BWW Review: COME FROM AWAY Captivates Edmonton
Approximately 7,000 airline passengers were stranded in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland following the horrific events of September 11, 2001. In the true spirit of Maritime hospitality, the town's residents opened their homes to frightened newcomers, working around the clock to provide everything from hot showers to traditional fish and cheese dishes to quiet libraries to pray in. For five days the town of Gander offered shoulders to cry on and endless rounds of screech and Irish whiskey, simultaneously comforting and charming the newcomers with their small town antics and whimsical local customs (cod kissing, anyone?), extending what can only be described as a truly Canadian spirit of giving.
Written and composed by husband-and-wife team David Hein and Irene Sankoff, Come From Away was workshopped and produced in Oakville, Ontario before enjoying record-breaking runs in San Diego, Seattle, Washington D.C., and Toronto before debuting on Broadway in 2017. A heartwarming crowd-pleaser adored by audiences and critics alike, it was honoured with 7 Tony Award nominations and is slated for a big-screen adaptation. It casts light on the 9/11 tragedy with sensitivity and compassion, illuminating its devastating effects while emphasizing the importance of community and reveling in the therapeutic effects of bone-dry Newfie knock-knock jokes.
The curtain rises on Welcome to the Rock, an infectious number painting a dynamic portrait of Gander and its charismatic citizens. We are introduced to outspoken cop Oz (Harter Clingman), mother hen Beulah (Julie Johnson), and earnest Bonnie (Megan McGinnis), an SPCA worker frantic to care for the stranded aircrafts' animal passengers.
Among the reluctant visitors are Texas divorcee Diane (Christine Toy Johnson) and British businessman Nick (Chamblee Ferguson), who spark an unexpected romance on board their panicked flight. We meet Kevin J. (Nick Duckart) and Kevin T. (Andrew Samonsky), a lively gay couple with razor-sharp banter and are introduced to Hannah (Danielle K. Thomas), a mother desperate to hear from her firefighter son. Bob (James Earl-Jones II) earns big laughs as a fast-talking New Yorker who falls hook, line, and sinker for Gander's unique charms and Southern pilot Beverley (Becky Gulsvig), as she embodies unwavering courage, showcasing impressive pipes in Me and the Sky, a soaring anthem of perseverance and overcoming sexism.
An irresistible blend of courage and Celtic-infused rock songs, Come From Away is a must-see testament to humanity and the strength of the human spirit. It runs at Edmonton's Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium until March 17.