There’s a genius behind the cadence of “Come From Away.”
During one moment, we are reminded of the tragedy of 9/11 and the aftermath.
Then there’s a quick one-liner that eases that tension.
The Broadway musical opened on Wednesday night at Popejoy Hall to an enthusiastic audience. It was the first night of its seven-performance run in Albuquerque.
“Come From Away” is based on a true story of selflessness and compassion after the 9/11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center. The show opens in the small Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland, on September 11, 2001. The town contains an airport that was once a major transatlantic refueling stop, but no longer gets much air traffic — until 38 planes are rerouted there when the American airspace closes.
In the week after 9/11, the town’s population doubled as its residents banded together to house, clothe, and feed nearly 7,000 plane passengers from all over the world.
Each member of the cast plays multiple characters — at least one Gander resident and one plane passenger each.
Each character is either a direct representation of a real person or a composite of several real people. Among the characters are the first-ever female captain of an American Airlines plane, the mayor of Gander, multiple schoolteachers, a couple both named Kevin, and a couple who meets on their displaced flight and bonds during their time in Gander.
This is also where the cast shines.
There aren’t enough words to properly praise the cast which includes: Sharone Sayegh, Harter Cling, Markia Aubrey, Julia Knitel, James Earl Jones II, Kevin Carolan, Jeremy Woodard, Chamblee Ferguson, Nick Duckart, Danielle K. Thomas, Julie Johnson and Christine Toy Johnson. But I’ll try.
Each cast member flawlessly moved to another character with a flip of a hat or a swoosh of a jacket. Simply amazing to watch.
As the characters changed, so did the set. Oftentimes, the actors had to do that just as fast as switching personas.
It was magical to see that level of professionalism last for an entire two-hour production.
My mind is still trying to grasp how it all tied together so well.
Rounding out the magic of “Come From Away” is the music and lyrics.
Husband-and-wife duo David Hein and Irene Sankoff wrote the book, music, and lyrics for the musical.
What’s interesting is after the idea was conceived for the show, the two traveled to Newfoundland, interviewing the residents and plane passengers to get the material.
This is where beautiful songs like “Welcome to the Rock,” “38 Planes,” “Darkness and Trees,” “I am Here,” “Me and Sky” and “Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere” come into play.
At the end “Something’s Missing” reminds us of what we lost as individuals, as a nation and as residents of the world on Sept. 11, 2001.
Before the show arrived in Albuquerque, I got to speak to Ferguson and Toy Johnson about the show. The pair summed it up perfectly when each said what they enjoy about the show.
“After the pandemic and the shutdown, we’ve learned that we can take care of one another,” Toy Johnson says. “From that care, comes great gifts of joy and love. It’s within our reach.”
Ferguson says the world and our country has been fractured over the last couple of years.
“We are directly connected and the show gives us a reminder of that,” Ferguson says. “The real payoff is where the audience roars because there is that connection.”
In the end, “Come From Away” is a musical that one should take a gander. After the two hours, you’ll find that you are a Newfoundlander.
‘COME FROM AWAY’
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 12 and Friday, May 13; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 14 and 1 and 6:30 p.m. May 15
WHERE: Popejoy Hall, University of New Mexico campus
HOW MUCH: $48-$102, plus fees at popejoypresents.com