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In the 09/11/2021 edition:

Kick off your weekend singing and dancing to ‘COME FROM AWAY’ and ‘JAMIE’ musical

By Preston Barta on Sep 10, 2021 04:18 pm

Preston Barta // Features Editor

The weather’s getting slightly cooler, pumpkin spice is in lattes, and fall movies are populating theaters and home televisions. And this weekend has plenty of movie options for you to take in the season, including an Oscar Isaac card-playing flick and a new creep show from James Wan. But if you’re looking for a slice of drama punched up the fun energy of song and dance, there are two musicals to get your toes tapping. So, whether you want to twirl around your living room or bounce up and down in a theater seat, here are two delights to get your weekend started with a smile.


TV-14, 106 minutes.
Director: Christopher Ashley
Cast: Petrina Bromley, Jenn Colella, De’Lon Grant, Joel Hatch, Tony LePage, Caesar Samayoa, Q. Smith, Astrid Van Wieren, Emily Walton, Jim Walton, Sharon Wheatley and Paul Whitty

Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and filmed live before an audience of survivors and first responders is the dazzling, funny and absolutely heartfelt COME FROM AWAY.

The award-winning Broadway show is a bittersweet telling of the 7,000 passengers who landed in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, after all flights were grounded on September 11, 2001. As the townsfolk graciously welcomed the “come from aways” into their community in the aftermath, the passengers and locals came together to process what happened while finding love, laughter and hope in the unlikely and lasting bonds they forged.

Directed with class by Christopher Ashley and shot with visual splendor by Tobias A. Schliessler (2017’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST), COME FROM AWAY is a full bottle of lighting that preserves the stage musical’s lavish production. The catchy tunes, clever storytelling and astounding performances (portrayed by talents who take on multiple parts) are simply a treat.

As record scratching as it may sound to filter the events of 9/11 through a musical packed with comedy, there’s a delicate balance pulled off here by writers and composers Irene Sankoff and David Hein. The comedy isn’t delivered in a fashion that feels inappropriate or distasteful. Instead, the story makes the right dramatic and comedic pivots without losing control of its tone. As a result, you’ll laugh yourself red at characters making a fuss over food and misreading each other, and you’ll feel your heart grow heavier during scenes of family phone calls and selfless human acts.

With this recorded musical, you get a front-row seat that allows you to witness every micro-expression, quivering lip and bead of sweat. It’s clear a lot of hard work and thought went into this production, and you’ll soak up every ounce of its well-polished complexity. Sometimes good people work together under unprecedented circumstances, and it’s during those times you can witness true miracles, like love, friendship and hope blossom. COME FROM AWAY is a warm reminder of that.

Grade: A

Now available to stream exclusively on Apple TV+.

Our interview with ‘COME FROM AWAY’ writers and composers Irene Sankoff & David Hein:


Rated PG-13, 115 minutes.
Director: Jonathan Butterell
Cast: Max Harwood, Lauren Patel, Richard E. Grant, Sharon Horgan, Sarah Lancashire, Shobna Gulati, Samuel Bottomley, and Ralph Ineson

EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE, the film adaptation of the popular West End musical, crackles with an innovative vitality all on its own. It makes narrative leaps that are as joyful as they are tuneful. You’ll adore its huggable characters and feel your eyes widen in amazement over its dance numbers. Look out for a black-and-white sequence and a trip through a character’s memory to strike your fancy and tug at your heartstrings.

Inspired by a 2011 BBC documentary, this journey follows Jamie New (an excellent Max Harwood), a Sheffield teen with big dreams of being a drag queen. With the help of his mother (Sarah Lancashire), best friend (Lauren Patel) and a local drag-shop owner (a terrific Richard E. Grant), perhaps everyone will be talking about Jamie.

While the story may not be the freshest narrative on the street (even though it’s based on truth), the character beats, musical swings, and the mother-child relationship at its center all give it some flair. The production design and lighting are the biggest takeaways.

