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BWW Review: COME FROM AWAY at The Orpheum Theatre Memphis

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at the Orpheum Theatre October 5th through 10th

BWW Review: COME FROM AWAY at The Orpheum Theatre Memphis Broadway is BACK! The phrase is being uttered all over New York and after 576 days, we Memphians can say it too!

Tuesday night was a special night for Memphis. The Orpheum Theatre launched its 21-22 season, welcoming back hundreds of theatre lovers with Covid-safety protocols in place. But what's perhaps even more exciting is that Come From Away is launching its National Tour, right here in Memphis! I was stunned and thrilled to learn that there were some very special people in the audience last night. Tony award-winning director Christopher Ashley, authors/lyricists Irene Sankoff and David Hein, three of the show's producers, and to top it all off, two "plane people" (if you've seen the show, you will understand the term) Nick and Diane Marson were all present for the National Tour's opening night. Come From Away was rescheduled from the 19-20 season and it was wonderful to see how many people had held onto their tickets since then. It is the perfect show to welcome theatre back to Memphis.

Come From Away is a heart-warming 100 minute musical based on the extraordinary true story of the 7,000 passengers whose flights were diverted to Canada due to the 9/11 attacks. A small town in Newfoundland, with a population of approximately 10,000, graciously welcomed the stranded passengers into their homes and their hearts. In 2017, it was nominated for 7 Tonys and won Best Direction of a Musical. It also won three Drama Desk Awards that same year and in 2018, it was nominated for Best Musical Theatre Album at the Grammys. The simplistic set and folksy British Isles music combined with the touching story make for a phenomenal night of theatre. The show had four pre-Broadway runs across North America, and opened on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on March 12, 2017. In October 2018, it became the longest-running Canadian musical in Broadway history, surpassing The Drowsy Chaperone. In December 2018, the musical premiered in Dublin, Ireland and not longer after, transferred to the West End. It has also premiered in Australia, Canada, Sweden, and will be seen in Argentina in 2022. A North American tour launched in Seattle in 2018. On March 15th, 2017 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (who addressed the audience before the show), other current and former Canadian federal politicians and provincial politicians from Newfoundland and Labrador, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and Ivanka Trump all attended the show. Trudeau spoke out about the friendly relations between Canada and the United States and invited Ivanka Trump to speak with him.

What struck me the most about this show is that this is truly an ensemble show. The 12 performers portrayed multiple characters, slipping into various dialects and cultures with ease. It's impossible to pick a favorite... every character had a compelling story to tell and each actor was incredible to watch. Kelly Devine's choreography draws you right into Newfoundland as we are immersed in the culture with the opening song. The show even has a live 8 piece band that comes on stage toward the end, playing lively tunes that will make you want to get up and join in. Each instrument is unique as the story is! You will hear guitars, pennywhistles, accordions, fiddles, and bodhrans. I know I was tapping my toes for the majority of the night.

The lighting and the set design were simplistic yet stunning. Chairs were used by the actors to represent certain locations, such as the bar in Gander or the planes they were on for 28 hours. It was very simple but effective. I feel as if large pieces of scenery would have drawn focus from the story and the songs. The same can be said for the lighting. It matches the ambience and doesn't draw TOO much focus.

I highly recommend everyone take a look at the show's official site, comefromaway.com and go to About-Journey. It features incredible photos of some of the cast members with the real citizens of Gander. It's fascinating to know this show has had such a journey, while the cast has had some real adventures.

The Orpheum has just announced that $20 rush tickets will be available to teachers, students, military, and first responders for Wednesday and Thursday performances. Run- no, fly, to the Orpheum to catch Come From Away before it goes, well, away!


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