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“come from away” – a future tony winner at the la jolla playhouse

Come From Away cast

Photo credit: Jim Carmody

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.

Come From Away Jenn Colella

Photo credit: Kevin Berne

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.


  1. Sounds like a great show! Canadians are well known as “the polite, friendly people” and I’ve found it to be true.

  2. I never knew that story either, Lois, so I can’t wait for this play to come to Broadway! I’ll tell them you said hi. 🙂 This does sound like it’s a winner. Thanks for another wonderful review.

  3. I hope the show comes to Ohio . This was a great review and it’s always nice to go in knowing something about the story. Thanks!

  4. I started tearing up just reading your review. This looks very good. Muliticultural themes, finding common ground with strangers, breaking barriers in the middle of a crisis. Finding the good in people during a tragedy. Appealing to our better natures. Fabulous.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      I was teary through so much of the show. And, yes, it beautifully depicts how much common ground we all share.

  5. Thank you for your review, I would love to see it. Nothing is more compelling than real-life.

  6. We saw this show on its first ever night at LJ Playhouse and we really enjoyed it so I can imagine it only got better and better! I totally agree — the rare, simple staging and costumes cleared the way for a story filled with so many emotions and revelations. And the musician were outstanding. Best overall show I have seen a LJ Playhouse to date!!!

  7. What a fascinating premise. I’d like to see it.

  8. Raellen Foreman says:

    Thank you for such a thorough and insightful review. I am dying to see this and hope it comes to Broadway!

  9. Sounds like a wonderful show. It will be great when it gets to Broadway and then on tour.

  10. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    it sounds WONDERFUL and I will be anxious to hear not if but WHEN it will come to Broadway. Maybe you will come with me?

  11. I do remember this story. Or at least, it sounds familiar. I’d love to see this play.

  12. How have we not heard this story. I am so glad we are hearing it now and I cannot wait to see this performance.

  13. I haven’t heard of this before. Sounds great though!

  14. I had never heard about this story before and wasn’t aware that this positive event had taken place on that tragic day. What a great town for accepting all those people not just into their town but into their homes.

  15. I have never heard of this show. I will see if its coming to chicago when we visit.

  16. I remember the story about all those people being diverted and how people opened up their homes and resources to them. I didn’t know it got turned into a play.

  17. This is so amazing…what drove the audience to be part of the show was the welcome of the actors. To make their audience feel at home is a great magical thing.

  18. i love the theater and this play sounds amazing. I hope it comes to Philly. I’d love to check it out.

  19. This sounds like such a beautiful performance. It would be great if it came my way. Love seeing plays that incorporate cultural awareness.

  20. This sounds fabulous! I’d be so pleased if it ever played in Denver. Not likely, but I can wish, right? Thank you for sharing!

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