|Cast and musicians of Come From Away (Chris Bennion)|
Come From Away
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through December 13, 2015
Here is the best holiday tip I can give you: Before you read this review, go to the computer or phone and arrange tickets for this musical immediately. The Seattle Repertory Theatre is already reporting that tickets for Come From Away, the feel-good musical phenomenon about a small Canadian town taking care of dozens of strangers forced to land on 9/11, are flying out the door!
Part of the reason is that it’s a short run from opening night. That is very “normal” when a musical is new and in development. Part of the process is to have preview performances where the writers continue to work on refinements up until opening night. In fact, the production opened November 18, and allows for four full weeks of performance. Sometimes, new musicals only have two or three weeks after opening!
But by far the biggest reason tickets are flying out the door is that this is undoubtedly the best musical to hit Seattle in…. a long time. It has a kick-ass major cast (all 12 are Broadway vets or Broadway-ready, some with extensive Canadian credits). That’s good because there is every expectation that the show will get to Broadway and soon! The book, sharp and refined, and music, and lyrics by Canadians Irene Sankoff and David Hein are catchy!
Director Christopher Ashley (from the La Jolla Playhouse co-producers) and choreographer Kelly Devine work the rhythms of this show to a fare-thee-well. Every movement and every moment count.
The on-stage band, supervised by Ian Eisendrath, is ready, willing, and able. The acoustic instrumentation and simple and the use of odd instruments (the “ugly” stick) adds to the authentic Newfoundland sound. The beat is compelling, making it hard for the audience to sit still.
The staging is deceptively simple, on a rotating platform (designed by Beowulf Boritt). Dialect coach Joel Goldes had to have been extremely busy with the multitudes of accents called for by international passengers.
So, what’s it all about? We all know so much about September 11th… and we may even have realized that there was a no-fly zone established by the FAA over the entire United States that day. But maybe you, like I, did not think about where all the flights in the air were going to end up!
A whole passel of ‘em ended up being diverted to a tiny Canadian town: Gander, Newfoundland. The whole town wasn’t more than 7,000 people, yet all of a sudden they had to play host to more than 3 dozen planes full of strangers and even animals (there was a pregnant monkey on one plane!). The musical focuses on real people’s stories of landing there that day and also on townsfolk who described scrambling for beds, food, diapers, everything you can think of that people suddenly need.
Gander and surrounding small communities rose to the occasion and poured as much hospitality as they could around. It’s not a secret what happened, but it’s a great story of human kindness and pulling together in the face of emergency. Relationships born from that unique experience survive to this day.
Multitudes of characters speak to the audience about their experiences but that device doesn’t pale over the brisk 100 minute (no intermission) musical. The book is evenly balanced between the townsfolk and the passengers, though those that change the most over the several days were passengers who experienced the hospitality of Newfoundlanders and found camaraderie with each other.
There are over 24 different characters played by the 12 cast members, but you never feel confused about who’s doing the talking/narrating. If there is anyone said to be a lead character, it would be Jenn Colella as the captain of one flight, Beverley. Colella even looks like Beverley (who was present opening night)! In addition, locals Eric Ankrim, Kendra Kassebaum, ex-local Chad Kimball, and Patrina Bromley, Joel Hatch, Rodney Hicks, Lee MacDougall, Caesar Samayoa, Q. Smith, Astrid Van Wieren and Sharon Wheatley star.
So, now that you’ve already gotten your tickets, prepare to be entertained by one of the hands down best productions our area has seen in quite a while. It may make you wanna kiss a cod!