Thursday, May 26, 2022

Broadway in Tucson Review: "Come From Away"

 It's a tough prospect to turn a story based on 9/11 into a feel-good extravaganza, but that's exactly what "Come From Away" succeeds at pulling off.

Set in Gander, Newfoundland, where several planes were grounded immediately following the attacks, the vivacious, incessantly positive musical captures joy and delight in the interactions of people from varied walks of life and parts of the world who were thrust together for the better part of the week.

The core ensemble of Sharone Sayegh, Harter Clingman, Marika Aubrey, Julia Knitel and James Earl Jones II oozes with enthusiasm, chemistry and polish. They make up a troupe of true believers who are locked into their cause of replicating the magic of the original Broadway production, which took home a Best Director Tony in 2017.

From the outset, with the show-starter "Welcome to the Rock" revving up the audience in the manner of Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In the Heights" and "Hamilton" openings, the show soars with irreversible energy. 

The 105-minute production, which has no intermission to trip it up, delivers a stream of related anecdotest that coalesce into poignant moments of truth and understanding. A particularly resonant moment has characters of varied faiths praying in harmonic unison.

While the show courageously tackles racism and homophobia, it embraces a neighborly glee that one would like to think is at the center of all facets of humanity. The magical tendency to make a little more space, rustle up a little more food or lend a bit more of understanding to your fellow man is certainly present in the residents of Gander.

The choreography is adorably hokey, as though derived from a square dance, and the rhythm dares the audience not to clap along. The orchestra matches the cast in high-energy enthusiasm throughout, note for note and beat for beat.

With ample good-natured humor and romance, "Come From Away" guides the shared hearts of the auidence and lifts them airborn to stratospheric heights. Would that we all could be as giving appreciative as the Newfoundlanders on 9/11.

"Come From Away" plays at Centennial Hall through May 29. To buy tickets, click here.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Book Report: "The Bell Jar"

The Bell JarThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sylvia Plath's autobiographical novel is chilly, incredibly smart and observant.

A breakthrough in feminist literature, the book feels vital and relevant despite the passage of more than half a century. Maybe its significance continues to grow as society evolves to match the work, which was considerably ahead of its time.

Plath's sardonic mentality reveals how much of an influence she was on Lisa Simpson, who carries on Plath's satirical perspective today.

The protagonist struggles with turmoil brought on by harsh social expectations pressed on her by the patriarchy, as well as inner struggles with her optimism and ability to find a reason to keep pressing forward.

On the downside, the book does read a bit Liver Journal-y, but its navel-gazing tendencies also help demonstrate the askew perspective of life trapped in the bell jar.

In all, the novel is a glorious and vital accomplishment that makes me want to read the rest of Plath's work.

View all my reviews