On Stage: ‘Come From Away’ brings joy to Philly stage

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Come from Away

The words “joyous” and “uplifting” are frequently used to describe plays, songs or musical acts. In reality, the words are often misused and should be put in the “hyperbole” category.

“Come from Away,” the hit musical which is running now through November 3 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333,www.kimmelcenter.org) as part of the Kimmel Center’s Broadway Philadelphia series, is a play that is joyous, uplifting and a lot more.

The musical “Come from Away” is the remarkable true story of 7,000 stranded passengers and the people of Gander, Newfoundland, the small Canadian town that welcomed them. Cultures clashed and nerves ran high, but uneasiness turned into trust, music soared into the night, and gratitude grew into enduring friendships.

The show is making its Philadelphia debut with the current run.

Come from Away is a Canadian musical with book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. It is set in the week following the September 11 attacks and tells the true story of what transpired when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small town of Gander in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon. The characters in the musical are based on (and in most cases share the names of) real Gander residents as well as some of the thousands of stranded travelers they housed and fed.

All of the cast members play several characters whose roles are interwoven through the action during the course of the play. One of the cast members is Marika Aubrey, an Australian actress who plays airline pilot Beverley Bass, Hannah, Diane, Janice and Beula.

Originally from Australia, Aubrey’s career spans stage and screen. The list of musicals in which she has performed includes “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” “Songs for A New World,” The Last Five Years,” “South Pacific,” “Man of La Mancha,” and “Matilda.”

“I worked professionally in Sydney and Melbourne and toured a lot in Australia,” said Aubrey, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Buffalo, New York.

“I worked in Australia for 15 years after I graduated from college. I emigrated in 2015 but have gone back and forth to Australia a lot, In August 2017, I got an apartment in New York and started auditioning.

“This show was my first American contract. I auditioned in March last year and then signed in the middle of the summer. It was my 44th audition in America and I’ve been with the show ever since.

“We opened in Seattle last October and Becky Gulsvig did the first 10 months. Two months ago, I took over the roles in Canada — in Ottawa. We’ve lost a few and gained a few cast members over the last 13 months.”

The Broadway production of “Come from Away” is fairly recent. It opened on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on March 12, 2017.

“Prior to auditioning, I didn’t know much about the show,” said Aubrey. “I hadn’t even heard the soundtrack. So, I went to the show on Broadway and experienced it very fresh. My husband said – it’s something you’d like. I said – it’s perfect.

“The music is a real marriage of history and culture in Newfoundland. It’s also married to a traditional Broadway sound. There is an organic Celtic feel with musicians playingbodhrán and fiddle. And, it’s the only Broadway musical with an ‘ugly stick.’”

The bodhrán is the iconic Irish drum, one of a small select family of Celtic instruments that is stated to pre-date Christianity. The “ugly stick” is a traditional Newfoundland musical instrument fashioned out of household and tool shed items, typically a mop handle with bottle caps, tin cans, small bells and other noise makers. The instrument is played with a drum stick and has a distinctive sound.

“At the beginning, we spent a week sitting around the table talking about what went on and also the aviation part – what the pilots knew,” said Aubrey. “Some pilots didn’t know what was going on in America until they were in homes in Gander.

“We can read transcripts from people in the original event and we can reach out to people who were actually involved. People remember where they were when the September 11 events happened and how it affected their lives. Every television station ion Australia was broadcasting the events live.

“This show starts on September 11 and continues right until the planes left Gander. When you watch this show, you see how the people of Gander were unflappable.”

Video link for “Come from Away” — https://youtu.be/Nwm1IVAbnXk.

“Come from Away” is running now through November 3 at the Academy of Music. Ticket prices range from $20-$139.

   Send article as PDF   

Share this post:

Related Posts

Leave a Comment