Written by Patrick Chavis
Even though Come From Away is set against the tragic backdrop of 9/11, it focuses more on the tension, feelings, and emotions of the time — as opposed to a more strait-laced recap of the period. The characters we see stranded in Canada remind us of the pain felt by all Americans at home and abroad alike. Yet even in tragedy, the characters were about to find a silver lining.
Watching Come From Away at times felt like a toned down Love Actually. Love Actually was an ensemble romantic comedy film that came out in 2003. Similarly to Love Actually, the play transitions from tragedy to an all out love fest through out the entire story. The big difference between the two are the circumstances, (and Come From Away is a musical) but what stays the same is the schmaltziness. I don’t get to use the word schmaltziness a lot, and it’s rarely a term worth using, but Come From Away positively bathes in its own schmaltziness. It’s actually one of its charms, and it will either make you a life long fan or reveal your immunity to schmaltz.
Schmaltziness aside there’s an uplifting message in this musical about humanity’s potential to help those in need when we open our hearts and reject fear. It’s also a great public relations show for Canada. I’m definitely thinking about booking a trip after watching this show.
All the movement by Dance Captain Jane Bunting and Associate Choreographer Richard J. Hinds, whether dancing or simply maneuvering through a scene, is fantastic. They also integrated the stage into the choreography, creating even more movement with a rotating stage in certain scenes. A good amount of the show is devoted to the characters just waiting in their seats, but the characters aren’t simply standing still. There was always some kind of interesting motion going on.
The cast in this production are all good performers and give strong performances. I really enjoyed Chamblee Ferguson’s performance of Nick. He was always making the part just a little more interesting to watch. His storyline with the outspoken Texan Diane played by Christine Toy Johnson is one of my favorite parts of the show.
The Celtic folk music worked great for this show, and the eight piece band keeps you tapping your feet from the beginning until the end – ESPECIALLY at the end!
Come From Away playing now at the Segerstrom Center For the Arts has a unique perspective on a very troubling time in American history. While the plot is unbalanced in the conflict department, this doesn’t detract from the very positive and uplifting message the show succeeds in sending out.