Come From Away
Broadway Across Canada production
Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
Tuesday, March 12 to Sunday, March 17, 2019
Tickets $60 to $250
Review by GRAHAM HICKS, Hicksbiz.com
Lard Tunderin Jaysus, there’s a million reasons to shell out for this gem of a show, which, somewhat ironically, is a major Broadway hit and now touring its way across Canada, in Edmonton at the Jubilee Auditorium from March 12 to 17.
It’s achingly real.
None of the righteousness/indignation/angst of the chattering classes infects this show.
Come From Away is about real, every-day people in the small town (population, about 10,000) of Gander, Newfoundland, whose lives are turned upside down for three to four days.
Thirty-eight jets carrying some 7,000 passengers from every part of the globe had to land at the Gander airport, having been ordered out of the air following the airborne terrorist attacks on New York City’s World Trade Centre towers.
Why Gander? Because it had a huge, largely mothballed airport, built in the days when Trans-Atlantic flights had to stop to re-fuel between North America and Europe. It was also a crucial Allied air-force base in World War II.
Equally real in this show are the passengers themselves – the same international cast as might board your summer holiday flights to Heathrow, Frankfort, Amsterdam or Reyjavik.
As you can well imagine, their lives too have been turned upside down – in limbo, not knowing what’s going on, stuck in a small town “on the edge of the world” until further notice.
Come From Away is about the interaction between the residents of this remote Newfoundland town where, in contrast to most of Canada, a centuries-long regional culture has not been supplanted by contemporary multiculturism.
Plus it’s a culture that embodies much of what contemporary urban Canada has so achingly lost – a town where everybody knows each-other’s names, a rousing close-knit community spirit, the kind of can-do attitude that rises magnificently to the challenge of taking care of the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of 7,000 unexpected guests.
I wonder when the Canadian writing/composing team Irene Sankoff and David Hein realized this odd-ball series of circumstances had every ingredient necessary to create a universally-acclaimed story of the human spirit.
For Canadians, especially Maritimers, especially Newfoundlanders, the show riffs on all kinds of deep-chuckle Canadianisms. Major meetings, for instance, always take place at Tim Horton’s.
For the passengers, centred around an American Airlines flight from Paris bound for Dallas, Texas, their emotions run from bewilderment – landing in Gander, unable to disembark for hours and hours, not knowing what’s going on, unable to contact their loved ones – to anger, to love and deep appreciation for these beautiful, trusting small-town Canadians who have opened their hearts and homes to them.
The musical itself has that folksy easy-going tone that belies a beautiful craftsmanship within. The rhythms of Come From Away - its pacing, its humour, the songs, the traditional folk music played with fiddle, accordion, bodhran and Irish flute - leaves your toe tapping throughout ALL the show, not just the musical bits.
Every aspect of this happy show is interwoven into the whole. The movement is so fluid, as the fine 18-actor cast moves effortlessly between playing the townspeople and the passengers, between playing key roles within each group, that the audience barely notices how intricate the choreography is. There’s no intermission for a reason – you’d hate to see the rhythms broken.
Rarely has an on-stage production been such an ensemble. There are no stars in Come From Away – or rather that there are 18 stars, as each and every character interaction is a story/plot-line unto itself.
And rarely has an on-stage show been so triumphant without good guys and bad guys – Come From Away’s dynamic is built around good people reacting to circumstances over which they have no control, as explored through a series of charming, poignant or just-plain-funny sub-plots.
Come From Away is a one-in-a-million oddball of a hit musical that, like the original My Big Fat Greek Wedding movie, defies replication or imitation – though a movie version is in play.
Sankoff and Hein must have watched in amazement during the writing process, as their script and songs came together in what they must have realized was a poignant, feel-good, real-life musical built on a fool-proof foundation – that, sometimes, the milk of human kindness can express itself in tears of joy.
Run, don’t walk, to see this show.
To end, a Newfoundland knock-knock joke from the show.
Knock, Knock. “Come on in! The door’s unlocked. Have a cuppa tea!”