I never dreamed that I would say this phrase – “A feel good musical dealing with 9/11.” It doesn’t sound right. But, it is exactly the case with Come From Away.
The musical is based on a true event that occurred just after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when all air traffic was diverted from US skies. Air traffic control was a mess, shutting down air traffic and sending planes all over.
Thirty-eight planes containing some 6,700 people were grounded at Gander airport on the island of Newfoundland in Canada for five days, almost doubling the town’s population.
The locals in Gander swung into action, caring for their unexpected guests, who came from every corner of the world speaking many different languages.
While the passengers were told to stay on the planes – hour after hour – the Newfoundlanders prepared every school, gym, community hall and church as emergency shelters for the passengers. Thousands of frightened, sometimes angry and bewildered passengers desperate for news, for contact with family, for any bit of information – converged on the tiny town.
The locals cooked mountains of casseroles and, when storage began to be a problem, turned the town’s ice rink into the largest refrigerator in the world. It was a true community effort. Passengers could not access their luggage, so they needed everything from underwear and clothing to bedding and toothbrushes!
The local supermarkets were emptied. Not a dime changed hands. Nobody asked for payment. They opened their doors and their hearts.
Canadian husband-and-wife team David Hein and Irene Sankoff (who co-wrote the book, music and lyrics) turn the entire ordeal into a hugely entertaining musical.
The cast of 12 switch characters with a simple removal of a jacket, or by throwing on a hat. They are many characters. It’s seamless so you don’t even pay attention to that. Some are designated leaders, like pilots and mayors. But most are ordinary folk trying to make sense of things.
The talk is incredibly fast and rhythmic. There is an awful lot of movement – it never stops. There’s stomping, arm waving, clapping and dancing. The Canadian accents are overly dramatic and hilarious.
But the stories they tell are engrossing, captivating. The love, loss, anger, community and new found friendships warm your heart and break your heart.
It all takes place over five days. I laughed until my stomach hurt. I cried until my eyes hurt. I felt all the feels and did not want it to end. The ensemble was brilliant, just everything about them.
The show is different – just 90 minutes long and no intermission. It flew by and before I knew it – it was over. The crowd jumped to their feet and roared with delight. This show is a must-see. I went with my daughter who was 6 when this horrible terrorist attack took place – so it was a different show for her than it was for me. We both love it – but it took me back to that day – and the days following.
Bring a loved one, bring some tissues – but get to this show!
Come From Away runs through October 20th at the beautiful Shea’s Performing Arts Center. You can find more information, show times and by tickets HERE.