BWW Review: COME FROM AWAY at Omaha Performing Arts
Most of the people who read this article will know what Iowa Nice is if they heard it, but I would wager that most of those same people who not know what Gander Nice is. This is going to change soon as "Come From Away", by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, is coming to Des Moines as part of Des Moines Performing Arts 2019-2020 Willis Broadway Series. I have been following this show for a few years, watching it become the hit that it is, and couldn't wait to see it when it comes to Des Moines January 28-February 2, 2020. So this last weekend I traveled to Omaha to see "Come From Away." And I was not disappointed.
Before we get too far into discussing "Come From Away" and what Gander Nice is, let's take just a moment. Picture September 11, 2001. Can you remember where you were the moment you found out or saw the terrorist attacks that took place. Remember how you felt and where you were at. Now Take That emotion and imagine you were on an airplane heading home to the US, then all of a sudden, your plane is now being diverted to a town in Canada. Once you land you find out that is due to the US Airways being closed because of these attacks. This is what we would call the plane people in the show.
The other group of people in the show were the citizens of the town of Gander, a town of around 7000 people. At the time the show starts they are dealing with a school bus driver strike. All of that would soon be put on hold, once they found out that they would be taking in 38 passenger planes due to the US Airways being closed down. The number on people on the planes would double their town population. This is where Gander Nice comes in. Not only did they open up business for these plane people to stay at, they cooked nonstop for 5 days to keep the people fed, as well as donate clothing, medicine, and anything else these people may need. To top it off, many of citizens opened up their houses to the plane people so they could have a warm shower and then while at their homes, gave the plane people a home cooked meal or had tea with them. Many of citizens formed friendships with the plane people, and stay in touch with them. Many of citizens formed friendships with the plane people, and stay in touch with them. This doesn't cover even half of what the people of Gander did. That is Gander nice.
The beauty of this show, lies in the stories told throughout the show, all based on the stories told by people that went through this experience. If you want to get a firsthand account of the kindness of Gander, read the book "Channels of Peace: Stranded in Gander on 9/11," by Kevin Tuerff who is played by Andrew Samonsky, who's beautiful voice is featured during the song "Prayer." Nick Duckart gives a truly transformative performance in the show playing the duel characters of Kevin J and Ali as well as others. He masterfully made each character so distinctive that when talking to a friend after the show, they hadn't realized that they were played by the same person. Part of the heartbreak we see in this show is how the horrific events of 9/11 slowly tears their relationship apart over the course of time they were in Gander. While we see the pain of a relationship falling apart, we also get to see the joy of a relationship budding with the characters of Nick and Diane Masterson, played by Chamblee Ferguson and Christine Joy Johnson.
My favorite role in the show, had to be the role of Beverly Bass, played beautifully by Jane Bunting. Over the last few years, Beverly story has truly skyrocketed. If this is your first time hearing about Beverly, she was the first female pilot for American Airlines. While her character pops up throughout the show, you really find out about her towards the middle of the show during the song "Me and the Sky." If you want to show your daughter about a woman who won't take no for an answer, then look no further than Beverly. Through the song "Me and The Sky," we go on a journey with her about her life and how she overcame obstacle after obstacle to become a top female pilot in a very male dominated field. Jane Bunting does an amazing job portraying Beverly and brought down the house when she sang "Me and the Sky." It was one of the few times in the show the audience was allowed to have the time to clap after a song, and Jane deserved every moment of applause for her rendition.
There were some really great ties to Iowa from several people backstage, as well as one of the actors from the show. Harter Clingman, who plays Oz Fudge and other characters, grew up in Ottumwa Iowa. He does an amazing job bringing each character to life that he plays. As much I
would love to talk about his characters, I don't think I can do it without spoiling some of my favorite, and funniest moments in the show. One surprise to me was finding out before seeing the show that he is the brother in law to one of my friends from college. It meant the world to me to have that friend tell Harter my friends and I were going to be at the show, and he waited at the stage door to greet us and chat with us for a couple of minutes. That is a great example of the thing we like to call Iowa Nice.
One of the greatest parts of the show to me, is that there is a call to action for those in attendance. It makes you stop and ask, would we show the same kindness as the people of Gander did? Are there ways to show kindness to people in need right now? The producers of the show, Omaha Performing Arts and a few additional organizations took that call to heart and worked with the Red Cross to donate $2 for every tickets sold to "Come From Away" to help support the flood recovery in Nebraska and Southern Iowa. Yes Nebraska is helping their neighbors in Iowa. They also put the challenge out to the audience in attendance to help as well by having buckets that people could put money in to help out those devastated by the flooding.
So what can we do now? First we can also take up the challenge and support those who are in need. That could be donating to the Red Cross to help with the flooding, or there are other ways to help with the flooding, or when we see other disasters, find ways we can help. Or maybe take up a challenge as talked about during the show and donating money to people in need on September 11 as they do in the show.
If you have seen the show or listened to the OBC recording of "Come From Away," you know the importance of the fish in the show. Going into the show, I thought it would be fun to get a picture with the fish. To my surprise when I got to the show there was a photo booth set up where you get a picture with the fish. I made sure to get a picture kissing the fish. Trust me, it's fun, and will make sense once you see the show.
I would strongly encourage you to see "Come From Away" when it comes to Des Moines Preforming Arts January 28-February 2, 2020. Maybe even buy a ticket and surprise someone by taking them to the show with you. Single tickets are not yet available for "Come From Away," but you can guarantee that you get a seat to this show by getting a season ticket package. But hurry because these packages have had waiting list for the last two seasons. To find out more about the Des Moines stop for "Come From Away" visit https://desmoinesperformingarts.org/events/come-from-away/ To purchase season tickets, visit https://desmoinesperformingarts.org/season-tickets/ and see all the amazing series being offered in Des Moines.