Review: Come From Away – A Triumphant Return

The touring production Come From Away has arrived at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre starring Kevin Carolan (Disney’s Newsies), Harter Clingman (Peter and The Starcatcher), Nick Duckart (In the Heights), Chamblee Ferguson, Becky Gulsvig (School of Rock the Musical), Julie Johnson (Memphis), Christine Toy Johnson (The Music Man), James Earl Jones II (The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess), Megan McGinnis (Les Misérables), Andrew Samonsky (South Pacific), Danielle K. Thomas (Avenue Q), Emily Walton (August Osage County), Marika Aubrey, Jane Bunting, Michael Brian Dunn, Julie Garnyé, Adam Halpin, Aaron Michael Ray.

Come From Away runs through November 4, 2018. Get tickets here and check out our review below.

With the suggestion of a musical about the infamous day of September 11, a person wouldn’t be sure what to expect. One doesn’t think of something triumphant, uplifting, well thought out, and excellently produced when it comes to the subject of that dark day back in 2001. The musical Come From Away is about that dark day and, while staying accurate with true events and characters, it is exactly that; triumphant, uplifting, well thought out and excellent. Finding it’s first Pre-Broadway legs in Seattle (back in 2015) the show returns, and audiences are welcoming it home with open arms.

The show takes place in a little town called Gander, on the outskirts of Newfoundland, Canada. A large airport was built there so planes could refuel before continuing across the Atlantic Ocean. With the updates of jets that could make it in one tank, there was very little use for Gander’s airport and the town of (approximately) 9000 people settled into recluse and quiet. That is until the day of September 11, 2001. Following the attacks on The Pentagon and the World Trade Center, more than 38 planes (with over 7000 passengers collectively) were rerouted and detained in the small town practically doubling the population. Passengers from all around the globe are on board these flights, and many of them don’t speak or understand English. There are a multitude of animals on board including a set of rare Bonobo chimpanzees. What happens over the next five days transforms both natives and those that have ‘Come from Away’ into something resembling a family consisting of multiple communities and cultures. Fear and confusion reign heavily among the passengers, and yet the natives of this little town open their hearts and homes to a group of unknowns, showing that at times of crisis it is our humanity that will save us.

There are only 12 actors on stage but it seems like a much larger cast because they all play multiple roles. Without hesitation (or any confusion) this cast moves like a well-oiled machine, easily transforming from passengers, to crewmembers, to local town people with great fluidity and grace. The passengers most often represented are a gay couple (Kevin and Kevin), a woman from Texas and a man from England, and the female Captain of one of the airlines, among many others. The town of Gander is (mostly) represented by The Mayor, a news reporter, a sheriff, a veterinarian, and a schoolteacher, among many others. The cast does an excellent job, shifting together as one morphing entity. When studying how an acting troupe should work together as one, this cast of actors wrote the blueprint.

The book, music and lyrics are written by married couple Irene Sankoff and David Hein. While there aren’t many hummable tunes (in fact there is only one real solo*), the music is extremely hauntingly beautiful at times while being rhythmically catchy at others. A lot of the music serves as background during [mostly] spoken parts of the show, but like any other song in a musical, they definitely serve the purpose of promoting the storyline.

The cast of COME FROM AWAY (photo by Matthew Murphy 2016)

The cast of COME FROM AWAY (photo by Matthew Murphy 2016)

There is clearly one break out song from this show. It’s the pilot’s anthem, *“Me and the Sky”. The song tells of a young girl’s dream of becoming a pilot. She starts at the bottom, works her way through sexism and stereotypes. Slowly, she achieves the victory of becoming not only the first female Captain for American Airlines, but goes on to become the Captain of the first all female crew ‘making headlines around the world’. It is easy to feel the ambition, the struggles, and the eventual triumph of the character knowing that she is based on a real person. A lot of that has to do with not only the true sincerity of the song, but also the electric delivery of Ms. Becky Gulsvig, backed by the very talented women of the cast.

Come From Away is truly an incredible show. It’s entertaining, full of courage, and humanity. When it first opened in Seattle (Pre-Broadway) in 2015, the musical was a smash. Tickets were hard to achieve and for good reason. Since the return of Come From Away marks the launch of the 5th Avenue’s 2019 Season, it would be recommended to get tickets as soon as possible!

Come From Away got its start back in 2013 at the 5th Avenue Theatre Workshops. It opened at Seattle Rep Theatre (co-produced with The 5th Avenue) in 2015 and moved to Broadway in 2017, where it was nominated for seven Tony Awards (including Best Musical), winning one for Best Direction.

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Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz has short stories included in over 10 anthologies. He is the author of the Agent Buck 98 Series (“The Jesus Injection” and “Balls & Chain”), and the author of the Greek myth series beginning with the novel TARTARUS. He has conducted celebrity interviews with some of the biggest and best names on Broadway, Hollywood and in literature. He can be found at:

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