"On 9/11, the world stopped. On 9/12 their stories moved us all." That is the reason that Come From Away, the Tony Award nominated and Tony Award winning production from Irene Sankoff and David Hein is described as a 9/12 story. The production has taken home awards at not just the Tonys but at the Dora Awards, Drama Desk Awards, Helen Hayes Awards, and Outer Critics Circle Awards. And all were well deserved.
Throughout the 100 minutes of the show (with no intermission) I was never left wondering when it would be over. The words and music take you into a story that allows you to see a caring side to the horrific event of 9/11. As well as taking great care in the telling of 9/11, Come From Away tells the story in a respectful manner and the show ends with an outpouring of love and happiness that makes you never want to leave the theater.
On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Irene Sankoff and David Hein heard about the reunion in Gander, Newfoundland for everyone who had been stranded there after the American airspace was closed as a result of the terror attacks. They interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people, and brought their stories together in the musical Come From Away.
The small cast of twelve people embody the nearly 16,000 people that were living in Gander and were stuck there at the time. Each cast member plays multiple characters, switching costumes, accents, and changing their body language to embody each person.
Petrina Bromley plays 'Bonnie & others'. Bonnie worked to take the animals off the planes, of which there were nineteen, including rare bonobo chimpanzees. A sweet moment comes toward the end of the show where Bromley's character is talking to one of the chimps, saying that she's sorry for losing the baby. This comes full circle in the "Finale" when she says that the bonobo went to a zoo where it soon had another baby, which they named Gander.
Geno Carr plays 'Oz & others'. Oz was the constable in Gander and Carr delivers some of the most memorable lines in the show, which made the audience laugh, including "Slow the fuck down!" in the opening song "Welcome to the Rock".
Jenn Colella plays 'Beverly/Annette & others'. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her role and it was well deserved. Her breathtaking ability to switch between her characters makes you feel like you are looking at different people and she plays Beverly Bass (her main role) with strength and determination which well matches her character and, likely, the strength of the real Captain Beverly Bass. Her solo number, "Me and the Sky" was one of the highlights of the show and demonstrates her incredible acting and vocal range.
Joel Hatch plays 'Claude & others', Claude being the mayor of Gander. He also plays the mayor of Appleton, another town in Newfoundland. With the many characters he plays, he too switches characters very well and expresses each character he plays, for no matter how long, with excellent ability.
Rodney Hicks plays 'Bob & others' including Captain Bristol. When I saw the show, Hicks was not on, instead was one of the six standbys in the show, Josh Breckenridge. For not performing the role eight times a week, and having to know multiple other parts, Breckenridge was phenomenal in his performance as Bob and also delivered some of the funniest and memorable lines in the show.
Kendra Kassebaum plays 'Janice & others'. Janice is a combination of two of the reporters that Sankoff and Hein interviewed in Gander in 2011. She also plays a flight attendant for American and plays her roles beautifully, truly embodying each part she plays.
Chad Kimball plays 'Kevin T./Garth & others'. Garth is a school bus driver who is on strike with the rest of them, and Kevin T. runs a company in LA that does a lot of work with the environment, as well as being in a relationship with Kevin J. who is played by Caeser Samayoa. Kimball is fantastic at switching between accents, making his characters distinct and giving each his own touch that creates a very memorable performance.
Lee MacDougall plays 'Nick/Doug & others'. Nick is a Englishman who was supposed to be on his way to a conference in Dallas and he subsequently takes a liking to Diane, played by Sharon Wheatley. Doug is Bonnie's husband and works at air traffic control. MacDougall plays each part distinctly and creates a relatable character as Nick who, in his own words, "says awkward things".
Caesar Samayoa plays 'Kevin J./Ali' and others. Ali was an Egyptian passenger on a plane who was detained for questioning twice and scared several of the other passengers. Samayoa plays him incredibly well, and especially in the current political climate where people are wary toward those who don't share their culture, his performance reminds us that actions can affect other people and shows that no one should judge a person by what they look like, even in times of trouble. Kevin J. is dating Chad Kimball's character Kevin T. and in his own words is his "sexytary". Both Kevins are worried about what other people's reaction to them being gay will be but like Samayoa's other character they end up preaching a message of love and acceptance as people open their arms to them.
Q. Smith plays 'Hannah & others'. Hannah is a mother who spends a great deal of the show trying to reach her son, a firefighter in New York. While she eventually learns that he did not survive, one of the best parts of the show is the friendship that forms between Hannah and Beulah, played by Astrid Van Wieren as while Hannah is in Gander, Beulah helps her with many of the things she needs, takes her to a church to pray and is comfort for her. Smith's standout part in the show comes during the song "I Am Here" as her character leaves message after message trying to reach her son.
Astrid Van Wieren plays 'Beulah & others'. Beulah along with Annette, played by Jenn Colella, organize the school for the coming of the plane people. One of her standout moments in the show however is when she is playing a plane passenger and begins to sing "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic, which is later repeated when they're in the bar.
Sharon Wheatley plays 'Diane & others'. Diane is trying to tell her son where she is when Nick, played by Lee MacDougall, comes and sits next to her and the pair subsequently take a liking to each other. She plays Diane beautifully and gives an incredible and memorable performance.
The band is another standout part of the show, often joining the cast on stage, notably in the number "In the Bar/Heave Away". They have a number at the end of the show, "Screech Out" where they take center stage and play for the audience. Their energy and spirit is absolutely uplifting and another highlight of the show.
When the last notes of the "Finale" played and the bows began, the entire audience jumped to their feet. Out of all the shows I have seen I have never seen an audience get up faster. It is a true testament to the fantastic performances given by each member of the cast.
Come From Away is truly one of the best pieces of theater on Broadway right now, and I urge everyone to go see it as I will have to go see it many more times.