Junkyard Dog Productions
Jerry Frankel, Latitude Link, Smith & Brand Theatricals
et al. and
La Jolla Playhouse and Seattle Repertory Theatre
Come from Away
A New Musical
(Come from Away Website)
Book, Music, and Lyrics by
Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Directed by Christopher Ashley
Featuring: Petrina Bromley, Geno Carr, Jenn Colella
Joel Hatch, Rodney Hicks, Kendra Kassebaum
Chad Kimball, Lee MacDougall, Caesar Samayoa, Q. Smith
Astrid Van Wieren, Sharon Wheatley, Josh Breckenridge
Susan Dunstan, Tamika Lawrence, Tony LePage
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street
Scenic Design: Beowulf Boritt
Costume Design: Toni-Leslie James
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley
Sound Design: Gareth Owen
Orchestrations: August Eriksmoen
Arrangements: Ian Eisendrath
Music Coordinator: David Lai
Casting Director: Telsey + Company –Rachel Hoffman, CSA
Dialect Coach: Joel Goldes
Digital Advertising and Marketing: Arthouse
Technical Supervision: Hudson Theatrical Associates
Press: Polk & Co.
Production Stage Manager: Arturo E. Porazzi
Production Management: Juniper Street Productions, Inc.
General Management: Alchemy Production Group
Music Supervision: Ian Eisendrath
Musical Staging: Kelly Devine
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 16, 2017
The time is September 11, 2001, and the place is Gander, on the northeastern tip of the island of Newfoundland. Gander is known for its transatlantic airport, and on 9/11 it was employed, in emergency, to care for 6,700 stranded airplane crew and passengers for about a week, while the American air space was shut down. True tales from Gander residents and the 38 planes on the ground provided the content for this show. The writers were told how passengers were immediately and generously offered blankets and bedding at shelters, then home showers, home stays, restaurant meals, endless liquor at bars, and even a romantic relationship (two passengers from opposite locations on the globe). La Jolla Playhouse and Seattle Repertory Theatre co-produced Come from Away, with book, music, and lyrics by Canadian husband-wife team, Irene Sankoff and David Hein, in La Jolla to rave reviews in 2015. There were also a couple of showings in Gander and early and later productions in Ontario, Washington, DC, and Toronto. Christopher Ashley, the Broadway show’s Director, is La Jolla Playhouse’s Artistic Director.
Prior to tonight’s show, my guest and I were lucky to meet the actual American Airlines pilot, Beverly Bass, American Airlines’ first female pilot to be promoted to captain.. She attends many of the show’s performances with pride and enthusiasm. Onstage she is played by Jenn Colella, a central character, whose plane is diverted, while she is in charge. Chad Kimball (Memphis) is in the role of Kevin T., the partner of Kevin J. (Caesar Samayoa), and the two take the risk of having a drink in a rural Gander bar, where they are greeted warmly and hosted by the locals. Another passenger, Hannah (Q. Smith), bonds with another woman whose son is also a fireman, but Hannah’s New York son cannot be found on this tragic, grim day. Phone lines are critical, as passengers absorb their plight, but soon adaptation kicks in, new friends are made, and songs are born. In fact, this 100-minute, intermission-less show includes a Newfoundland band with percussion, harmonica, whistles, and violins. Bluegrass and Irish dance come to mind.
The cast of a dozen switch from passengers to townsfolk, like the Mayor of Gander (Joel Hatch) and a couple that meets on the plane and soon falls in love (Sharon Wheatley and Lee MacDougall). Mr. Samayoa also plays an Egyptian, a master chef, who has to beg to help cook the meals for thousands, as he is shunned for being Muslim. Soon he is embraced and given a mat for prayer. Songs, such as “I Am Here” (Hannah), “Me and the Sky” (Beverly and cast), and “Darkness and Trees” (Company) will not send you out to the street humming. But, the music has rollicking fervor and momentum, and the rhythms are contagious. Kelly Devine’s musical staging and Ian Eisendrath’s music supervision keep everyone ebullient in the happier scenes. In the spotlighted scenes of poignant yearning and loss, the music shifts to backdrop. Beowulf Boritt’s uncluttered, flexible set, with chairs for plane seats, plus trees, bar tables, and a turnstile to keep the cast visibly in motion, was perfectly conceived. Toni-Leslie James’ costumes were mostly casual attire, plus iconic airline uniforms. Howell Binkley’s lighting was prominent in the eerie nighttime, when passengers and locals were converging in the dark.
This is a show that sets politics aside, as well as ethnicity, religion, same sex partnering, and social status. Thousands of international refugees were warmly welcomed in Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11/2001 and a week beyond. The audience was swept in, and so was I. Kudos to all.