By Elaine Cohen
Sheer joy and a strong sense of Canadian pride fueled the atmosphere at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts on opening night at the Montreal premiere of the acclaimed Broadway musical Come From Away brought to Montreal by evenko and Broadway Across Canada (November 26-December 1 inclusive).
This true story shows how inclusiveness and kindness prevailed in Gander, Newfoundland, when faith in humanity had reached an all-time low following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed thousands, destroyed U.S. buildings and downed airplanes loaded with people from around the globe. As a result, U.S. Federal Aviation shut down airspace forcing 4,000 planes to land at the nearest airport. Despite Gander’s minuscule population and spartan means to feed, house, and meet other immediate needs, residents, along with Newfoundlanders from surrounding regions, rose to the occasion. They welcomed 7,000 weary passengers seated in 38 huge airplanes that had landed at Gander’s aged airport.
This story is brought to life by Canadian co-authors Irene Sankoff and David Hein, who created the book, music and lyrics. The co-authors are married and share Jewish roots. They worked in tandem with Tony award winning director Christopher Ashley and numerous other key players.
Twelve charismatic actors serve as raconteurs on stage adapting accents and dialogue to re-enact actual personalities and situations. They are accompanied on stage by a host of versatile musicians. Moreover, the actors, sing, dance, crack jokes, shed tears, and it’s a fast-paced show. The ambience is infectious and the orchestra brings a resounding conclusion to the performance, when musicians take centre stage and the audience rises from their seats and joins in the action. They united in swaying to the music, humming, clapping incessantly and relishing harmonious vibes.
A highlight of the show involves stranded passengers emanating from different cultures following diverse customs and ceremonies. The respectful Newfoundlanders tirelessly scramble and succeed in responding to requests. In one instance, a rabbi seeks kosher food, a scarce commodity in town but people of many persuasions pitch in and the rabbi koshers pots, pans, sources produce and makes it work. The heartwarming Oseh Shalom resonates among the orchestrations that run the gamut from folk and country to popular classics.
Every Come From Away performer, musician and member of the crew merits praise for enlightening and entertaining Montrealers, who thrive on joie de vivre in this cosmopolitan, friendly city.