Express & Star

Come From Away musical telling tragic 9/11 story to take stage at Midland theatre cities

Everyone remembers where they were when the Twin Towers in New York were hit and 9/11 was born.

Come From Away cast

Terrifying, disturbing and quite unbelievable, are words which I think sum up the horrors of the event and it will certainly go down as an unforgettable moment in the history of our planet.

But amid all the misery and desolation, a tiny light shines in the form of the musical Come From Away, which depicts the experiences of some of the travellers stranded when their aeroplanes were diverted because of the tragedy.

When a plane arrives in Gander, a tiny town in Newfoundland and Labrador, the inhabitants open their homes and indeed their hearts to those on board who are desperate to contact their families and friends to inform them they are safe. Come From Away follows their adventures.

There is no star in this musical. Instead each and every character tells their own story in song which makes for an exceptionally uplifting, emotional, and enriched experience, despite the obvious sadness of the underlying story.

Bree Smith

Bree Smith plays Hannah, a mother who is desperate to contact her son, a firefighter working in New York. More about the show later, but for now, why did Bree choose theatre as a career?

“I was a sporty child who wanted to be a professional tennis player,” she said. “But I got to the age of 13 and wanted to dance, which I did, taking street dance, ballet and tap lessons. I decided I wanted to make it my profession and so at 19 I went to ArtsEd drama school in London, did a three-year degree in musical theatre and fell in love with performing and choreography, creating new characters and the industry in general.”

Bree is now appearing in the theatre tour of 'Come from Away'.

“Lots of people who were born post 911 know about the event but are unaware of the diversion of the planes and that the air space was closed, or about Gander. I had never heard of Gander until I saw Come From Away.”

“The show is all about human kindness and how the people of Gander took in the plane people and cared, fed, and helped them. Some people were on their planes for over 24 hours,” said Bree. “The panic and the stress must have been awful,” she said.

As part of her preparation for the role Bree went to New York and tried to contact the real life Hannah, but as she is older now it wasn’t possible. Instead she opted for the next best thing and met up with American actress Q. Smith who played Hannah on Broadway as she had met the real person and talk about the characterisation.

“My character, Hannah, has been on holiday and is on the way back. She is constantly trying to call her son using other people’s phones as there is little or no connection and goes on an emotional journey while trying to call him.”

“It is easy to relate to the not knowing or the potential loss of someone that I have known or a specific situation I have been in, and so I can delve into those emotions, but not fully. I have to just control it,” she adds.

That is something all actors have to master. Drawing on your own experiences and emotions is a great way to bring your character to life, but you need to be careful it doesn’t affect you too deeply.

All the other actors in the show plas several small characters as well as one main one.

“In one second you can change from crying to laughing because the piece has comedy all over it,” said Bree. “We switch characters all the time, so by just taking off a pair of glasses, I am no longer Hannah, but I’m a bus driver, or a party girl” she laughed. “So within literally seconds, I have to break out of the sadness and into another role. That was the hardest thing in rehearsal.”

She is also a choreographer and director, but which does she enjoy the most?

“I truthfully couldn’t choose between them,” she said. “I get different thrills out of choreographing and directing in a creative way, but I also have a very similar feeling when I’m performing and while I am able bodied, I am going to try to do both alongside each other.”

Bree has one of the best songs in the show. 'I Am Here' in which she desperately tries to contact her son to let him know she is safe, and in turn ascertain if he is safe too. Another favourite is 'Me and the Sky'.

“Maybe I am biased because I sing one of the songs, but they are amazing.”

In fact, the whole score of Come From Away is thought-provoking, melodious, and extremely uplifting. Every song is inspiring and moving, but there are moments of comedy and fun too.

It is just what you need to lift the spirits. Add to that a storyline based on truth, an extraordinarily talented, diverse cast, outstanding creative design, and very natural, relaxed direction and choreography and Come From Away is a must see.

Bree is on tour with the show now until next January and will start to audition again for musicals and plays at the end of this year.

“I don’t know what the future holds at the moment, but that’s our industry. You never know what is to come in London or on tour. I am looking to move into TV too, so we will see.”

Well for now Midlands audiences can catch Bree in Come From Away at the Birmingham Hippodrome from May 21- June 1 and then at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from November 5-9.

To book tickets visit, or call 0844 338 5000 and for the Wolverhampton show visit or call 01902 429212 and for more show details visit

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.