Through Sun 7/28
When I saw Come From Away on Broadway I was totally blown away. As the lights faded on the last scene I shot out of my seat to give a standing, yelling salute. Yes, me — the person who doesn’t believe in standing ovations unless the show is an A+ was totally “in” on awarding this exceptional musical drama and its immersing experience.
And, yes, I was on my feet again at the ending of the Key Bank Broadway version of the show, now on stage at the Connor Palace.
Come From Away is from the new genre of musical dramas that seamlessly integrate music and story together so that the spoken words and lyrics are one and the same. Dear Evan Hansen and Next to Normal are prime examples of this genre. These musicals don’t have dance interludes. The staging incorporates movement and what would normally be termed as dance, together. No showstoppers here, just storytelling.
Come from Away is a Canadian musical with book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. The musical, which is the result of visits by the authors to Newfoundland and numerous interviews with local and international participants, spotlights the true stories of the generosity and kindness of the people of Canada following the 9/11 tragic events as it relates to thousands of people of various nationalities and religions.
The action takes place on the island of Newfoundland — thousands of miles away from New York City’s World Trade Center, Washington D.C.’s Pentagon, and Pennsylvania’s Somerset County, where on that iconic day 19 terrorists hijacked and crashed planes, thus changing the course of modern world history. The Federal Aviation Agency immediately closed the United States’ airspace following the attack and Canadian air traffic control stepped in to help planes coming to the US.
As part of “Operation Yellow Ribbon,” they landed 38 jumbo jets and four military flights at Newfoundland’s Gander International Airport — the nearest sizable available airport on the continent. As a result of the detour, 6,759 passengers and airline crew members, plus nine cats, 11 dogs and a pair of endangered apes, arrived at the small northeastern town and nearly doubled its population of 9,651.
(To put the mind-boggling event in perspective, realize that Gander is about the physical size and population of Vermillion, Ohio.)
The musical drama opened to rave reviews when it was first produced at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada. It went on to record-breaking runs at four other venues in the United States and Canada before it opened in New York in 2017 to extremely positive critical reviews and resounding box office success. The show has been playing to standing-room-only audiences on the Great White Way ever since.
The Key Bank Broadway touring show is meticulously directed by Broadway’s Christopher Ashley, with creative staging by Kelly Devine and scenic design by Beowulf Boritt. The staging centers use of just a dozen or so chairs, a couple of tables and a lot of imagination, creating visual depictions of airplanes, buses, a bar, a school, a skating rink and the great outdoors.
The compelling music for the tour is supervised by Ian Isendrath.
Starting with the powerful “Welcome to the Rock” through “38 Planes” and “I Am Here,” to “Me and the Sky” and “Stop the World” to “Somethings Missing,” there is not one moment of letdown. Humor, pathos, empathy and drama reign supreme.
The cast is universally outstanding. Each takes on numerous roles, changing accents and personas, with ease and conviction. Each gives a textured, believable performance, displaying humor and dramatic depth-of-character development.
Special hurrahs to soloists Andrew Samonsky (“Prayer”), Danielle K. Thomas (“I Am Here”), Kevin Carolan (“Screech In”), Becky Gulsvig (“Me and the Sky”) and Chamblee Ferguson and Christine Toy Johnson (“Stop the World”).
Don’t plan to run for your vehicle at the conclusion. The Canadian hoedown that is part of the curtain call is, by itself, worth the price of admission. (I dare you not to stomp, hoot and clap your way through that experience.)
CAPSULE JUDGMENT: Come From Away is a special musical that creatively tells a heart-wrenching story of compassion, caring and a display of the best of humanity with humor and pathos. It makes for one of those special moments in the theater. The touring production is beyond excellent and is an absolutely must see!!
Come From Away runs through Sun 7/28 as part of the Key Bank Broadway Series. To purchase tickets, call 216-241-6000 or go to playhousesquare.org.
[Written by Roy Berko, Member, American Theatre Critics Association and Cleveland Critics Circle]