'Come From Away' Is Full Of Heart

The hit Broadway musical comes to Orlando at just the right time.

June 12, 2019

It's surely a fluke that the touring production of Come From Away arrives in Orlando as we observe the third anniversary of the Pulse tragedy, but it couldn't come at a better time.

As with what we encountered in the days and weeks following Pulse, Come From Away demonstrates the immense power of love and community in the face of an overwhelming tragedy. In the case of Come From Away, that tragedy is 9/11. 

Imaginatively staged and utilizing an amazing cast of 12, all playing a variety of roles, Come From Away demonstrates what happened when the United States airspace was shut down and almost 7,000 passengers took a mandated detour to the small Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland (whose population was only 10,000).

Portraying both the citizens of Gander (who were faced with the monumental task of accomodating the stranded passengers), as well as the passengers themselves, the Come From Away cast show off both incredible singing and acting chops. It's a one-act musical with an onstage band that is pure music, and storytelling through music and spoken word, for the entire run of the show.

Based on interviews with the citizens of Gander and those "plane people" who returned on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the shows creators, Irene Sankoff and David Hein, weave their stories seamlessly. And the actors who take on those roles explore them magnificently. 

The opening number, the pounding "Welcome To The Rock," serves as an introduction to the folksy denizens of Gander. From the town mayor (Kevin Carolan) who heads the musical exposition to a kindly animal lover (Megan McGinnis), these are folks you would be proud to call your neighbors. 

Each actor has a character that becomes their standout in the show, but none take front and center quite as much as Becky Gulsvig, as real-life American Airlines pilot Beverley Bass. "Me And The Sky," where Gulsvig beautifully describes the journey of Bass from a young girl in love with flight to the first female captain of an American Airlines plane, and ultimately a pilot in the air on September 11, 2001, is at once joyous and heartbreaking. It's a standout moment for Gulsvig, but this show is not about just one person but about a community and the piece transitions quickly without an outburst of applause that could have easily met the close of the number.

In addtion to Gulsvig, other standouts include Nick Duckart and Adam Halpin as a bickering gay couple who are both named Kevin; Christine Toy Johnson and Chamblee Ferguson as Diane (from Texas) and Nick (from London) who become an unlikely couple during their brief stay in Canada; and Julie Johnson and Danielle K. Thomas as Beulah and Hannah, two women who find strength, comfort and solace in each other after Hannah's firefignter son is presumed missing in the rubble of the Twin Towers. 

There are some who may think they would want to avoid Come From Away. Who wants to see a musical about 9/11, right? But it's not about the tragedy, it's about the human spirit, and the amazing things that people can do for each other in the wake of horrific events. It's a life affirming musical that couldn't have made its way to Orlando at a better time. 

Come From Away plays the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at 8 p.m. through Friday, June 14; at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, June 15; and at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 16. Click here to purchase tickets.

Correction: Andrew Samonsky was originally mistakenly named as playing Kevin T. On opening night, Kevin T. was played by Adam Halpin. Correction has been made.