Flying high with Zoe Gertz of Come From Away

The story of a small town in Newfoundland has made waves globally, and will finally be arriving down under in July 2019.

Come From Away follows the lives of just some people affected by the 9/11 attacks, and the fallout that the town of Gander embraced with open arms. A beautiful, moving piece of theatre written by Canadian couple Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the show has won 5 Outer Critics Circle Awards4 Helen Hayes Awards, 3 Drama Desk awards and a Tony Award. The show currently has 4 concurrent international runs, with the Australian opening marking its 5th.

Zoe Gertz will be premiering the role of Beverley Bass, the first female captain of an American Airlines aircraft and a key player in the story which Come From Away is based on. Zoe has been working in theatre for almost 2 decades, studying at various acclaimed schools both nationally and internationally. After graduating from WAAPA, she went on to perform in various productions such as Kiss Me Kate, Fiddler on the Roof, and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. In 2008, Zoe was part of the original Australian cast of Wicked, a show she stayed with for the following 4 years and travelled with it to Singapore. More recent credits include national productions of Legally Blonde, Cameron Mackintosh’s 25th Anniversary production of Les Miserables, and Georgy Girl.

Come From Away will be Zoe’s first time originating a role for an Australian Premiere production, and it was an absolute pleasure to talk about the role and experience with her.

How does it feel to be the first ever Australian Bev?

It’s such a beautiful, iconic role and I feel really lucky to be the first one in Australia to play it.

Why do you think Melbourne is a good place for Come From Away to open?

The idea of kindness and acting out of love more than fear is universal. It’s so relevant that we’re opening in Melbourne when in the last 12 months some pretty unpleasant things have happened. But Melbourne has been wonderful in banding together and acting with love, which is entirely what this show is about. It’s the perfect place to open.

Jenn Colella (Bev) and the Original Broadway Cast of Come From Away

What is the most challenging part of depicting a real person?

I guess the danger could be in doing an impersonation. But no one has ever told us that’s what we have to do. We’ve been cast based on our energy, and what we bring to the characters naturally without meeting the people. we just kind of have to follow our intuition. The writers and the creatives are telling us we’re on the right track so we just have to trust them! I think I’m going to really think about Bev. She’s such a figure of strength to people and female empowerment. The book is just such a gift as well, we don’t actually have to try too hard. We’re given such a gift [with the book] that we just have to turn up and say the lines and sing the songs, it’s all there for us.

How has it been having David and Irene around through this process?

Singing a song with them sitting right next to me was one of the most intimidating experiences of my life. But made all the easier by the fact that they are the nicest, kindest, most generous people. They absolutely personify what this show is about, they couldn’t be lovelier.

What is so special about the show?

There are a lot of laughs, but they don’t shy away from the fact that people did act out of fear during that time as well, and made some pretty ugly assumption about people regarding their race or religion, that is definitely touched on. Overall the piece highlight the empathy of everyone, and how remarkable those people were on that day to let 7 thousand strangers into their homes without question and look after them and feed them. It almost sounds made up, you think “this can’t possibly be real” but you look at the transcripts and see that a lot of what we sing and say is verbatim. it’s insane. this is real, these people are real, and this happened.

Why should audiences come and see Come From Away?

Because it is all about love and generosity. If you come out of it not feeling good about your life and the human race in general, you can’t possibly be human.

Come From Away premieres at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre in July 2019. Tickets and more information are available at Comefromaway.com.au

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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