Review: COME FROM AWAY (North American Tour)

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by Tony Frankel on June 1, 2022

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


This intimate ensemble piece seems to get better and better, yet it’s practically the same show I saw when it first opened at La Jolla Playhouse and then on Broadway (where it remains a hit). The National Tour, which is merely breezing through L.A. for two weeks (it will play Costa Mesa beginning June 21, 2022), is also a most welcome cultural blessing that manages to melt away the iciness of our polarized times by presenting a hearth of heart-filled humanity.

In the immediate aftershock of the 9/11 attacks, 38 international flights with approximately 7,000 passengers and personnel on board were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland, which at the time had a population of about 9,000. This is the true tale of the princely, welcoming Canadians who housed and fed the stranded strangers — “plane people” — for five days, an act that made news at a time when terrorism, death, mistrust, smoke and ash were the only things on TV. (And, frankly, not much has changed in that department since 2001; it’s time already to permanently turn off the nightly news. TURN. THE. NEWS. OFF. NOW.)

Marika Aubrey and company

With book, music and lyrics by married couple Irene Sankoff and David Hein — Canadians themselves (Torontonians)  — Come from Away truly embodies the spirit of Canada’s denizens as I’ve come to know them: Generous, hospitable, and authentically nice people with little sense of entitlement. Under Christopher Ashley’s seamlessly fluid direction on Beowulf Boritt’s minimal set, there are many stories crisscrossing each other as 12 astoundingly adaptable thespians portray dozens of folks — both homebound and dispossessed — with the switch of an accent or a hat (Toni-Leslie James designed the quick-change costumes).

 The North American touring company of "Come from Away"

Given the context of 9/11, it’s ironic that little seems high-risk here; even with romance and a missing son, the potential for very significant gains or losses in the brisk intermissionless 100 minutes is negligible. I realize more than ever that sophisticated songs and impact-driven dialogue is most certainly not what the creators were going for — they simply wanted to give voice to the good in the world at a time of inconsolable grief. This is that rare theater piece which is actually a tonic for what ails you.

 The North American touring company of "Come from Away"

This is why you won’t see those horrifying moments when people realize that the world has changed forever. Instead, you’ll see, for example, a middle-aged British man and Texas woman kindle a romance, and a raucous night of initiation at a Gander bar, where the guests are pressed to kiss a cod and then take in a local rum-like concoction known as “screech.”

 The North American touring company of "Come from Away"

A most refreshing aspect is that we can watch a show rich in diverse characters, instead of going to revivals that force colorblind casting on us regardless of believability. Thus, the cast is varied in age, body type, and race because it is fundamental for this story. Among the roles are a novice reporter, a gay couple named Kevin and Kevin, a cynical New Yorker, an animal-rights activist, the brusque Gander mayor, and a tough-minded veteran female pilot (the lovely Marika Aubrey, who has the one contained song in the show).

The North American touring company of "Come from Away"

As with Dear Evan Hansen, it is the dialogue that does the yeoman’s work here; taken from interviews conducted by Sankoff & Hein, it is neither affected nor forced, and sometimes very funny (the interview aspect is reminiscent of The Laramie Project). As for the score, which is written so that applause doesn’t intrude on the story, forget hummable tunes. Even so, the music is either tremendously melancholic and attractive or rhythmically catchy and spirited, even serving as a background to the dialogue. The score is an amalgam of Broadway, pop and folk, with a countrified feel rich in Celtic sounds played with élan by a six-member onstage band. The terrific orchestrations by August Eriksmoen include fiddle, tin whistle (an Irish flute), accordion, and bodhrán (a handheld, shallow Irish drum).

The North American touring company of "Come from Away"

As the world becomes more crowded, divided, and ill-mannered, Come from Away is a lovely reminder of how good it feels to be accepted and embraced. Just holding the door open for someone, or using your damned turn signal, may be the beginning of the revolution we’re all ultimately seeking: when the human race becomes the humane race.

photos by Matthew Murphy

Cast: Marika Aubrey, Kevin Carolan , Harter Clingman, Nick Duckart, Chamblee Ferguson, Christine Toy Johnson, Julie Johnson, James Earl Jones II, Julia Knitel, Sharone Sayegh, Danielle K. Thomas, Jeremy Woodard, Jenny Ashman, Jane Bunting, Amelia Cormack, Aaron Michael Ray, Kilty Reidy and Brandon Springman.

Come from Away
first North American tour
reviewed at Ahmanson Theatre
ends on June 12, 2022 in Los Angeles; for tickets ($40 – $150), call 213.972.4400 or visit CTG

for dates and cities, visit Come from Away

{ 1 comment }

Shem June 2, 2022 at 11:33 pm

Lovely review. I agree wholeheartedly. This is one show not to be missed. (And, no, I don’t work for the Come from Away team.) 🙂

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