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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 27, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 48
Come From Away - and see this show!
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Come From Away - and see this show!

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

COME FROM AWAY
SEATTLE REPERTORY THEATRE
Through December 13


Come From Away is a new musical being presented at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Based on their true stories, the musical tells the tale of the close to 6,700 passengers and crew, from the thirty-eight flights, which were grounded in Gander, Newfoundland the morning of September 11, 2001. The musical isn't about the American tragedy as much as it is about the extreme humanity, generosity, and friendship extended to the international passengers by the residents of a small, sleepy, almost forgotten village in Canada.

It is no secret that the morning of September 11, 2001 changed most Americans, if not the world, and how we view those foreign to us. Once the attacks occurred, all flights were immediately denied permission to fly through American airspace. All flights coming into and out of the United States were grounded, a good number of them in Gander, Newfoundland. The morning was ordinary for the residents of the Canadian village until 38 planes were diverted to their airport. The residents of Gander immediately rose to the challenge and gathered food, shelter, water, toiletries, and all other forms of necessities (including animal care for the pets in cargo) all within the space of a few hours. Public housing was immediately designated in schools, churches, auditoriums, and people's private homes. Passengers were from all over the globe with some not speaking any language other than their native tongue. But the people of Gander rallied with their support. With the unexpected 'guest list' almost doubling the town's population (which was close to 10,000), the passengers and residents overcame their own prejudices and insecurities at a time of world crisis, and discover that humanity can indeed break down barriers and overcome fear.

The subject seems like an odd choice for a musical. But in times when Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables, (or even Carrie) can be made into singing sensations, then why not a musical on 9-11? The thing that makes this work is that the plot does NOT focus on the tragic event itself, but definitely more on the humanity that brought the rest of the world together. The actual terrorist attack is the 'elephant in the room,' so to speak, that we, the audience, know is there, we know what is happening, we can see the actors' reactions, but we are not subjected to the blatant bombardment of images, grief and actions from the direct attack. Instead we are given the uplifting stories of how a community rose to the occasion, went above and beyond their necessities, and how the lives of the passengers and crew on those planes (and of those living in Gander) were forever changed afterwards. The authors chose to focus on a few lives, of common passengers, that allow audience members to identify and relate to their actions. One couple is so extremely changed by the incident, that they break up after their return to the States; while another two people meet by circumstances and fall in love. An African-American man experiences for what seems to be the first time in his life, what it is like to be treated as a person instead of a person-of-color; a powerful yet subtle realization for the audience as well. Even a passenger from Egypt feels the pressures of being Middle Eastern on that fateful day, and how the other passengers react to him.

There isn't any one particular role in this musical but rather several leading players that double up on parts. Jenn Colella plays Beverley, one of the pilots of the grounded plane. Beverley gets to sing 'Me and the Sky,' a love ballad about being a young girl wanting to pilot her own plane, in a time when that wasn't allowed, and how she managed to find her dreams. Rodney Hicks plays Bob, an African-American man flying home to Manhattan. Mr. Hicks does an excellent job showing how a person-of-color reacts to the way they are treated in both positive and negative ways. His role could be considered 'comic relief' if the points he made weren't so poignantly real. Broadway veterans (although not the only ones in this show) Kendra Kassebaum, Eric Ankrim, and Chad Kimball (Tony Award Nomination for Memphis) all do excellent work in their individual roles of Newfoundlanders, and passengers on the plane. Each person, including the orchestra, in this show gets to shine at one point or another, and they all work together to put on a fantastic production.

There needs to be a Cast Recording of this musical. If there is not one in the works yet, there needs to be! The songs and lyrics are beautiful. The book, music, and lyrics are by the team of Irene Sankoff and David Hein and they do a fantastic job. The songs are a mixture of traditional Broadway songs; large group numbers without the 'jazz hands' exploitation, and beautiful, haunting numbers that are truly elegant. While there are only a few solo songs, they promote the characters that sing them, exploring their worlds and emotions, as only songs in a musical can do.

Come From Away is a wonderful evening at the theater. It is one of the best 'Pre-Broadway' shows to come through Seattle. Having its premier at La Jolla Playhouse earlier this year, Come From Away reminds us that humanity comes from the heart, and that even at times of crisis, human beings can still surprise one another. At a time when the world is again in turmoil facing terrorist attacks, Come From Away is a perfect reminder that at one time WE were the strangers in a strange land, and we were the ones dependent on the kindness of strangers.

For more information and tickets to Come From Away, visit www.seattlerep.org or call: 206-443-2222; 877-900-9285.

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Come From Away will make you want to kiss a cod! Go SEE it!
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