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Review: COME FROM AWAY at Des Moines Performing Arts

Review: COME FROM AWAY at Des Moines Performing Arts

A show about the kindness shown in the days after 9/11 is the perfect way to celebrate the Thanksgiving season.

In 2012 a little musical that could started its trek to Broadway. After a successful 2012 workshop at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, this show went to La Jolla Playhouse and Seattle Repertory Theatre. Its journey continued with stops at the Ford Theatre in Washington DC and the Royal Alexandria Theatre in Toronto before arriving on Broadway in March 2017. When it opened on Broadway, it opened with a relatively unknown cast, but its story captured quickly captured the hearts of its audience. That show is "Come From Away." The tour is making its second stop in Des Moines from November 22-27 and is perfect for this Thanksgiving holiday.
"Come From Away," tells the story of the citizens of Gander Newfoundland, who, on September 11, 2001, took in over 7000 strangers when 38 airplanes were forced to land due to the terrorist attacks on the US. Why Gander? There were fewer people there than in some of the bigger cities in Canada. The way the citizens responded and the effect it had on the strangers, also known as "Come From Aways," inspired this show. The citizens opened their hearts and homes while treating each of these passengers as guests, feeding and clothing them while ensuring all their needs were met.
If you've been following Broadwayworld Des Moines over the last few years, you know that this is not my first time seeing this show or even reviewing it. You may ask why someone would repeatedly go back to see a show. Whenever I see "Come From Away" or listen to the Original Broadway Cast album, I hear something new or find a moment I relate to differently. It's a show that profoundly impacts those I know who have seen it. I saw the show's impact on me during my trip to New York this last summer, where I saw the Broadway cast and visited the 9/11 museum. While there, my friends and I took some time to find Kevin O'Rourke's name and the Rescue 2 unit he served in on 9/11, on the 9/11 Memorial pools. Having done that, highlighted his mother, Hannah's story, which is featured in the show, in a new light.
What speaks to me regarding this show is how many people have stayed with the show for the majority of the four years the show has been touring. Seven of the cast members have continued with the tour since it started in the fall of 2018, and they are joined by five people who have joined the show at different times over the last four years. When I saw it on Tuesday, November 22, when the show opened again in Des Moines, it felt like I was seeing it again for the first time.
Each actor in this show has moments that stand out and make the track they have unique. There were a few that stood out to me in a new way this time. The first is Kristen Peace, who joined the tour this last summer. She plays the roles of Bonnie and others. She brought a more comedic delivery to the role. As an audience member, it made me step back and look at the role in a way I hadn't before. Bringing a more comedic interpretation allowed the moments her character shows caring and compassion to stand out even more, especially when she is talking to Unga, a rare bonobo chimpanzee.
Another actor whose interpretation of their character stood out to me this time was Ali Momen, who plays Kevin J/Ali and others. I have always appreciated how "Come From Away" gives the perspective of a Muslim stranded in Gander, but he made me step back and look at this role again. There is a moment towards the end of the show where because he is Muslim, he is given a full body search. How he delivered that moment will stick with me for a long time. I could see and hear the pain it was for his character to go through this. As he shared his character's story, you could feel how hard or embarrassing for his character to share about.
Moments like these are what continues to pull me back to see "Come From Away" over and over again. It reminds us of the ripple effect a small act of kindness can have. At the end of the show, we get to see how thankful the people on the planes were for the act of kindness the citizens of Gander showed. As we enter that time of year when we focus on what we are thankful for, I can't think of a better show to better show to be playing at Des Moines Performing Arts. "Come From Away" continues its Des Moines stop through November 27. If you want more information or to purchase tickets, visit the link below.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

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The First National Tour of Come From Away will conclude its run May 21st, 2023 at the Royal Theatre in Victoria, BC in Canada. A new National Tour, produced by NETworks Presentations, will launch July 25th through July 30th in Cleveland at Playhouse Square.

Interview: Marika Aubrey Of COME FROM AWAY At Salle Wilfred Pelletier, Place Des Arts Photo
Marika Aubrey was born and raised in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. She emigrated to the US six years ago and currently resides in New York City. She is currently on tour with COME FROM AWAY, portraying Captain Beverly Bass. I had the chance to chat with her about her life and career both on and off the stage.

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The multi award-winning musical Come From Away, which celebrated its 1000th performance in the West End last night, Monday 28th November, has announced that the production will launch its first ever tour of the U.K and Ireland, opening in Leicester in February 2024.

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Segerstrom Center for the Arts has announced that the national tour of COME FROM AWAY, a Broadway musical about the true story of the small town that welcomed the world, is returning to Costa Mesa at Segerstrom Hall for a limited one week engagement from June 21-26.

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