BWW Review: COME FROM AWAY Tour Brings Heartfelt Hope And Humor To OKC Broadway
COME FROM AWAY "shouldn't" work. I didn't walk away humming many of the melodies, there are very few solos songs to speak of ... and yet, I am forever changed by the story of the kindness of the strangers from Gander, Newfoundland, Canada.
The whole world knows what happened on September 11, 2001. But until COME FROM AWAY, most people did not know about the heartwarming acts of selflessness and generosity that took place in the days following with our northern neighbors.
The script book, music, and lyrics from Irene Sankoff and David Hein are so perfectly woven together it's practically impossible to tell where one ends and the next begins. And while I mentioned I didn't go away humming many songs, that is exactly what is needed for this story. This is a play first and foremost, where the characters just so happen to sing most of their lines. The story is paramount, and Sankoff & Hein masterfully tell this tale in the purest and most unexpected ways - employing lesser-known folk instruments like uilleann pipes, bodhran, and harmonium - to create a musical landscape unlike any other show on Broadway. Bravo!
And what an ensemble casting director Rachel Hoffman has gathered to tell this story! With every actor playing multiple characters - often in the same scene - it's hard to single any of them out. They work together so flawlessly to tell this simple yet profound story. In the program, every character name is followed by "and others," showing the virtuosic dexterity with which this company sparkles.
The women are definitely the beating heart of COME FROM AWAY - particularly memorable were Julie Johnson as Beulah (whom Oklahoma City audiences may recognize from her appearances in CityRep's productions of PRYOR RENDERING and A CLOSER WALK WITH PATSY CLINE); Julia Knitel's hilarious reporter; Sharone Sayegh as an animal lover caring for the creatures others easily forgot; Danielle K. Thomas' portrayal of the concerned mother of a missing NYC firefighter; and Christine Toy Johnson's journey into unexpected romance. Marika Aubrey as Beverley, who is gifted one of the few solo songs of the evening with "Me and the Sky" shared a lovely mixture of openhearted vulnerability and sassy sarcasm.
The men are just as memorable - every time James Earl Jones II crossed the stage, I knew I was in for another gut-busting one-liner; Kevin Corolan lovably blusters about, while Chamblee Ferguson nervously steals our hearts; Nick Duckart's sensitive portrayal of Ali who, as a Middle Eastern man, becomes an immediate suspect in the days following 9/11, is one of the most compelling, tranquil, magnetic performances of the evening. Special recognition goes to two standbys who were performing the night I was in attendance: Brandon Springman as Oz, and Aaron Michael Ray as Kevin T. & Garth. Each of these gentlemen owned the stage like they performed these roles every single night, when in reality they both cover more than five roles each. In a show as intricately intertwined (as Kelly Devine's robust choreography blooms throughout the evening) these men deserve a special commendation for never missing a beat.
Staged with a clean, uncomplicated unit set of chairs and a turntable (designed with stylish precision by Beowulf Boritt) director Christopher Ashley (who deservedly won a Tony for his work here) lets the actors shine, connecting with each other and the audience in a way I've rarely seen in Broadway musical. This 100 minute, no-intermission, non-stop train ride of a show rarely lets up even for a moment to allow the audience to applaud. The result is a rousing, immediate standing ovation as every audience member leapt to their feet the moment the lights faded to black.
(And a huge shout out to the onstage band, led by Music Director Cameron Moncur, who are integrated into the show multiple times throughout the night, including a rousing finale after the curtain call!)
COME FROM AWAY is the "little musical that could" ... it restores a small piece of your heart and your faith in humanity. Don't miss it.