REVIEW: “Come From Away”…Go There Now
While many people around the world learned about an airplane seemingly crashing into the World Trade Center, I was in kindergarten. My mom was making apple pie. Many were heading into work. Some became heroes that day. And too many became victims. What were you doing on Sept. 11, 2001?
In “Come From Away,” we learn about how a small town in Newfoundland in the wake of the attacks made a large impact. 7,000 frightened and lonely passengers desperately try to contact their families and pray for their loved ones, while stranded in Gander. Townsfolk work through the night to help them in any and every way they can. Cultures collided, tensions were high but bonds were created.
Despite the tragedy that is 9/11, “Come From Away” is a feel-good musical centered around the celebration of community. For 100 minutes, the audience is taken to Canada through music, lyrics and writing.
The hype for this Canadian musical, which is playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre until March 6, is there for a reason. Husband-and-wife team David Hein and Irene Sankoff are Tony Award-winners for a reason. As writers, they managed to tell the story of 7,000 people with a cast of 12.
The set puts all the focus on the hard-working cast. Scenic Designer Beowulf Boritt allows a seven-piece band to sit on stage, partially hidden by tree trunks along the wings. With a few tables, chairs and signs as props, the static set is easily changed from airplane cabin to Salvation Army to local bar within seconds of smart blocking from Director Christopher Ashley.
The story doesn’t shy away from harsh truths, either. There is a gay couple afraid to be out in a small town. An African couple who can’t tell whether Salvation Army volunteers are soldiers or not. A young reporter who has to make sense of everything. And a mother longing to hear from her son; a New York City firefighter.
Each person on stage has to wear multiple hats, and they do so flawlessly. Nick Duckart, specifically, stood out in the cast for his ability to shift wide-ranging characters within seconds. One moment, Duckart is playing a gay man from Brooklyn named Kevin- eager to get home and quibbling with his boyfriend, also named Kevin. In another scene Duckart plays Ali, a Muslim man who faces fear and discrimination in the wake of the attacks. Duckart as Ali performs a monologue describing the strip search he is accosted with. Something no other passenger experiences. It’s a brutally honest moment in the show. What makes it more emotional to watch is the reality of it all; Ali is a real person.
Another remarkable performance based on a true story came from Marika Aubrey. Aubrey portrayed a Gander local named Annette as well as American Airlines Pilot Beverly Bass. As Annette, Aubrey was kind-hearted and hilarious. As Bass, she was strong; emotionally and vocally.
“Me and the Sky” was a turning point for Bass’s character as she shared the adversity she faced to become the first female captain of an American Airlines commercial plane. This was also a vulnerable moment in the show as Bass had to come to terms with a new obstacle; how to recover from such a traumatic event in her industry. Bass is a leader in the aviary and Aubrey was definitely a leader on stage.
“Come From Away” asks the question, “What is found when all is lost?” In moments of tragedy, we find hope in relationships with ourselves and those around us. Praying, eating and talking together helps heal. Singing and dancing helps show that.
The musical is open for a limited engagement at Broadway in Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theater until March 6.