Saturday, March 11, 2017

Come from Away


This Canadian musical with book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein could not have arrived on Broadway at a better time. With our national psyche bruised by angst, doubt, resentment and divisiveness, it is comforting to be reminded that people can behave with kindness, charity, openness and unity. The show tells the story of what occurred in Gander, Newfoundland where 38 flights were forced to land after U.S. airspace was closed on 9/11. 7,000 passengers and crew — and a few animals — were housed, fed, comforted and entertained by the residents of a town whose population barely exceeded the number of unexpected guests. An excellent ensemble of twelve play both the residents and the guests, changing roles faster than you can blink. The book is based on actual interviews the creators conducted during the tenth anniversary observance of the event. The locals include the mayor (Joel Hatch), a teacher, the librarian (Astrid Van Wieren), the head of the striking bus drivers union, an animal welfare lady (Petrina Bromley) and a newly arrived television reporter (Kendra Kassebaum). The passengers include a woman (Q. Smith) whose son is a NYC fireman, a gay couple both named Kevin (Chad Kimball and Caesar Samayoa), a rabbi (Geno Carr), an Egyptian chef, an African family who speak no English, a young African-American man (Rodney Hicks) and an unlikely couple —a middle aged Texas divorcee (Sharon Wheatley) and a shy Englishman (Lee MacDougall) who take a fancy to each other. If a character can be singled out as the lead, it would be Beverley (Jenn Colella of High Fidelity and Closer Than Ever), a pilot, who gets the show’s only solo. The style of the music is mainly Celtic folk. Many of the songs sounded alike to my untrained ear. There is one lovely number where several passengers pray, each according to his or her custom. There’s  a rousing foot-stomping number set in a bar when some of the “come-from-aways” are initiated as honorary Newfoundlanders. The set by Beowulf Boritt features a forest of tree trunks on either side of the stage behind which the musicians are seated, a slatted back wall suitable for projections, a dozen or so mismatched wooden chairs and a turntable. Near the center of the back wall stand two damaged tree trunks possibly symbolizing the twin towers. The costumes by Toni-Leslie James help distinguish the characters. Kelly Devine is credited for “musical staging,” rather than as choreographer. Christopher Ashley’s direction keeps things flowing smoothly. The musicians get a well-deserved chance to show off during the curtain call. Judging from the audience’s enthusiasm, Broadway will welcome this feel-good musical. Running time: one hour 45 minutes; no intermission.

No comments: