Erin Karll, Contributing Critic - St. Louis
The season ends at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St Louis with the touring production of ‘Come From Away’. The show follows the true story set in the town of Gander, Newfoundland, Canada on the days surrounding the September 11th attacks on America. The show is heart breaking and renews faith in humanity all at the same time. The show is performed in one 90 minute act. This gives the audience the same feeling the real life people felt going through the events shown on stage, the sleepless days they went through.
On September 11th 2001 the American airspace was shut down for the first time in history. Many planes were in the air set to arrive and needed to be diverted. Gander opened it’s doors. Home to what was once the worlds largest international airport that was used mostly for refueling before planes flew across the Atlantic. 38 large planes with 200-300 passengers and crew were sent here. All told 7000 people were now stranded and seen as possible threats. The town rallied and with traditional Newfoundland hospitality feed and housed these stranded passengers, also called ‘come from aways’, for days until the airspace was open again. This is a wonderful and touching story from the book, music, and lyric writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein.
The show strikes a beautiful balance of humor and heartache. The cast work together perfectly all while performing multiple characters. Every actor has a ‘come from away/plane person’ and a ‘Newfoundlander’ and many have two or three of each. The transitions between characters is seamless and adds an element to the show.
Harter Clingman (Oz and others) has perfect comedic timing and a strong presence onstage. Nick Duckart (Kevin J/Ali and others) has such chemistry with everyone onstage no matter what character he is playing at the moment and can transition between in a heartbeat. Chamblee Ferguson (Nick and others) and Christie Toy Johnson (Diane and others) have a powerful connection onstage and it really shows the pain and longing that happened while wading through the world changing events. Andrew Samonsky (Kevin T and others) takes the lead on one of the most touching moments of the show with a song called ‘Prayer’. Julie Johnson (Beulah and others) and Danielle K Thomas (Hannah and others) both are heartbreaking and show the connection between a ‘come from away’ and a ‘newfoundlander’ beautifully. I also really enjoyed the Canadian/Newfoundland accents and jokes. Those nods got the most laughs from the audience. The song ‘Screech In’ is an audience favorite and was full of laughter in joy in the mist of the sadness and anger that was also on the edge of tipping over. Another wonderful and powerful scene was ‘Me and the Sky’ where Becky Gulsvig , playing Capt. Beverly, leads the women of the cast in an anthem about how she became a pilot despite those who did not support her.
A simple set (Beowulf Boritt, scenic design) filled with a few chairs and small tables on a turntable allows your imagination to flow. The transitions between the scenes are flawless and some add a touching element to the scene.
I would recommend this show to those who need an uplifting moment. It’s also for those who enjoy learning a bit more about history by exploring real life stories. There are lots of mentions of the attacks on September 11th, but no graphic imagines, so be aware if that is something that maybe difficult for you. Bring a tissue and your smile. It’s a bit of a roller coaster, just like the real experience of that day. But as the show says “To the ones who come from away we say ‘Welcome to the rock’”
‘Come From Away’ runs at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St Louis from May 14 thru May 26th. You can find ticket and show information at MetroTix.com, FablousFox.com, or comefromaway.com.