COME FROM AWAYBook, Music and Lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein
National Touring Company
Dallas Summer Musicals
Directed by Christopher Ashley
Musical Staging – Kelly Devine
Music Supervision and Arrangements – Ian Eisendrath
Scenic Design – Beowulf Boritt
Costume Design – Toni-Leslie James
Lighting Design Howell Binkley
Sound Design – Gareth Owen
Orchestrations – August Eriksmoen
Music Coordinator – David Lai
Hair Design – David Brian Brown
Casting – Telsey + Company, Rachel Hoffman, C.S.A.
Dialect Coach – Joel Goldes
Production Stage Manager – Shawn Pennington
Bonnie and others – Sharone Sayegh
Oz and others – Harter Clingman
Beverley/Annette and others – Marika Aubrey
Janice and others – Julia Knitel
Bob and others – James Earl Jones II
Claude and others – Kevin Carolan
Kevin T./Garth and others – Andrew Samonsky
Nick/Doug and others – Chamblee Ferguson
Kevin J./Ali and others – Nick Duckart
Hannah and others – Danielle K. Thomas
Beulah and others – Julie Johnson
Diane and others – Christine Toy Johnson
Conductor/Keyboard/Accordion/Harmonium – Cameron Moncur
Whistles/Irish Flute/Uilleann Pipes – Isaac Alderson
Fiddle – Kiana June Weber
Electric/Acoustic Guitars – Billy Bivona
Acoustic Guitar/Mandolins/Bouzouki – Martin Howley
Electric/Acoustic Bass – Sean Rubin
Bodhran/Percussion – Steve Holloway
Drums/Percussion – Ben Morrow
Reviewed Performance: 3/11/2020
Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The story of “Come From Away” begins with the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. by hijacked commercial air liners, and the attempted attack of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, which was thwarted by its passengers and crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2001. In the aftermath, the Federal Aviation Administration closed American airspace, forcing almost three thousand domestic and international aircraft to find alternative landing areas. Thirty-eight of those planes, carrying around seven thousand passengers and crew, were diverted to an airport located near the small town of Gander, Newfoundland-population approximately ten thousand. The play is based on the story of how the Gander townspeople worked to provide food and lodging for those “Come from Away” off the planes and the relationships that formed and endured because of this event.
The script is based on interviews conducted during the tenth anniversary reunion in Gander with passengers and locals. Some of the characters are based on real people while others, though still based in fact, are combinations of people for dramatic purposes (Thank you, Wikipedia!). This multitude of people is, amazingly, brought to life by a twelve-person cast backed by an eight-piece on-stage band, and the story of love, compassion, and healing they tell is presented with a joy and passion that is irresistible. Tony Award winning director Christopher Ashley has assembled an astonishing group of professionals and has given us a work that envelopes our hearts with a renewed hope in the healing power of each other.
In the stark and striking set by Beowulf Boritt, the stage is flanked on either side by groves of tall bare trees studded with lighting instruments and backed with a rustic wood wall that becomes a palette for the masterful lighting design of Howell Binkley. The conventional curtain speech is dispensed with in this production and we are immediately thrown into the lives of the residences of Gander as the world of these “Islanders” is turned upside-down by the events of 9/11. Through perseverance and compromise (the school bus strike is suspended during the crisis) they work to prepare for these unwilling visitors.
And we are taken aboard the planes to deal with the bewildering position the passengers find themselves in. In this time of instant communication, it is hard to imagine a time when not all people had a cell phone and those who did could not always count on them being reliable. As exemplified in the song “28 Hours/Wherever We Are,” the passengers are stuck in the plane with no idea where they are or why they are there. When they finally are allowed to disembark, they find themselves in the hands of strangers and being put on buses bound for who knows where.
