written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Comedy Theatre, Melbourne
until 8 March 2020
I’ve heard so much about this world-wide sensation…is it the most amazing musical ever? Well, not really. It’s energetic, it’s meticulously timed and directed, it’s fast-paced – sometimes too fast-paced – but I have the same problem I had with Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s so nice. Everyone is nice. There’s a bit of humorous conflict about a bus strike and a dash of racism and angry voices against an Egyptian called Ali and a woman in a hijab but other than that it’s just nice. Joyous. Exuberant. And nice.
Given the incredible subject matter, that is, what happened to the 6.5K people on flights diverted in the wake of 9/11, I was expecting emotional depth. Passion. Despair. None of that really because there’s too many people to examine their individual emotional lives in depth. What this show does do is give us glimmers of the fear, worries and heartache of the people on the plane and then zero in on two couples: a gay couple (Nicholas Brown and Doug Hansell as the two Kevins) and a Texan woman (Katrina Retallick) getting together with an Englishman (Nathan Carter). What the show does well is present us with the reality that generosity of spirit, warmth, acceptance and compassion can do extraordinary things. And that’s a great message.
The music is uncannily Irish, full of life, but I can’t remember one song. There was a pretty ballad “Me and the Sky” from Beverley (Zoe Gertz), a pilot on an American Airlines flight that fateful day…well, I don’t remember the tune but it made an impact because it was heartfelt. When is a musical not a musical? I read this show described somewhere as a ‘song cycle’ and I think that hits the nail on the head. The music is a soundtrack to the lives and it’s all just got to keep moving.
After the exuberant opening number, within 5 minutes I was thinking this would make a great screenplay. I loved the band giving us a taste of Newfoundland shindigging at the close and I look forward to the movie…I bet there’ll be one.