So, expect it to charm you, fill you with courage, and make you want to have meaningful talks with your loved ones and friends.

Grade: B

Now playing in select theaters. Available September 17 to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Our interview with ‘JAMIE’ director Jonathan Butterell and

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With arms wide open: 9/11 musical ‘COME FROM AWAY’ writers and composers find love, laughter in the wake of a crisis

By Preston Barta on Sep 10, 2021 10:47 am

Preston Barta // Features Editor

Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001? The chances are that if you were alive during that tragic chapter in history and old enough to recall it, you will. 

Like millions of others, I was on my way to school, and the radio’s music stopped to say a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. It was a day full of tears and confusion but also love. Everyone in my class hugged each other and called families to see if all was safe.

Following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that morning, the U.S. airspace shut down—every plane in the air had to be diverted and grounded immediately. As a result, hundreds of aircraft carrying thousands upon thousands of bewildered passengers landed with a scarce warning, and the people on the ground frantically tried to figure out what to do.

The tragic events of that day may seem like one of the oddest subjects for feel-good entertainment. However, despite the odds, Canadian writers and composers Irene Sankoff and David Hein made it possible with Come from Away, dubbed the “9/11 musical” (although it’s more 9/12). 

Sankoff and Hein song-and-dancify the true story of the 7,000 people stranded in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, after all flights were grounded on September 11, 2001. But just as much as the musical centers on the passengers and pilots, it’s also about the townsfolk who graciously welcomed the travelers with open arms and helping hands. The beautiful and joyous tale finds love and hope in the unlikely and lasting bonds these people forged.

A filmed version of the 2017 hit musical is now available to stream on Apple TV+ ahead of its return to Broadway this fall. Directed by Christopher Ashley and produced by Bill Condon, the film was recorded in May at the Gerald Shoenfeld Theatre with 9/11 survivors and frontline workers in attendance.

As we prepare to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, take in this musical and allow it to sweep you off your feet and expand your heart. You can prime yourself for the endearing experience by watching our video interview with Sankoff and Hein below. They discuss their approach to telling the story and how the filmed version has deepened their understanding.

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Heroes in heels: ‘EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE’ cast and director find courage in glam high school musical

By Preston Barta on Sep 10, 2021 09:41 am

Preston Barta // Features Editor

Stop waiting for permission to be YOU.

Talk about a beautiful message to carry home after watching the endearing EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE—and that’s only one of many. 

The award-winning musical is based on the story of Jamie Campbell, as featured in the documentary DRAG QUEEN AT SIXTEEN. The documentary was adapted for the stage in 2017. It follows teen boy Jamie New (renamed for the show and portrayed by newcomer Max Harwood), who aspires to be a drag queen while navigating the turbulent times of growing up in Sheffield, England.

The film adaptation reunites the stage production’s creative team, including Jonathan Butterell as director, the screenplay and lyrics by Tom MacRae, and the score by composer Dan Gillespie Sells and Anne Dudley. Other members include Lauren Patel (also making her big-screen debut) as Jamie’s best friend Pritti Pasha, Richard E. Grant as Jamie’s mentor Hugo/Loco Chanelle, and Sarah Lancashire as Jamie’s caring mom Margaret.

Fresh Fiction reporter Preston Barta recently sat down with Butterell, Harwood and Patel to discuss taking the stage musical to the big screen. We also chat about the magic of the song-and-dance numbers, how Campbell’s story gave them courage in their lives, and how the realities have shifted.

Enjoy the conversation below, and catch EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE in select theaters this weekend or on Amazon Prime Video next week (9/17)!

