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On Theater: A heartwarming 9/11-inspired musical

On Theater: A heartwarming 9/11-inspired musical
The inspiring “Come From Away,” about the New York-bound passengers redirected to Newfoundland after the Sept. 11 attacks, runs at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts through Feb. 17. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Those of us who were alive on Sept. 11, 2001, will never forget the horrific images of hijacked planes crashing into New York City’s Twin Towers. Who could have imagined this period inspiring a heartwarming, feel-good Broadway musical?

Yet here we have “Come From Away,” a dramatization of true events when planes bound for New York were diverted to other cities’ airports, including the one at Gander, Newfoundland. That story is unfolding at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

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Playwrights Irene Sankoff and David Hein reimagined the events that transpired when 38 planes arrived with 7,000 passengers for unexpected stops in Gander. Most of those aboard still were not aware of the reason.

Director Christopher Ashley has created an uplifting ensemble effort that may be fully enjoyed 18 years after the nation’s second day of infamy. The production covers the week-long stay and touches on how people adapt, or fail to, in outlandish circumstances.

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Nick Duckart, Kevin Carolan, and Andrew Samonsky perform in “Come From Away,” which runs at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa through Feb. 17.
Nick Duckart, Kevin Carolan, and Andrew Samonsky perform in “Come From Away,” which runs at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa through Feb. 17. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

The show’s dozen performers play principal roles and double or triple into other assignments, alternating as townspeople and visitors. Plot lines emerge but never dominate as the compelling tale of kindness and humanity in life’s darkest moments plays out.

The most intriguing story involves a British traveler, Nick (Chamblee Ferguson), and an American woman, Diane (Christine Toy Johnson), who are thrust together by circumstance and discover romance. Their “Stop the World” duet is a highlight.

The relationship of a gay couple both named Kevin (Andrew Samonsky and Nick Duckart), is tested, comically, during a traditional Newfoundlander welcoming ceremony. Megan McGinnis infuses her hostess, Bonnie, with charm and energy.

While “Come From Away” leans more toward character development than musicality, Ian Eisendrath’s orchestra sets a joyous tone, particularly during the full ensemble numbers.

Conflict, normally a prime ingredient, is kept to a minimum as the show stresses kindness and humanity in adverse times. What disagreements surface are minor as both factions strive for understanding and amity.

“Come From Away” is as inspirational a musical as you're likely to find under the most dire of conditions. It’s a memorable moment at the Segerstrom Center.

IF YOU GO

What: “Come From Away”

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. until Feb. 17

Cost: Tickets start at $39

Information: (714) 556-2787, scfta.org

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