Come From Away ~ 2018

Written on February 16th, 2018

Take the Trip to Gander

The 9/11 (or rather 9/12) Gander, Newfoundland musical Come From Away is back in Toronto.  If you missed it during its last stay, you had better order your tickets now, because upcoming dates will sell out quickly.  However, I predict that it will have a long stay, so there will be opportunity to see it in the future.  You don’t want to miss it.

If you aren’t a theatre goer, and you haven’t heard about Come From Away, here’s the story:  Gander, Newfoundland is a quiet little town with a big, old airport. Originally, it was a very busy refuelling stop for planes crossing the Atlantic, but with the advent of jets, the refuelling stop wasn’t needed.  Suddenly, on September 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, all the airspace over the USA was closed.  Planes crossing the Atlantic were forced to land at the nearest airport.  The sleepy Gander airport was suddenly called upon to take in 38 jumbo jets.  The town didn’t have enough hotels for the onslaught of 6,000 passengers, so schools and community centres provided accommodation.

This musical tells how the people of Gander welcomed visitors from around the world.  The story is told with fun and humour, but also with respect for the differences in cultures.  Most importantly, it is told with reverence for the seriousness of the situation.  The young couple, Irene Sankoff and David Hein, who wrote the script, lyrics and music, handled the many stories they collected brilliantly. They created a great record of that special event, as well as a very entertaining piece of theatre.

This marks the third time I’ve seen Come From Away:  I saw it with the original cast twice, and that production has now moved on to Broadway.  After a short run in Winnipeg, this new production is now in Toronto with a wonderfully talented all-Canadian cast.

There are just 12 cast members.  Each person handles several roles – various Newfoundlanders and various ‘come-from-aways’.  A change of jacket or an added hat shows you an all-new character.  There are exaggerated Newfoundland accents plus accents from all around the world.  I salute the cast for capably making all the quick changes. 

Eliza-Jane Scott, as American Airlines Captain Beverley Bass, beautifully sings the heart-felt song “Me and the Sky”.  The song is so powerful that the real-life Bass has come to see the show more than 90 times, including a trip to Winnipeg to see Scott perform it.  Steffi DiDomenicantonio has perfect comedic timing as Janice, the flustered news reporter, while Lisa Horner as Beulah, the teacher, gives us a warm, motherly figure who also spreads laughter.  James Kall and Barbara Fulton, as Nick and Diane, provide a touching love story.  George Masswohl plays the gravel-voiced Mayor of Gander, as well as the mayors of other towns, surely making them proud with his portrayals.  Kristen Peace gives a heartwarming performance as Bonnie, who takes on the work of looking after all the pets and zoo animals on the planes.

We feel Saccha Dennis’ pain, in the role of Hannah, the mother seeking information of her fireman son, missing in New York.  Ali Momen and Jack Noseworthy demonstrate all the emotions of those difficult days as Kevin and Kevin, the gay couple.  Cory O’Brien’s Officer Oz, the Gander policeman, shows the warmth of Newfoundlanders.  Kevin Vidal provides comedy as Bob, the come-from-away who can’t believe the hospitality he is shown.

The singing in this show is amazing, whether solo parts or full chorus.  Special credit goes to the band, a great group of musicians who keep the kitchen party going long after the curtain call.

If you have the tiniest bit of emotion in you, it will bubble out during this musical.  You cry with sadness at the horror of 9/11.  Then you cry with happiness as a love story unfolds and as you see friendships forged.  Then you cry with pride in your fellow Canadians, the wonderful people of Newfoundland.

I see 60 to 70 shows a year, mostly musicals.  Come From Away is the best I’ve seen.  Don’t miss it.

Come From Away continues with eight shows a week at Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto.  Call Ticket King 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit www.mirvish.com for tickets.

Photo: Left: The cast of Come From Away at the Screech-in.  Right:  Eliza-Jane Scott as Captain Bass.  Photos by Matthew Murphy.

Video:  Click here for The Toronto Cast in Come From Away on You Tube

Come From Away – 2018
Book, Music & Lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Directed by Christopher Ashley
Musical Direction by Bob Foster
Performed by Saccha Dennis, Steffi DiDomenicantonio, Barbara Fulton, Lisa Horner, James Kall, George Masswohl, Ali Momen, Jack Noseworthy, Cory O’Brien, Kristen Peace, Eliza-Jane Scott, Kevin Vidal.
Produced by David Mirvish
Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto
Opens February 13, 2018 – open-ended run
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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