Review: COME FROM AWAY at Lied Center For Performing Arts

A beautiful evening of music with strangers who feel more like family.

By: Apr. 30, 2022

Review: COME FROM AWAY at Lied Center For Performing Arts

Ask any person over a certain age where they were the morning of September 11, 2001, and you will be hard pressed to find a single person who can't tell you exactly where they were that morning. It's a day that's ingrained in the minds and hearts of millions of people, and the stories range from heartbreaking to uplifting. Come From Away, the hit Broadway musical that is currently housed in the Lied Center for Performing Arts, is one of those stories.

Based on true events and people, Come From Away is the story of the people of the town of Gander and the 38 planes full of people who were ordered to land in Gander due to all airplanes in the US being grounded following the attacks in New York City. The musical takes place over a few days, and during that time the audience is immersed in the experiences had by both those on the plane and those who did everything they could to make them feel at home in a new country, when the world was suddenly filled with immense fear and uncertainty. It is a story of human kindness, understanding, forgiveness, empathy, and the power of the human spirit. Featuring a book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away is the show you can't miss in Lincoln this season.

The cast of this tour of Come From Away is simply stunning. With each performer playing more than one character without any significant costume changes, the attention to detail and strong character choices are more important than ever to successfully tell this story, and the cast did so with ease. Some standout performances come from Julie Johnson and James Earl Jones II, who play Beulah and Bob respectively. Their comedic timing and delivery has the audiences in stitches more than once, with Julie belting out an impressive "My Heart Will Go On" and James's explanation of the experiences he has "stealing grills" for the town barbecue. Speaking of comedy, Harter Clingman is also a strong comedian, and his performance as Oz is one of my favorites. Christine Toy Johnson and Shamble Ferguson are endearing as Diane and Nick, strangers from different countries who meet on the plane and almost instantly click. Sharon Sayegh is wonderful as Bonnie, who takes it on herself to ensure the safety and comfort of any animals on board the 38 planes that landed in Gander. Danielle K. Thomas breaks hearts with her beautiful performance as Hannah, a mother desperately trying to get in contact with her son, who is a firefighter in New York City. Julie Knitel is a standout as Janice, a young news reporter who happens to be covering the events in Gander on her first day on the job. She brings a sweetness and sincerity to the role that is captivating and just plain makes you like her. Marika Aubrey and Kilty Reidy are both wonderful choices for the roles of Beverly and Claude. Aubrey's voice soars in her song "Me and the Sky," and Reidy is has the audience cheering by the end of his song, "Screech In." Aaron Michael Ray was a great Kevin J., but it is his portrayal of Ali that will stick with me for a long time. He brings a grounded and genuine peace to a character who is, on more than one occassion, made to feel like his presence makes the peace of others diminish. He is kind and patient in the face of fear from others to a point where the audience wants to get up and defend him and his honor. One of the most beautiful numbers is "Prayer," where townspeople and plane passengers alike gather to pray in their own languages and religions. Jeremy Woodward, who plays Kevin T., has a beautiful tenor voice that makes the room go silent as he begins singing, and then is soon joined by the others on stage. The blend of their voices is perfection. The connection between actors radiates from each interaction and reads all the way to the back of the house, making the audience care about these characters and believe their relationships. And I would be remiss not to mention the musicians in this production, who are nothing short of incredible, weaving in and out of the story and on and off the stage, and bringing the audience to their feet one more than one occasion.

If you are looking for a heartwarming and moving night out that includes a story that is just as relevant today as it was 20 years ago, you won't want to miss Come From Away. Tickets are still available for most performances and can be purchased online at https://www.liedcenter.org/event/come-away-0. Do yourself a favor and take this trip away for the evening.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy



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