Review: Come From Away

The day after my birthday in April, my parents and I celebrated by seeing the matinee of the new, immensely popular Broadway musical, Come From Away, with book, music, and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. I’d been watching this piece come to life through a friend’s Instagram posts and I thought it looked cute, but I wasn’t really dying to see it. But once my parents heard about it and it’s popularity spiked just before their opening night, I finally stopped finding reasons to not get around to see it and I’m certainly glad I did.

A lot of the music sounds very Once-esque, which I was immediately annoyed by (despite being a big fan of Once because that is music for Once and not this, etc. etc.) but I warmed up to this folksy music as well as the rest of the score over the next 100 minutes. (Yes, it’s 100 minutes, no intermission. #best)

I’m pretty resistant to anything and everything that co-ops 9/11 which is probably responsible for some of my resistance to sit down in the Schoenfeld, but Come From Away doesn’t do that. They barely mention what happened and they never say “9/11” explicitly. It’s purely about humanity and this tiny town in Newfoundland named Gander and how it’s citizens come together to host these ~7,000 strangers who are stranded there for a week-ish) by this catastrophic event.

The cast is amazing – filled with some of my favorites from my teenage years as a Renthead, among others – Rodney Hicks, Kendra Kassebaum, Chad Kimball, Jenn Colella, etc. The cast uses very subtle costume adjustments to change characters in an instant when they flip-flop between planes (people were trapped on the plans for 28 hours!). I’m pretty sure this is no easy feat and I’d 100% screw up what character I was when if I had to do that.

My favorite subplot line was the one about the SPCA director in Gander, Bonnie Harris (played by Petrina Bromley) and how she basically forces her way into the cargo holds on the planes because she has the foresight to suspect that there are animals onboard and they need to be taken care of (#squee!). She’s right. There were 19 animals on all the planes – something like 7 cats, 9 dogs, and one pair of rare Bonobo monkeys, among others, all of whom she takes care of while they’re there. This obviously warmed my heart. She deserves a medal.

There are many other touching and tear-jerking story lines which I won’t give away, but you should get yourself to the Schoenfeld and see this heartwarming little show as soon as you can (if you can, because tickets are selling out at each performance).

A few weeks ago I’d bought a ticket from TDF for an early preview of Leap of Faith.  I had no idea what to expect, having never seen the movie, but I wanted to see Kendra Kassebaum and Raul Esparza onstage again so how bad could it be?

Leap of Faith is about a traveling con artist who parades around as a reverend with his “angels” and sister “saving” small towns of people by robbing them for all their worth until they hit a town called Sweet Water and he’s changed forever.

By all means, Leap of Faith is a well-written musical. I found that the book was written well, and the music was upbeat at the highs and depressing at the lows. For all it’s worth, there’s nothing actually wrong with Leap of Faith. I just found it to be dull, like Memphis. I know not every new musical has to be groundbreaking, but is it so bad that I’d like them to be? I know there are only so many “new” things that a writer can propose to be done onstage before they’re called crazy. Anyways, there are a few songs here and there that I really enjoyed and there’s an effect at the end that you can’t help but smile at too.

The cast is all around fantastic. They’re strong actors, singers, and dancers. Leslie Odom Jr. steals the show more than once.  Kendra Kassebaum is funny, charming, and as always, has a voice to die for. Raul Esparza didn’t amaze me until the second to last song, his “soliloquy.”  That song was really unbelievable, but he never amazed me during the rest of the show. 

If you’re looking to see this movie brought to life onstage, or just a fun night at the theatre, Leap of Faith is for you.

This Week in Theatre

So, there were a few exciting announcements this week in the theatre world.  Let’s recap:

  • The rest of the cast for Leap of Faith at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles was announced!  I’m very excited because Kendra Kassebaum will be gracing the stage again with her talents – though I probably won’t get to LA to see it, I’m looking forward to the reviews. 
  • Did everyone hear that rehearsals for the much-anticipated Spider-Man musical are finally going to start? (Or recommence rather?)  I guess they finally found capital to get the project going again.  We’ll see how far they get before they close shop again.  The producers have had the Hilton Theatre on hold for many months now.  How much longer will we have to see those marquees before they light up?  Who knows.  
  • Roundabout Theatre Company announced that Anything Goes, starring Sutton Foster, is scheduled to start previews at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre (formerly the Henry Miller Theatre) April 7th, 2011.  I’m excited to see what RTC will do with this, but I’m less excited for Foster to star.  She’s very talented but in the last few shows I’ve seen her in, she’s started to phone it in.  
  • Daniel Radcliffe was announced as the star of the film version of the West End hit play The Woman in Black (not to be confused with the 2006 Broadway flop The Woman in White).  I was a huge fan of this play when I saw it in London in 2007.  I’m not sure why it hasn’t been brought to Broadway, but I’m very excited to see it on the big screen.  

Those are my highlights.  What were yours?