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Review: COME FROM AWAY at Times Union Center For The Performing Arts

The production runs now through December 12th.

Come From Away

When everyone was experiencing devastation on 9/11/2001, the town of Gander in Newfoundland, Canada was accepting passengers from 38 planes full of people who had been detoured from their various destinations. Come From Away tells this true story. The musical follows the five days the "Come From Aways" stayed in Gander as they try and contact their loved ones and deal with the heartbreaking news that was happening in the states. Now, there is a traditional feeling with musicals. Act One is full of excitement and wonder as the character determines who they are, or where they want to go, or who they want to meet, or what they want. Act Two is usually some sort of devastation that leaves most of us in tears. This unique show is unlike this timeline. The show has no intermission and keeps you fully engaged, experiencing every feeling you could think. However, I would argue that what most audiences feel is pride. Pride that a fellow human looked out for others in a time of uncertainty and devastation. They did not have to accept them and comfort them as they did. They did not have to open their homes or donate their clothes. They did not have to stay up around the clock to make sure everyone was fed and getting in contact with anyone they needed to. But the good people of Gander did because in Gander "A candle's in the window and the kettle's always on."

I truly cannot praise this company enough. Each of the 12 actors played at least 2 parts if not more. I have not seen costume changes so flawless and actors able to go in and out of character like this. Everyone jumped from one dialect to another in a matter of seconds and it was impressive. Beverley Bass/Annette/Others (Marika Aubrey) had an incredible voice. She is an amazing voice, brilliantly displayed in "Me and the Sky" in which Beverley Bass sings through her journey of becoming the first female pilot and what it was like to hear the thing she loved the most was used "as the bomb." The heartbreak that Aubrey sings in that last line will make anyone hold back tears. Oz/Others (Harter Clingman) was the comedic relief we needed every once in a while. He was also brilliant as the rabbi as he sang in the "Prayer." Claude/Others (Kevin Carolan) was hysterical as the mayor of Gander, as well as the mayor of other towns and every other role he portrayed on stage. More than that, he portrayed someone ready to interrupt the daily life of everyone in his town to allow the "Come From Aways" a place to stay. The Kevins (Nick Duckart and Jeremy Woodard) had great chemistry with one another. Duckart was so funny with his quick comebacks, but also made the audience feel his anxiety and homesickness. Duckart also did a wonderful job as Ali, a Muslim man that was aboard the plane and is looked at curiously due to his religion. He was able to display to the audience no one can be judged based on their appearance. Bad people in a group may be bad, but that does not make the entire group bad. Woodard displayed great character growth as he tried to venture outside of what he knows and take advantage of the life he is given. Woodard's voice was beautifully displayed in "Prayer." The other couple that had great chemistry was Nick (Chamblee Ferguson) and Diane (Christine Toy Johnson). The song they shared, "Stop the World" truly displayed a major theme in the musical. It is important to be in the moment while it is in front of you because in a moment everything could change. They perfectly conveyed this in the motional number. Hannah/Others (Sharriese Hamilton) was perfect. I think I lost count of the number of moments I welled up because of the mother's love she showed on stage. I couldn't imagine being in that position and Hamilton truly makes you feel for her characters. Beulah/Others (Julie Johnson) played the motherly leader role perfectly. The audience can tell she is desperate to help in any way she can, and she asks for nothing in return. She befriends Hannah, as she is a mother to a firefighter, and they remain in touch after all Hannah is forced to go through. Beulah is a character we should all aspire to be. Bob/Others (James Earl Jones II) had me laughing the entire time. But I will say, the tears started rolling with his part in "Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere" when he decides to raise a scholarship fund for the people of Gander. Janice/Others (Julia Knitel) had the part of the new news anchor thrown into absolute chaos down perfectly! While I noticed everyone jumping from one character to another, Knitel stands out to me as she would play up to 3 or 4 characters in a scene. Lastly, the animal lover Bonnie (Sharone Sayrgh) was adorable. She was so concerned with saving every animal that may be on all of the planes. Even assisting in the birth of a rare bonobo chimpanzee. Her "I do what I want" attitude was prevalent to the whole audience and kept them giggling at her remarks.

As a Regional Broadway Contributor, I encourage readers to see many shows. This is one I cannot encourage enough. The audience will leave with a deeper appreciation for those willing to sacrifice their time, their homes, and their lives for strangers who just happened to land in their town. We should all be willing to help others the way Gander helped the "Come From Aways." Come From Away will be in Jacksonville now through December 12.

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Once in a while, an event occurs that is so viscerally powerful that you will always remember exactly what you were doing when it happened.  Most people over 70 will remember what they were doing when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  People my age remember the Challenger disaster vividly (I was in my 6th-grade classroom watching the launch on t.v.).  Arguably even more tragic are the events that transpired on September 11, 2001.  From the dust of the wreckage, though, came hope and a unified country.  Come From Away is a story of that hope and unification.  It makes its Sacramento premiere this week in a special engagement that had been postponed since 2020. 

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Go inside Come From Away: The Concert Steele Community Centre in Gander and September 19-21 at the Mary Brown's Centre in St. John's, which brought home the musical about the small Canadian town that temporarily doubled in population in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and tells the real-life stories of the people from there, and those who came from away. 

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From This Author - Jordan Higginbotham

Jordan is a graduate student and dietetic intern. Theater is her artistic escape from the world of science and dietetics. Jordan has enjoyed being the Jacksonville Regional Contributor fo... (read more about this author)

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