I love love love the new Beauty and the Beast movie. One of the best parts, of course, is the Beast’s library, so I wrote “Belle Would Be Enchanted by These 10 Lovely Libraries in Hotels” for USA Today 10Best.Read All Entries
“come from away” – a future tony winner at the la jolla playhouse
It’s only fitting that Come From Away, the new world-premiere musical opening the season at the La Jolla Playhouse, made its debut the week before this year’s Tony Awards. Featuring a moving book, haunting rock/Celtic score and powerhouse performances, there’s no doubt this triumphant production is destined for that same stage.
Written by Canadian husband-and-wife team Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the original story is based on a true event which I had somehow never heard about before. On September 11, 2001, 38 planes were diverted to the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland when the United States closed its airspace for the first time in history.
For five days, the people of this Canadian town in the middle of nowhere stopped everything to welcome thousands of strangers as though they were family. Although their population of 10,000 almost doubled overnight with the arrival of “the plane people,” the Newfoundlanders (one of which you will want to become yourself when offered in a jubilant musical number) unhesitatingly offered food, shelter and friendship to 7,000 passengers, inviting them into their own homes and sharing their emotional highs and lows.
Director Christopher Ashley has done an outstanding job of bringing this inspiring story to life. Each member of the powerful ensemble plays multiple roles, offering the sobering realization that at any given time, any of us could be in either position.
The simple staging is ideal, leaving the story to speak for itself — which it does beautifully through strong characters and songs. Sankoff and Hein have miraculously captured the heart of this event, showing us the best of humanity at a time when we were reeling through the worst.
What Sankoff and Hein know is that it’s people’s stories that touch us the most, and the ones they share are poignant, universal and sometimes hilarious. We are introduced to a mother (Q. Smith) waiting to hear news about her firefighter son, a gay couple (Chad Kimball, Caesar Samayoa) worried about coming out in Gander, two lonely singles (Sharon Wheatley, Lee MacDougall) who find comfort in each other, a woman (Petrina Bromley) whose main concern is the animal passengers.
In one of the funniest scenes, an African-American New Yorker (Rodney Hicks) is convinced he’s going to get shot when he’s asked to go into local backyards and gather the grills for a massive barbecue. In one of the most moving, people of four different religions pray together in their own languages. And, in one of the most historically significant, Beverley Bass (played to perfection by Jenn Colella), the first female American Airlines Captain, reflects on her life and the horrifying fact that, in this act of terrorism, “The one thing I loved more than anything was used as the bomb.”
I can’t say enough about this show, which has already been extended twice even though it’s just opened. As the owner of a Newfoundland, it made me proud of my gentle giant’s heritage 🙂
I hope the people of Gander are ready for more visitors because, by the time Come From Away hits Broadway and their humble hospitality is celebrated on the global stage, their town is likely to become the next big travel destination.