BWW Review: COME FROM AWAY soars at Saenger Theatre

BWW Review: COME FROM AWAY soars at Saenger TheatreFor an example of excellence in ensemble theatre, look no further than COME FROM AWAY, currently taking flight at the Saenger Theatre now through June 2nd.
Where Hamilton is easily one of the most well-known musicals on the touring circuit, the sleeper hit of the year is without a doubt COME FROM AWAY, a sentimental romp, despite being about the 9/11 attacks. When the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001, 38 planes were diverted to land at their nearest airport. The Newfoundland town of Gander would thus receive 7,000 passengers and crew that they would then have to house and feed for almost an entire week.
COME FROM AWAY celebrates the power in acts of kindness, and how people have the potential for compassion in the aftermath of tragedy. The citizens of Gander opened their homes to displaced Americans, emptying their stores, providing phones and clothing, and cooked for 7,000 stranded people. This critic feels the need to reiterate that number: 7,000.
When the travelers are cleared to return home a few days later, some were in love, some grieving, but all were grateful to the islanders who refused reimbursement. As far as the town of Gander was concerned, these people were now fellow citizens in their hearts.
This story of incredible kindness, humility, and compassion for one's fellow man was written by husband-and-wife duo David Hein and Irene Sankoff based on hours of interviews with Gander locals. Many characters are a mixture of several people, but that doesn't make them any less real.
A cast of 12 represents characters from different lands, creating an inside look of their personal struggles. Some are leaders, like pilots or mayors, and then some work for the good in the world, whether it be as a journalist or an animal right's activist. However, most are ordinary folk, trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy.
With everyone in the cast playing multiple roles, it is easy to lose track of the number of individual actors as they jump into their next character. However, the role-swapping is snappy and reinforces the focus of community and building connection. That's why it is hard to single out a breakout performance. Indeed, this production works as an ensemble piece and soars with the
COME FROM AWAY has about a one-and-a-half run-time with no intermission. This format is quite favorable as a lull in the action would have altered the captive magic that Hein and Sankoff wove. The music is reminiscent of Canadian folk with a hard-driving score for the accordion, electric guitar, percussion and fiddle. It is a musical that makes you want to get up and do a little jig.
The dialogue is fast but engaging. Everyone does a Canadian accent at one point or another with a smooth transition. The staging of COME FROM AWAY is meant to be sparse and simple with 12 people, two tables, 12 chairs. Don't be fooled by this as the show is brimming with technical surprises including hidden doors, a revolving floor, and marvelous mood lighting.
However, it is the stories the characters tell that are the heart of this production. They are engrossing, bringing feelings of wonderment, anger, loss, love, and community. Though met with moments of heartache, fear, and uncertainty, this musical is not made of doom and gloom. Instead, it is filled with many resounding laughs while also serving as a look into the enduring spirit of humanity and creating connections that will last for a lifetime. COME FROM AWAY is more than a story about being stuck in a strange land. It's a beautiful affirmation of generosity.



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From This Author Tara Bennett