BWW Review: COME FROM AWAY Brings Triumph of Human Spirit to Rochester
Come From Away, the 2015 Tony-winning Broadway hit currently playing at Rochester's Auditorium Theatre, is the perfect musical for the Thanksgiving season. Ironic, since it's a show set in Canada, written by Canadians (music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein), and featuring the kindness and neighborly spirit that Canadians are known for. It also takes place on the heels of the greatest American tragedy of modern history, one that goes on to change culture and geopolitics for the next two decades, with no end in sight. Still, Come From Away demonstrates the capacity of human goodness in a way that almost no other musical has been able to achieve to-date.
Come From Away tells the true story of what happens when, in the hours after the events of September 11th, 2001, 38 planes from all over the world were rerouted to a small rural airport in Gander in the Canadian province of Newfoundland, as American airspace was closed. Once home to the largest airport on the continent, Gander had more recently been a quiet tucked-away community of only a couple thousand smiling Canadians. In the days after 9/11, however, their sleepy little town became temporary home to over 7,000 people from all over the world who had no idea why they were suddenly being diverted to this remote tip of North America and held there indefinitely. Undaunted by culture clashes and language barriers, the townspeople of Gander sprang to life to feed, shelter, clothe, and comfort this army of strangers, showing them that even in the darkest of times we're all capable of kindness and decency.
Come From Away features a small cast of only twelve actors who all toggle between multiple characters consisting of Gander townspeople and travelers-most of them based on actual people-including Captain Beverly Bass (Marika Aubrey), the first female captain for American Airlines; Kevin Tuerff (Andrew Samonsky) and Kevin Jung (Nick Duckart), the couple from LA; and Nick (Chamblee Ferguson) and Diane (Christine Toy Johnson), a Brit and a Texan who met in Gander and eventually married! The nonstop pace of the show (roughly 1 hour 40 minutes with no intermission) combined with the near-constant character changes required of each actor, are a testament to the talent and stamina of both the cast and director Christopher Ashley. It's a superb display of artistry and discipline.
Just as exciting as the actors on stage are the musicians in the wings (and sometimes on the stage too!), whose rip-roaring Celtic-style tunes act as the backdrop for everything from raucous bar sing-alongs ("Screech In") to heartfelt serenades ("Me and the Sky"). Not only can this band really PLAY, but they're clearly having a ton of fun doing it, joining the cast on stage during select musical numbers as well as closing out the show at curtain call.
It can't be overstated just how critically important shows like Come From Away are right now, given the divisiveness and polarization that we're all currently engulfed in every day. Rather than turn a cold shoulder and retreat to the safety of their homes, the people of Gander showed compassion and love during a time of terror and darkness despite differences in culture, national origin, religion and lifestyle. Rather than the millionth jukebox musical or movie adaptation, I sincerely hope Broadway producers find more opportunities to bring shows like Come From Away to audiences, because they're so tremendously needed.
Come From Away is playing until November 24th. For tickets and more information, click here.