Review by Judith Robinson
Come From Away, currently playing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, is a musical pulsing with resilience and hope. First produced at Oakville’s Sheridan College in 2013, the musical went on to sell-out crowds in Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, D.C. In February, it will move to the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway. (Ed. note: -First critiqued here as a workshop, then studio performance, see our O.A.R. archive-‘2/15/13)
This Canadian success story chronicles the hosting of nearly 7,000 stranded airline passengers in Gander, Newfoundland during the 9/11 crisis.
Conceived by Toronto lawyer and professor, Michael Rubinoff, the musical was researched and developed by award-winning, Canadian musical writers – Irene Sankoff and David Hein – known for their highly successful work, “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding”. (see O.A.R.’s “Toronto Fringe ’09″portent-bearing critique (July 6/2009)
The production oozes with charm—Celtic fiddle tunes, foot stomping medleys, witty colloquialisms, Newfie jokes and trickster puns. The dancing, singing, and instrumental accompaniment by the eight-member band, are excellent.
The urban “come from aways” are transformed by the little kindnesses and generosity of their warm-hearted Newfie hosts. The paranoid city dwellers learn to relax and trust each other, after drinking the local screech.
Although all twelve cast members did a remarkable job of playing several different roles – a few stand out. Jenn Colella, hit all the right notes, as Beverley Bass, the first female to make captain with American Airlines in 1986. Her singing and acting as the commanding, yet vulnerable, captain, was compelling. The romance between stiff, British executive Nick, played by Lee MacDougall, and rough and ready Texan Diane, played by Sharon Wheatley, provided a lovely counterpoint to the airline story. Real life Newfoundlander, Petrina Bromley, as Bonnie, kept the audience laughing with her frantic attempts to rescue animals out of the baggage compartments of the off-limits 38 stranded planes.
From beginning to end, this Mirvish Production never missed a beat. Director, Christopher Ashley and choreographer, Kelly Devine, kept the action moving – but underneath the hectic pace there was a strong message of hope. Under the tension, frustration and confusion of a tragic moment in North America’s history, lay an overwhelming sense of human decency and compassion. This musical is truly a Canadian classic.
Come from Away runs until January 8th.