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[Review] ‘THE ALPINIST’ – everything’s zen (and I free climb)

By freshtv on Sep 10, 2021 08:35 am

Travis Leamons // Film Critic


Rated PG-13, 93 minutes.
Director: Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen
Featuring: Marc-André Leclerc, Brette Harrington, Peter Mortimer, Alex Honnold, Reinhold Messner, and Michelle Kuipers

Mountain climbers are a different breed. They are nomadic misanthropes taking to landmasses forged over millions of years and standing thousands of meters tall. Some might view their pursuits as crazy or dangerous. But their pursuit isn’t to fuel adrenaline or to live life on the edge. For an experienced climber, climbing is a form of meditation. It’s both therapeutic and physically taxing.  

As a sport, climbing has risen in popularity thanks in part to the Oscar-winning documentary FREE SOLO (about climber Alex Honnold and his journey to climb El Capitan in Yosemite without the use of a rope harness) and the series AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR (a competition show where thousands compete in a series of obstacle courses that test speed, agility, and grip strength). Once the outsiders, now mountain climbers have become minor sports celebrities; we can recognize Honnold for climbing like we would Tony Hawk and Shaun White for skateboarding and snowboarding, respectively. 

When I first heard about THE ALPINIST and saw some footage from Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen’s documentary, I didn’t need any other information about the subject. Even though I have never climbed, I am awestruck by those who test their physical and psychological limits in various arenas. Explorers Ferdinand Magellan and Ernest Shackleton. NASA’s Apollo program. Roger Bannister running the first sub-four-minute mile. More as it relates to this documentary, Sir Edmund Hillary, the OG of mountain climbing. He was the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest.       

At a time where we can do nearly everything with a few taps on our phone, social media has become as routine as looking at a clock to see what time is. Flooding Facebook and Instagram feeds with selfies from cliffs and mountaintops, funny memes, and GIFs to express current feelings – looking for “likes” and feedback can be as addictive as craving sugar. But what to make of a person who just wanted to do something extraordinary and not share it with the world?

This is the question Mortimer (co-director of THE DAWN WALL) and Rosen ask when they first hear about Marc-André Leclerc, who prefers to climb unobserved. To Leclerc, a free solo climb with a camera crew present isn’t a free solo climb. 

Picture the 'FREE SOLO' documentary with ice and a climber that prefers to remain elusive.
Courtesy photo.

In THE ALPINIST, the central conflict isn’t conquering a jagged, frozen monolith towering towards the heavens. A mountain is a tactile object made more impressive by its size. However, the person climbing the mountain can be just as remarkable. Yet, Leclerc climbs like most of us walk. Relaxed and nonchalant. There’s a moment when he’s resting one of his ice axes in a crevice, his crampons digging into a frozen block of ice as he regroups, and I envisioned Tom Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL. What would happen if Leclerc’s ice ax suddenly dropped?

As a climber, Marc-André Leclerc is pretty much the musician you like who is well known in certain circles but prefers to be unassuming so as not to be labeled as a sellout. He doesn’t crave money or fame.

The documentary includes a parade of talking heads as Leclerc’s girlfriend, Brette Harrington (an experienced climber and alpinist herself), friends, and notable climbers (including Alex Honnold) speak candidly about his impressive feats. The times Leclerc appears on camera he’s jovial and timid, feeling less at ease talking about himself than he would be with scaling a cliff. 

He is drawn to challenging climbs, particularly The Corkscrew on Cerro Torre in Patagonia. Experienced mountaineers flock to Patagonia in the summer to ascend Cerro Torre. Leclerc goes during the off-season as snow falls and ice forms. We don’t get to see him reach the summit; Leclerc tends to be elusive and excommunicative, making it difficult to track and document his climbs. What footage we do see of Leclerc free-soloing is vertigo-inducing. At one point, I twisted my head to get a better angle of what Leclerc was scaling. I couldn’t believe it. 

THE ALPINIST doesn’t quite reach the captivating, white-knuckle heights of FREE SOLO, which builds to a thrilling third act. But directors Mortimer and Rosen get as close and personal as they can in documenting a daredevil who keeps at arm’s length and climbs like a Buddhist monk mediates—keeping everything Zen.     

Grade: B

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