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Come From Away ~ The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Jordan Wright
December 13, 2019 

Come From Away is the heartwarming true story of the residents of Gander, Newfoundland who took in over 7,000 passengers when their flights were diverted during 9/11.  It is not a maudlin retelling of that terrifying moment in time when all U. S. airspace shut down.  Nor is it an historical or political exposé, but it is a testament to how extraordinarily kind and generous these small-town residents were when faced with a disaster of epic proportions.

The North American Tour of Come From Away Photo Credit Matthew Murphy

It’s a normal workday when news comes in that 38 international aircraft have been diverted to their local airport.  The bus drivers are on strike.  The local news reporter is on her first day on the job. The mayor is under siege and the SPCA lady is running late to the animal shelter.  Passengers on the aircraft have no idea why they are not headed to their destinations.  Forced to remain in their crowded planes on the tarmac for 28 hours with zip to do, they get rip-roaring drunk.  Who wouldn’t?

The North American Tour of Come From Away Photo Credit Matthew Murphy

Based on a true story, the musical parallels the strained emotions of the stranded passengers with the herculean efforts of the townspeople who struggled to provide food and supplies for adults, kids, babies, dogs, cats and a pair of bonobo chimpanzees.  Everything about this sweet, sweet, musical reaffirms one’s belief in the kindness and generosity of strangers in the face of adversity.  Remember how everyone pulled together in New York during that terrifying time?  Well, it feels just like that, only with a great deal of situational humor as the passengers settle into town life, struggle to adjust, and hit the local bars.

The North American Tour of Come From Away Photo Credit Matthew Murphy

Of particular charm are the townspeople’s Irish accents and Irish music, a result of the region’s Celtics roots.  Add to that the passengers’ diversity of ethnicities, religions, and predilections, to form an ad hoc United Nations.  Yet there is still fear amongst some of the passengers.  A gay couple worries they will be scorned.  A Muslim has to hide his prayer time.  A mixed-race couple is unsure if it’s realistic to fall in love under such superficial circumstances.

The staging is a brilliant achievement of complex choreography as the actors assume many roles and the simple sets toggle between scenes on the planes, the local watering hole, the SPCA and the mayor’s office.

The First North American Tour Company of COME FROM AWAY, Photo by Matthew Murphy,

Uplifting and exuberant with a gorgeous score and phenomenal singing to boot.  I loved every minute of it!

Book, Music and Lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein.  Directed by Christopher Ashley with Lighting Design by Howell Binkley; Costumes by Toni-Leslie James; Scenic Design by Beowolf Boritt; Sound Design by Gareth Owen; Orchestrations by August Eriksmoen; and Arrangements by Ian Eisendrath.

Featuring Sharone Sayegh as Bonnie; Harter Clingman as Oz and others; Marika Aubrey as Beverly/Annette and others; Julia Knitel as Janice and others; James Earl Jones II as Bob and others; Kevin Carolan as Claude and others; Chamblee Ferguson as Nick/Doug and others; Nick Duckart as Kevin J./Ali and others; Danielle K. Thomas as Hannah and others; Julie Johnson as Beulah and others; and Christine Toy Johnson as Diane and others.

Through January 5th at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org.

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