By: Paulanne Simmons
When writing about “Come from Away,” husband and wife team Irene Sankoff and David Hein’s musical that pays tribute to Gander, the small Newfoundland town where 38 planes were forced to land after 9/11, the first word that comes to mind is “uplifting.”
Indeed this inspiring story about a group of ordinary people who go to extraordinary lengths to do the right thing should warm the heart of even the world’s worst cynic. But the musical, directed by Christopher Ashley, has much more to praise.
First there’s Sankoff and Hein’s spirited score, driving, buoyant and often tuneful, with an appropriately celtic undertone. Because much of the singing is choral, it’s not always easy to decipher the words, but solos such as Jenn Colella’s “Me and The Sky,” show the couples’ ability to capture mood and meaning.
Then there’s the tremendous acting of the 12-member ensemble that is not only called upon to play several roles (both the townspeople and the travelers) but also to change parts, and often clothing, with mind-bending rapidity. These characters are based on interviews with town residents and airline passengers,
The random collection of travelers includes a gay couple, Kevin T. (Chad Kimball) and Kevin J. (Caesar Samayoa), whose love is fading; and a straight couple, divorced mother Diane (Sharon Wheatley) and nerdy Brit Nick (Lee McDougall), whose love is blooming.
There’s Bob (Rodney Hicks), a young black man whose suspicions and fears have been shaped by racism; and Hannah (Q. Smith), the black mother of a missing New York City firefighter. And of course there’s American Airlines’ first female pilot (Jenn Colleen), even more responsible for the passengers than the Canadians.
The passengers are succored by the goodnatured town mayor (Joel Hatch); the head of the SPCA (Petrina Bromley), who is more concerned with a pregnant bonobo than the humans; the leader of the bus drivers’ union (Chad Kimball), who reluctantly agrees to temporarily end a strike so the drivers can transport the stranded passengers; a local named Beulah (Astrid Van Kieren), who is charged with co-ordinating the town’s efforts, and many heroic, unnamed citizens.
These people come from different cultures and follow different faiths but find common ground in the very moving “Prayer,” one of the high points of the show.
“Come from Away” is not a cultural study of Canadian behavior, a psychological treatise on the human response to crises or political commentary on the causes of terrorism. It is a musical about people who do their best in the worst of times. And for this we can only say thank-you.
Come from Away *****
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street
Box Office Hours:
Monday – Saturday: 10am – 8pm, Sunday: Noon – 6pm*
*Open until curtain when there is an evening performance.
212 239-6200 Photos: Mathew Murray
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