September 11, 2001 was a day of great trauma and tremendous loss. We all lived through the devastation wreaked by the terror attacks, and it is easy to focus on the horror of it all. However, from this great tragedy came stories of great beauty: people such as the New York firefighters, who selflessly stormed into the towers to help save lives, or the volunteers who helped the injured. There were many unsung heroes who quietly helped during the aftermath of the tragedy.
The Durham Performing Arts Center’s current presentation of the 2013 Canadian musical Come from Away, which features book, music, and lyrics by the wife-and-husband team of Irene Sankoff and David Hein, focuses on these moments of goodness at the heart of the swirl of chaos that was 9/11. When 38 international flights were diverted to its tiny airport and enclave, the small Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland (population 9,000), was called upon to host 7,000 international travelers. With Gander’s small-town values, a can-do attitude, and a dose of mutual understanding, the town welcomed the stranded passengers and coordinated their care on a grand scale.
The travelers lacked everything — information about their loved ones, food, toiletries, baby formula, a place to sleep — and the town of Gander provided it all, with everyone opening their doors to strangers. Aid for the animals stuck on the plane? Check. Food for those who keep kosher? Check. A place for every faith to pray? Check.
Through song and dance, we get to know the locals, the mayor, the SPCA employee, and a rookie news reporter. The locals all seem to possess plucky spirits along with their slightly Irish accents. We also get to know the travelers and their stories, among them a gay couple, the mother of a fire fighter, an Egyptian chef, and the first female pilot in American Airlines’ history. Even though this is not a deep dive into their stories, it is an acknowledgement of the universalness of our lives and a celebration of the small niceties that can make a big difference during adversity.
The Canadian spirit infects everyone. The local school is opened for shelter. Travelers borrow grills from the locals’ yards, and are served tea. Folks opened their bathrooms to allow the weary to shower. Travelers visited the local pub, became friends, and became honorary Newfoundlanders.
Directed by Christopher Ashley, with musical staging by Kelly Devine, Come from Away’s runs through Sunday, Jan. 19th at DPAC. Its cast of 18 people play both the locals and the passengers, changing their accents with aplomb.
Beowulf Boritt’s gorgeous set, with large trees, chairs, and the tightly choreographed rearranging of furniture, subtly moves the action from place to place; and live Irish music, replete with fiddle, pipes, and a Bodhrán for rhythm, sets the perfect tone for the show.
Although framed as a story about Canadian niceness, this is really a universal story of human kindness. We are all capable of greatness. How will we react when we must rise to the occasion? Come from Away leaves the audience with hope that we all have it within ourselves to be great. We all have a story to tell, we are all in this together; and, yes, clean socks can bring humanity together.
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 15th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Jeffrey Kare: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-COME-FROM-AWAY-National-Tour-at-Durham-Performing-Arts-Center-20200115 and Jan. 13th interview with James Earl Jones II, conducted by Jeffrey Kare: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interview-James-Earl-Jones-II-of-COME-FROM-AWAY-National-Tour-20200113; Jan. 15th Raleigh, NC Chatham Life & Style review by Al Riggs (who awarded the show 5 stars out of 5): https://chathamlifeandstyle.com/features-%26-reviews/f/theatre-review-docu-musical-come-from-away-cannot-be-ignored; and Jan. 15th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2020/01/dpacs-production-of-come-from-away-hits-all-the-right-emotional-notes/.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents COME FROM AWAY at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15 and 16, 8 p.m. Jan. 17, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 18, and 1 and 7 p.m. Jan. 19 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $31.50 and up, plus taxes and fees. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), email@example.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369510/2459898.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
SHOW: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/come-from-away and https://www.facebook.com/events/2100882336880917/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/comefromaway.
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/individual-tickets-for-come-from-away-on-sale-at-dpac-august-29th.
DPAC‘S 2019-20 “MAGIC OF BROADWAY” SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: https://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway/season/2019-2020-broadway-season.
THE TOUR: https://comefromaway.com/, https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/come-from-away-518408, https://www.facebook.com/ComeFromAway/, https://www.instagram.com/wecomefromaway/, https://twitter.com/wecomefromaway, and https://www.youtube.com/comefromaway.
TOUR CAST & CREATIVE TEAM: https://comefromaway.com/cast.php#nav-tour.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://www.instagram.com/dpacnc/, https://twitter.com/DPAC, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center, and https://www.youtube.com/user/DPACLive.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18th, performance. Guests with a disabilities can find more information by clicking DPAC’s accessibility page.
Come from Away (2013 Sheridan College, 2016 Toronto, 2017 Broadway, and 2019 West End musical): https://comefromaway.com/ (official website), https://www.mtishows.com/come-from-away (Music Theatre International), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/come-from-away-510259 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7638556/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Come_from_Away (Wikipedia).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.