This article was written collaboratively by Hanalei Potempa, culture editor, and Naomi Priddy, culture reporter.
The Morrison Center presents “Come From Away” as its first production in the 2022-2023 Broadway in Boise season.
The play follows the real life story of 38 planes that make emergency landings in the town of Gander, Newfoundland, in Canada the week of Sept. 11, 2001.
In the midst of the events of 9/11, the small town of Gander prepares to host over 7,000 passengers, scrambling to make accommodations for the masses of individuals.
During the passengers’ time in Gander, they are met with political differences, heartbreak, love, loss and, above all, gratefulness in this heartfelt and witty ode to the power of human kindness, even in the darkest place.
The production is 100 minutes long with no intermission or scene breaks.
Cast member James Earl Jones II who plays “Bob and others” shared that he as well as the rest of his fellow cast members felt very privileged to participate in this production.
Jones auditioned for the “Come From Away” production back in August of 2018. Originally from Chicago, Jones revealed that he is classically trained as a singer, not as a musical theater artist, though this is not his first theatrical production.
Jones described his character being “very apprehensive” when he finds himself in Gander, Newfoundland, as the culture is very different from what he experiences at home.
“My character Bob is essentially a fish out of water from New York,” Jones said. “He can’t imagine that people could naturally be so good and so kind without wanting something reciprocated.”
The production follows the stories loosely based on real passengers of the 38 planes and explores all sides of humanity, ultimately bonded together in kindness from strangers.
From the set design to the choreography, every aspect of the production was magical and flooded the theater with an infectious energy.
The production included six men and six women who played 70 roles — making for a remarkable performance from the cast. Their ability to embody the lives of so many characters without scene breaks was truly an ode to the world of theater.
“Kelly Devine is our choreographer and musical stager, and her associate Richard Hinds, they kind of fashioned this amazing piece where we just kind of, with a couple of different actions, blend ourselves and become another character,” Jones said.
The production is known for its fun and upbeat musical numbers, featuring uncommon instruments not usually heard in mainstream music.
“Come From Away” is currently on tour, showing in cities throughout the United States and Canada.
“So far we have been to over 80 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada telling this story, which is essentially a love letter to humanity,” Jones said. “And so all of our cast members have this distinct privilege of showing people essentially the best of humanity when throughout media [and] the news, we are constantly being reminded of the worst of humanity.”
From drunken pub music and kissing fish to tears and political upheaval, the production balanced pain and joy in a profoundly poetic and high-spirited manner. The show ended with the whole audience dancing and clapping along to the end musical sequence, as if they too had been whisked away by the magic of Gander.
Jones revealed that his favorite part of the production is the ending, when the cast and audience share a communal feeling of belonging.
“At the very end I feel like everyone’s on the same page,” Jones said. “We all went on this 100-minute journey; the ups and downs, the laughs, the tears and just looking out into the audience and looking out in their faces, it’s just really an amazing thing to see.”
Jones shared that he believes that those who go to see the production will leave with a more positive mindset that will potentially bring positive change to the world.
“If I had to say go away with something it would probably be hope. We believe that you come to our show and that ideally you are changed for the better,” Jones said. “And that hope in people’s lives and people’s souls will allow them to go out and feel this desire no matter how big, no matter how small to be a light to someone else … and hopefully people will spread that to others and that positive vibe, that positive energy, will be infectious.”