By Tulis McCall
Come From Away is a show that is greater than the sum of its parts. The script is iffy. The music is not exceptional. The sound is so loud that the lyrics are often unintelligible. The talent, it should be noted is not iffy one little bit. Not only are they skilled actors with voices that rock, THEY LOOK LIKE US. These are not stereotypes. There is not a beauty queen, swarthy leading man, or crotchety elder among them. Perhaps that is because this is a true story – or perhaps it is because somebody cared. This is, after all, the story of what happened to us all on 9/11. No one who sees this show was untouched by that day. And no one will leave untouched by this show. The spirit that is on that stage sweeps past the footlights and scoops everyone in the audience up into its arms.
The story of 9/11 and Canada’s hospitality is now legend. Over 33,000 people were diverted to 17 airports in Canada. Hour an hopelessness were tended to by hospitality and hope. The people of the towns of Gander, Lewisport and Gambo on the island of Newfoundland found themselves welcoming 38 planes and a total of 7,000 people along with several dogs, cats and monkeys. Their population doubled. Picture New York CIty with 4 million more people. The stranded passengers and their hosts were thrown together, both parties in severe shock. It was the Canadians who took the lead.
As the story begins we hear Welcome to the Rock – a sort of anthem that lets you know these are hearty people living on their terms in the middle of – well – nowhere. Gander (the featured town here) has an airport that used to be very busy, a two-person police force, one SPCA, one school and one hockey rink. They are not prepared for the 38 planes one tiny bit. Except for the fact that they are Newfoundlanders, and these people are known for being generous and welcoming.
The town shifts into major action mode. Some passengers spend over a day on their planes. Others are offloaded and taken to makeshift shelters. And there are the animals that are kicking up a storm. The Canadians will not take no for an answer when their kindness is refused. Slowly the shock is replaced by gratitude. Bonds are formed, friendships glimmer, love stories begin. Time passes and the wear and tear shows up as arguments explode, relationships wither, and the hopelessness returns. It is a natural progression like the seven stages of grief. Still, these people weave a cloth that will not tear.
The cast is beautifully directed and choreographed. Each actor plays more than one part, and their characterizations are so defined that we never, not for an instant, are lost in the transitions. This is an ensemble that is a living breathing solar system that breaks up into planets with their own moons, then swoops back together in an evolving configuration. They are a marvel to watch.
Come From Away is the backstory to the collective tragedy of 9/11. The story takes place over 5 days beginning with 9/11. We the audience have the advantage of knowing what has happened, and we watch the events unfold with that knowledge tucked into our saddlebags. We are a sort of honor guard, wanting to tell them that it will be okay because over a decade later we are still here. Not only are we here but many of the audience have brought children who were not born when 9/11 happened. They have brought them to this show because it is the closest they can get to that day. Video will only report what happened. Live actors can make you feel what happened.
Come From Away – Book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein; Directed by Christopher Ashley
Cast Petrina Bromley, Geno Carr, Jenn Colella, Joel Hatch, Rodney Hicks, Kendra Kassebaum, Chad Kimball, Lee MacDougall, Caesar Samayoa, Q. Smith, Astrid Van Wieren and Sharon Wheatley
THE BAND – Conductor/Keyboard/ Accordion/Harmonium – IAN EIS END RATH; Whistles/Irish Flute/Uilleann Pipes-BEN POWER; Fiddle-CAITLIN WARBELOW; Electric/Acoustic Guitars-ALEC BERLIN; Acoustic Guitar/Mandolins/Bouzouki-NATE LUECK; Electric/Acoustic Bass-CARL CARTER; Bodhran/Percussion-ROMANO DI NILLO; Drums/Percussion – LARRY LELLI. Associate Music Director: Chris Ranney Music Coordinator: David Lai. Electronic Music Design: Andrew Barrett for Lionella Music, LLC Music Preparation: Zach Redler, Ryan Driscoll
Scenic Design – Beowulf Boritt; Lighting Design – Howell Binkley; Costume Design Toni-Leslie James
Junkyard Dog Productions, Jerry Frankel Latitude Link Smith & Brant Theatricals, Steve & Paula Reynolds David Mirvish Michael Rubinoff Alhadeff Productions, Michael Alden & Nancy Nagel Gibbs Sam Levy Rodney Rigby Spencer Ross Richard Winkler Yonge Street Theatricals Sheridan College Michael & Ellise Coit Ronald Frankel, Sheri & Les Biller Richard & Sherry Belkin Garv & Marlene Cohen Allan Detsky & Rena Mendelson Lauren Doll Barbara H. Freitag Wendy Gillespie Laura Little Theatricals Carl & Jennifer Pasbjerg Radio Mouse Entertainment The Shubert Organization Cynthia Stroum Tulchin Bartner Productions Gwen Arment/Molly Morris & Terry McNicholas Maureen & Joel Benoliel/Marjorie & Ron Danz Pamela Cooper/Corey Brunish Demos Sizar/Square I Theatrics Joshua Goodman/Lauren Stevens Just for Laughs Theatricals/Judith Ann Abrams Productions Bill & Linda Potter/Rosemary & Kenneth Willman and La Jolla Playhouse and Seattle Repertory Theatre Present COME FROM AWAY. Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th Street, New York, NY 10036; Box Office Hours:Monday – Saturday: 10am – 8pm, Sunday: Noon – 6pm; Telecharge: