BWW Review: Emotionally Transcendent COME FROM AWAY at Seattle Rep

BWW Review: Emotionally Transcendent COME FROM AWAY at Seattle Rep
The Company of Come From Away at
The Seattle Rep
Photo credit: Chris Bennion

Dear Readers, for those that may only read the beginnings of my reviews, I must start off this by telling you to stop reading this right now and go get tickets to the new musical "Come From Away" currently at the Seattle Rep. After you have done that you can come back and read the rest of this. I'll wait. Done? OK now that you've done that I can tell you that what you will be seeing is the best musical I've seen all year and possibly ever. At least it will rank in my top 10 of shows that have affected me so much with its sheer brilliant storytelling and heart. This one CANNOT be missed!

We all have our 9/11 stories. Where we were, whom we were with, what we or those close to us went through. That horrible day changed all of us. But in the midst of that tragedy the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland showed what it is to be human by opening up their hearts and homes to complete strangers. This isolated little town became unexpected hosts to 38 planes and about 7000 international visitors as they were diverted from US airspace following the attacks on September 11th, 2001.

Writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein have taken this true event and, based off interviews with the people who lived through it, created this stirring Celtic rock musical. Yes, it's a musical about 9/11 but before you think it's all going to be flag waving and maudlin patriotism you must realize that 9/11 is just the backdrop out of which this incredibly life affirming story happened. Yes, the show explores the tragedy and fears these people were feeling over the days that followed but it also shows off what can happen when people put their own lives aside for a bit in order to help those who need it. A lesson we can all learn from.

The characters, story and above all the music of the show are infectious to the level of soul invading. And of course coupled with the backdrop of that terrible day the emotion becomes that much more intense. But there's tons of laughter amidst the tears which for me amounted to an emotive roller coaster as for 100 minutes I went from sobbing to belly laughs to sobbing again like some sort of emotional tennis match. And this highly emotional show is brilliantly directed by Christopher Ashley who in a very minimal way creates this stunning ride with not one ounce of wasted staging, space or pacing while still keeping the heart of the show oh so alive.

BWW Review: Emotionally Transcendent COME FROM AWAY at Seattle Rep
Jenn Colella (center) and the Company of
Come From Away at the Seattle Rep
Photo credit: Chris Bennion

The entire town as well as all the "plane people" they meet are played by an ensemble of 12 very gifted actors who transform themselves from one persona to another with ease and with absolutely no confusion as to who they are playing at the moment. Eric Ankrim, Petrina Bromley, Jenn Colella, Joel Hatch, Rodney Hicks, Kendra Kassebaum, Chad Kimball, Lee McDougall, Caesar Samayoa, Q. Smith, Astrid Van Wieren and Sharon Wheatley must all be mentioned as each one had their individual moments to shine and not one from this glorious ensemble wasted a single moment. I don't think you could call out a lead or breakout moment in the show but I did have my personal favorites such as Kimball, Smith and Ankrim leading a "Prayer" that sent me into hysterical sobs or Colella who went from hilariously eager townsperson backed up by a group of sexy cardiologists with moves that would put the cast of Magic Mike to shame to a pilot examining how the events tried to tarnish the thing she loves the most, to fly. And all of them are backed up by an ever present and killer band lead by Ian Eisendrath.

If you haven't guessed by now, I absolutely LOVED this show. The story, the music, the performances; everything about it came together in a blissful mélange of brilliance. To demonstrate how amazing this show is let me share a pet peeve of mine. We in Seattle love our theater but Seattle audiences have an annoying habit of giving a standing ovation to everything. Applause is what every show deserves (even the bad ones as they tried). A standing ovation should be reserved for when a show or a performance has been so powerful that you simply cannot remain in your seat when the show is done. And as is often the case in Seattle some people, in my opinion, misguidedly stand as they feel it's the standard and everyone else slowly rises as now we can no longer see around those standing. Well I can say with no reservation that I was one of the first ones on his feet at the end of this show as the energy was so powerful that it was like I had electrodes on my chair and I was not the only one as it was not a slow rise of an ovation, it was the entire theater en masse and immediately. And because of that I'm going to do something with my three letter rating system I have never done before. Typically my highest rating is the WOW. But that's simply not good enough for this show so I give "Come From Away" the unprecedented WOW+! Now for those that didn't listen to me at the start, use the information below to get your tickets. If you miss this one, you'll regret it for the rest of your theatrically subpar life.

"Come From Away" performs at the Seattle Rep through December 13th. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Rep box office at 206-443-2222 or visit them online at www.seattlerep.org.

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From This Author Jay Irwin

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