Performance Review: Come From Away

Come From Awayperformed at Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in New York City on April 17, 2022.

On Easter Sunday, my mother and I took my daughter to her first Broadway musical.  Come From Away is based on the true-life events in Gander, Newfoundland in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks.  Gander is home to a large airport that was a significant refueling stop for passenger planes crossing the Atlantic but became little used after planes were built to carry enough fuel for their entire journey.  After the United States closed all air traffic, 38 planes were diverted to Gander stranding 7000 people for several days.  Come From Away tells stories of the passengers and the locals from the communities around the airport who scrambled to provide aid and comfort to their unexpected guests.

The stories in show are drawn from real life experiences.  This includes Beverley Bass, the first woman to be a captain for American Airlines.  There are also stories of love found (a woman from Texas and a man from England who strike up a romance) and love lost (two men named Kevin whose relationship is strained to the breaking point by the experience).  A Newfoundland woman whose son is a firefighter bonds with the mother of a firefighter who’s among the missing in New York.  A local veterinarian also works hard to care for the many dogs, cats, and even bonobos in the holds of the airplanes.

The show doesn’t shy away from the discrimination against Arabic and Islamic people.  And in one of the most memorable scenes, people of different religious backgrounds pray side by side on the stage, albeit in different houses of worship in reality.  The show has a lot of warmth and humor as the passengers enjoy the hospitality of their Newfoundland hosts and some are initiated as honorary Newfoundlanders in a raucous ceremony.  The contrast of the great joy of community arising as a result of atrocity comes from the line:

My dad asks: “Were you okay where you were stranded?”
How do I tell him that I wasn’t just okay
I was so much better

The amazing part of the show is that there’s only a dozen actors but they seamlessly transition into different characters with changes in costume and lighting.  The simple rustic set is also quickly reset as the interior of airplanes, cafes, and shelters among other things.  The music is a great blend of Broadway show tunes with the traditional Celtic music style of Newfoundland.  The band performs on stage and interacts with the cast adding to the party atmosphere of some of the scenes.

It’s a terrific show and I feel fortunate to get to see it on Broadway with three generations of family.

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