollout has been such a disaster, and half of our country thinks wearing a mask and taking a vaccine is something that only liberals should do. So we have a real problem in our country. So the gift of being able to come here, to a country that’s taken this virus seriously, and that has allowed us to return to the arts has been huge. It’s just been extraordinary to be given this privilege. And, you know, we’ll go back to a country where we’re we’re not going to be allowed to do this again for a long time. I feel very lucky to have had the gift of being able to come back to Australia and back to Melbourne, to experience these people and the city again, because I just love it here.
After Victoria’s 2020, it seems almost poetic that the first major musical back is a story about unity and compassion.
I think that we, as a company, re-examine how we how we tell the story, what the view of it is through that lens, because we’re all different people now. And I think that’s really exciting and important to hear and understand, that we can, as as a community, find a way to help each other in these times of great crisis. So I’m hopeful that for Melbourne audiences who had a chance to see it before [COVID], or people who didn’t get a chance to see it have have another chance to really come back and support us. But also, I think that for people who saw it already, seeing it for a second time or maybe even a third time is a great idea, because one of the things that’s amazing about [Come From Away] is that everyone comes at it with their own perspective. The staging is so simple and so not, you know? It’s not realistic. It’s a hyper realistic setting. So the audience’s imagination is piqued. So everyone comes out and has their own experience. And I think the experience of this is not going to be so much their experience of 9/11, but I think people are going to come at it with the experience of what happened to them during this current crisis. It’ll give everyone a very new experience at taking our story in a way that I think will be, as it certainly has been for many of us, very cathartic.
Come From Away opens at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre on 19 January 2021 for a strictly limited season. It then moves to Brisbane and Sydney in March and June respectively.
For tickets and more information, visit comefromaway.com.au