Friday, December 21, 2018

"A Show About Home"

Okay.  So I cried at a musical about Canada.

I thought I’d get that out of the way “up front.”  There was a musical about Canada.  And I’m wiping away the tears.  Imagine.  “Losing it” over a really cold country.

The show’s called Come From Away.  We saw the touring company production, currently playing in L.A.  Despite my aversion to weathering the traffic from our home to downtown (where the Ahmanson Theater is located), well…

It’s a show about Canada.  How many of them are there?

Who knows?  Maybe it’s not about Canada.  Maybe it’s about this anomalous event that once happened in Canada.  Still, it’s the Canada I like to imagine, which, the longer I’m gone, the better it looks.

Here’s the thing.  Oh wait.  The plot summary.  Yuck.

I don’t like writing plot summaries.  Okay, the fast version, that leaves out the complaining. 

38 U.S.-bound planes land in Gander, Newfoundland, unable to return home because the September 11th attack’s closed the American “air space.”  The Gander (and vicinity) citizenry take the 6700 stranded passengers and crew in for five days. 

That’s what the show is about – a dramatized version of an actual event.

But mostly…

Have you ever seen a musical about kindness?

Because that’s what Come From Away is really about.

Why were they so heroically hospitable?  The explaining response from one of the show’s resident characters:

“You’d do the same thing.”

That’s the prevailing sentiment. 

It was simply the right thing to do.

And the fact that we need to be reminded about that in a musical…or anywhere… well, you can finish that sentence yourselves.

On a much smaller scale, I personally experienced that Canadian kindness.  Visiting the Ontario Science Centre, my daughter needed a penny to try a demonstration.  I did not have a penny.  And then a man behind us spontaneously handed me one.

That’s Come From Away.

Performed with small change.

I found myself “plugged in” to the show’s ambiance right from the get-go.  It’s extremely rare that I notice the wardrobe.  But from the show’s opening moments, I recognized “familiar attire.” 

And it made me feel home.

Untucked sports shirts.  Hoodless sweatshirts, zipped up the front.  And I bet, though I could not see them from our seats, “Hush Puppies” on their feet.  Unless Canadians don’t wear them anymore, in which case, the modern equivalent of “Hush Puppies.”

That’s the “attention” to detail there was.  Simple but accurate.  Although, it’s not like I ever visited Newfoundland.  I just imagined that’s what they’d wear.

The entire production reflects that appropriate “No frills” approach.  Which I am not sure was sufficiently appreciated.  The L.A. Times theater reviewer observed,

“… the opening number… is performed with all the outsized bustle one might expect from a solid community theater group.”

If that sounds condescending – and it me it snootily does – then the guy didn’t get it.

“Solid community theater group” was exactly what they were shooting for.

And that’s why I liked it.  Just like the actual story, where “regular people” pitched in to do what was required, Come From Away depicts “regular people” putting on a show, describing what happened.

Except they’re professionals.  And the understatement is deliberate.

Deservedly, for its resonating restraint, Come From Away’s director, Christopher Ashley won the 2017 Tony Award for “Best Director of a Musical.”  No Bob Fosse “razzle-dazzle.”  Just scaled-down “meat and potatoes.”  Which is exactly what fits.

I just sighed, because I see myself heading towards the inevitable “Comparison.”

Canada and the States. 

Using two recently seen musicals to make the point, because… why not?

American-made Dear Evan Hanson (which earned nine 2017 Tony Award nominations and won six) is a story of one person and the consequences of his lie. 
In other words, it’s a “Me” musical.

Come From Away (which received seven Tony nominations and won one – typical, eh?) is a quintessential – maybe the quintessentialist of all time – “Us” musical.

No stars.

No glitz.

Just a show about people helping people (from other places) who, in a moment of crisis, needed their help.

The actual citizens who participated in that open-hearted event?

I wonder how they feel about this musicalized “to-do.”  (by Canadian husband-and-wife team, Irene Sankoff and David Hein.)

Are they proud?

Or are they embarrassed?

A bit of the two, I imagine.

Come From Away.

I used to be from there.

And now I’m from here.

Aw, there I go, crying again.

(Note:  It’s interesting.  I write a post about Canada, and I am suddenly less “fancy.”)

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