Mirvish opens a new Canadian production of the hit musical Come From Away in Toronto
It’s been about a year since the original production of Come From Away—a new musical by Canadian husband-and-wife writing team Irene Sankoff and David Hein—finished its limited, sold-out run in Toronto and transferred to Broadway.
In the intervening year, this little Canadian musical-that-could has taken the Great White Way by storm. It opened to a warm critical reception and earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical. To this day, it still regularly plays to sold out houses in New York and is one of only a handful of Broadway shows that consistently grosses over one million dollars in ticket sales each week.
Come From Away tells the story of how the townspeople of Gander, Newfoundland welcomed close to 7,000 passengers who were stranded when 38 planes were diverted after US airspace closed following the attacks on September 11, 2001. The show uses a documentary-like style of storytelling and is driven along by the rhythms of its infectious, Celtic-inflected folk-rock score.
I absolutely loved that original production; after I first saw it I said I was so moved that I wanted to leap up on my feet and cheer for the goodness of humanity.
As I went to this weekend’s premiere of the new production featuring a Canadian cast—that Mirvish has produced for an open-ended engagement at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre—I was anxious to see if it could capture the magic of the original. After seeing it, I can unequivocally say yes, it is every bit as good as the previous production.
The new, Canadian cast performs with all the heart, emotion and intensity of the original. Even after seeing the show for a third time I was surprised that it still packs such a huge emotional wallop.
Seeing it multiple times also allows me to better appreciate how well Sankoff and Hein weave together so many individuals’ storylines. The show is tightly-paced and drives forward relentlessly for its 100-minute run time. The focus constantly shift’s back and forth between different characters’ narratives yet somehow we’re given enough of an emotional through-line for each story to be compelling. Kudos to director Christopher Ashley for his clarity in executing this difficult script and making the concept work brilliantly.
Because of its multi-narrative structure, Come From Away is a show that lives or dies on the strength of its ensemble; each cast member plays multiple characters throughout the show, and often needs to turn on a dime to switch characters. This new cast comes together beautifully, delivering consistently strong performances.
Standout performances for me include Lisa Horner whose subtle comedic choices breathe new life into her character Buelah, and Eliza-Jane Scott as Captain Beverley Bass; the first female American airline captain and one of the most compelling and fully fleshed-out characters in the show. Scott delivers the show’s only solo number Me and the Sky with the grace and style it needs to have the biggest emotional impact.
That deep emotional impact is perhaps the show’s defining quality for me. Every time I’ve seen Come From Away I leave deeply moved and feeling uplifted. And I know I’m not alone; the show consistently ends with an explosive ovation as the audience experiences this collective catharsis and immediately springs up on its feet.
I think that a big part of the reason Come From Away connects so deeply and has become so successful is that it’s a show whose time has come. Even a couple years ago it would have been easy to cynically dismiss the show for its unabashedly feel-good message but today, it has emerged as a badly-needed antidote to despair amidst the incessantly bleak news cycles of the Trump-era.
In this pivotal time in history where political forces are sewing the seeds of division, Come From Away is a gift; it’s a beautiful reminder of the goodness in humanity and it still has the power to uplift.
- Come From Away is playing an open-ended run at the Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King Street West), currently on sale through September 2, 2018.
- Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., and Saturday & Sunday at 2:00 p.m., Added matinee Thursday June 28, 1:30 p.m., No performance – Sunday July 1, 2018
- Tickets $89.00 to $155.00
- Tickets are available by phone at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333, in-person at the Royal Alexandra Theatre box office or online at Mirvish.com
Photo of the company by Matthew Murphy