As strangers begin to prove themselves to be friends and as the true nature of the terrorist attacks sink in, we follow the path of the townspeople and their guests from the planes as together they deal with language barriers, cultural differences, prejudice, and loss. And we are able to follow the stories of these people because they are brought to vivid life by a glorious group of actors and singers. Buoyed by music that is heavy with Celtic influences (it’s like a combination of the music of Canadian artist Stan Rodgers and The Chieftains), the cast delivers each song with heart and conviction. From the jaunty “Welcome to the Rock,” introducing us to the residents of Gander, to the inspiring “Me and the Sky,” which recounts the real life journey of the first woman American Airlines captain Beverly Bass, to the touching “Something’s Missing,” expressing the sense of loss felt by all involved, the songs brilliantly bring home the play’s message of hope.
The acting is wonderful. All of them are so good at their craft. The myriad of characters they gave us were all distinct and compelling. As Bonnie, the vet dealing with the onslaught of 19 animals that came in the planes (including two bonobo chimpanzees), Sharone Sayegh was winning and believable. Her farewell to the female chimpanzee brought many in the audience to tears. Harter Clingman has a great quirky look as the townsperson Oz, and he is strong in all of his various characterizations. As pilot Beverly Bass, Marika Aubrey exudes confidence and her emotional delivery in her monologues can be devastating at times. As Janice, the novice news reporter, Julia Knitel radiates innocence and nervousness in a most charming way.
James Earl Jones II is great fun as Bob, especially when he talks about stealing barbecue grills from people’s backyards. He also has a brief, but memorable appearance as an unbelievably sexy pilot for Virgin Air. The amiable mayor of Gander is played by Kevin Carolan. Claude may be laid back, but Mr. Carolan shows you he has the grit to get the job done. Andrew Samonsky shines both as the stubborn school bus union boss Garth and as the plane passenger Kevin T., a gay businessman travelling with his partner, who finds his world opened up by the experience of being in a new land. His powerful singing voice is especially touching in the song “Prayer”.
As Ali, the representation of the many Muslim passengers who were aboard those thirty-eight planes that day, Nick Duckart is outstanding. The compassion for the stranger did not extend to those who looked, in some people’s eyes, like the terrorists, and Mr. Duckart sincerely shows the fear and shame that is inflicted on him by others. As the mother of a firefighter in New York on the day of the attack, Danielle K. Thomas gives the character of Hannah the heart and soul of a mother in pain as she beautifully sings the heartbreaking song “I Am Here.” As Hannah’s support in her time of need, Beulah, actress Julie Johnson provides a lovely combination of compassion and spunk.
Christine Toy Johnson is Diane, a passenger on the plane who finds more in Gander than she anticipated. Ms. Johnson gives a palpable sense of longing to her character, which is especially obvious when she sings the duet “Stop the World.” Her partner in this duet is long-time hometown favorite, Chamblee Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson is always a solid performer and was equally effective as the harried air traffic controller, Doug, and as the love-smitten Brit Nick, who makes you wish you could “Stop the World” to make the things we cherish stay with us forever. It was great fun to see Mr. Ferguson on stage again.
Mentioning the main characters that members of the cast portray is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the performance skills of this cast, who made each part they played distinctly their own. Their group singing is powerful and joyous and the organic musical staging by Kelly Devine is expertly executed. This production is one of the reasons I love live theatre so much. When it is delivered with this amount of talent and commitment, it can be a transcendent experience.
So, take care of yourselves, dear readers. Leave the television and the news feed behind and, having taken the appropriate precautions, find your way to The Music Hall at Fair Park. In these times when fear and uncertainty are thrown in our faces and we are asked to stay apart, it is wonderful to have a story emphasizing the power of the human heart, and the unbelievable power we have when we join together as one. “Come From Away” sings out that hope for all the world to hear. Come listen and join in.
National Touring Company
Dallas Summer Musicals
March 10 – 22, 2020
The Music Hall at Fair Park
909 1st Avenue, Dallas, TX 75210
For tickets and more information call the Music Hall Box Office at 214-691-7200
Or visit on the Web at www.dallassummermusicals.org