The time is right for 'Come From Away' at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre

The time is right for 'Come From Away' at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre
Credit to Matthew Murphy)

I'm pretty sure I'm that I was the only person in the opening night audience for the Chicago premiere of "Come From Away" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre that didn't love it.

I'm not sure what that says about me. I wanted to love it, I tried. I didn't hate it. I just didn't love it.

What I do love is the story. We all know the unbelievable horror that happened on September 11, 2001.

We also remember how the world changed--at least for a while. We all became a little kinder to each other.

Our love for our country drew us together. I remember driving up to Wisconsin the following weekend and seeing hundreds of people lining the highways waving flags. I imagine that each of us have our own special stories and memories of the kindness of strangers during the days following 9/11.

Photo: Matthew Murphy

Photo: Matthew Murphy

The story told in the docu-musical, "Come From Away" on the day that the world stopped September 11, 2001 (and the four following days) is one that many had never heard until the show became a runaway hit on Broadway.

How the small community of Gander, Newfoundland was able to pull together--with no warning--to welcome and host nearly 7000 passengers--stranded from 38 transcontinental flights diverted to the small town’s airport--is phenomenal and true.

The kindness, caring and resourcefulness that this town of only 9000 people was able to provide for this cross section of cultures is one worth telling and revisiting in today's politically challenged America.

Nerves ran high and trust was low. But through the genuine kindness of the townspeople  uneasiness turned into trust, music soared into the night and gratitude grew into enduring friendships.

Once again, reflecting on this weekend's dire mass shootings, "Come From Away" shows us how we can be better than that. It gives us hope--that just maybe--we can all come together across national, racial, political and generational differences and find that human bond that we share.

Photo: Matthew Murphy

Photo: Matthew Murphy

I think the way a person perceives "Come From Away" is personal. People in New York that lived through the horror experience it differently than say, a family in South Dakota. Personally, I expected to have a more emotional reaction to the story and shed some tears. I know the tears flowed for many but not for me. The show also had some humorous moments--but, once again, I didn't laugh.

Overall "Come From Away" certainly has its moments and is well-orchestrated. The ensemble of 12 actors manages to move seamlessly through multiple roles from townspeople to stranded passengers. While the on-stage orchestra of eight lends a powerful background to the variety of moods and settings that are instrumental in the 100-minute telling.

With a book, music and lyrics by Tony and Grammy Award nominees Irene Sankoff & David Hein, "Come From Away" is directed by Tony Award winner Christopher Ashley (Come From Away), musical staging by two-time Tony nominee Kelly Devine (Come From Away, Rocky), with music supervision by Grammy nominee Ian Eisendrath (Come From Away), scenic design by Tony Award winner Beowulf Boritt (Act One), costume design by Tony Award nominee Toni-Leslie James (Jelly’s Last Jam), lighting design by two-time Tony Award winner Howell Binkley (Hamilton), sound design by Tony Award nominee Gareth Owen (End of the Rainbow), orchestrations by Tony nominee August Eriksmoen (Bright Star), music arrangements by Grammy nominee Ian Eisendrath and casting by Telsey + Company.

The touring production stars Kevin Carolan (Disney’s Newsies), Harter Clingman (Peter and The Starcatcher), Nick Duckart (In the Heights), Chamblee Ferguson, Becky Gulsvig (School of Rock the Musical), Julie Johnson (Memphis), Christine Toy Johnson (The Music Man), Chicago actor James Earl Jones II (The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess), Megan McGinnis (Les Misérables), Andrew Samonsky (South Pacific), Danielle K. Thomas (Avenue Q), Emily Walton (August Osage County), Marika Aubrey, Jane Bunting, Michael Brian Dunn, Julie Garnyé, Adam Halpin and Aaron Michael Ray.

Rating: “Come From Away” (3.5 stars)
When: Through August 18
Where: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph
Tickets: $35-$105
Info: broadwayinchicago.com
Running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission

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Filed under: Theater in Chicago

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