Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Come from Away
Also see Mark's review of Tintypes
One of the first emergency orders to come through was the FAA diverting all incoming international flights to airports outside our borders. Suddenly, Gander International Airport in Newfoundland, which normally handled a half dozen planes a day, had to deal with 38 arrivals with nearly 7,000 passengers and crew in a town of 10,000. The airport was originally used for refueling for transatlantic flights and more recently for emergency landings involving medical and other emergencies, but had never been taxed to this extent.
The "Come from Aways" were people from nearly 100 countries and every state in the Union. It took an entire day just to get the passengers unloaded, but in that time the town and surrounding communities mobilized into action, giving their guests access to clean clothes, showers, toiletries, food, and a place to sleep. As the emergency stretched into days, the guests were entertained, as well.
The captivating and heartwarming hit Broadway show Come from Away, now on tour at the Connor Palace, is a Canadian offering with book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. It has been on Broadway since March 12, 2017, and is still going strong, having won four Helen Hayes Awards, one Tony Award, three Drama Desk Awards and five Outer Critics Circle Awards. A London production opened earlier this year.
As on Broadway, the touring production is directed by Christopher Ashley, with scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Gareth Owen, and music supervision by Ian Eisendrath. Members of the eight-piece orchestra easily switch from instrument to instrument during the show, with some playing two or three different instruments.
The cast of twelve consists of Megan McGinnis as Bonnie and others, Harter Clingman as Oz and others, Becky Gulsvig as Beverly and others, Emily Walton as Janice and others, James Earl Jones II as Bob and others, Kevin Carolan as Claude and others, Andrew Samonsky as Kevin T./Garth and others, Chamblee Ferguson as Nick/Doug and others, Nick Duckart as Kevin J./Ali and others, Danielle K. Thomas as Hannah and others, Julie Johnson as Beulah and others, and Christine Toy Johnson as Diane and others.
Mayor Claude is informed about the Twin Towers, Pentagon, and downed plane in Pennsylvania and realizes they will be inundated with aircraft and passengers for who knows how long. Drawing on the tender mercies of his constituents, he quickly mobilizes the community of Gander, setting up emergency housing and basic items dispersal as well as the feeding and comforting of the many frightened and confused guests. Even the school bus strike is put aside as transportation is needed immediately. A complex tale is woven as twelve cast members playing over thirty roles tell the story of five days of acts of kindness that changed the lives of many and the opinions of millions.
Of special note in the production are: Kevin Corolan as the Mayor, who has the take charge attitude to get things done; Julie Johnson as Beulah, the teacher and behind the scenes organizer who befriends Hannah (Danielle K. Thomas) who is trying to find out the fate of her New York City firefighting son; Megan McGinnis as Bonnie, the SPCA worker who singlehandedly rescues the 19 animals trapped in the holds of the planes; Chamblee Ferguson and Christine Toy Johnson as the strangers who develop a relationship during the ordeal; and Andrew Samonsky as Kevin T. and Nick Duckart as Kevin L., a gay couple from California. Nick also switches to the role of Ali, the Egyptian who, because of his heritage, is considered a threat. James Earl Jones II is absolutely hilarious as Bob, the hardened New Yorker who is having trouble being treated nice. His is the most comedic role of all.
The score has a wondrous mix of music, from tender haunting ballads to raucous kick-up your heels rousing tunes that will have your toes a'tapping. This is a show that is complete in every way, and the 100 minutes (without intermission) is time well spent.
If you are one of the many who wonder exactly where this country and the world is headed, this is a must see show. The contrast of tragedy, drama and comedy are carefully blended with a story of unabashed charity as an example of what great people are capable of. It is a lesson we all need to relearn. Come for a performance that will have you laughing and crying at the same time.
Come from Away, through July 28, 2019, at the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square, 1615 Euclid Ave., Cleveland OH. For tickets and information, visit www.playhousesquare.org, call 216-241-6000 or stop by the Playhouse Square ticket office located in the outer lobby of the State Theatre. For more information on the tour, visit https://comefromaway.com.