When I first heard about Irene Sankoff and David Hein’s new musical Come From Away, I seriously could not conceive, how this could become a musical of note. I was sent musical clips early on and though I liked the music, I could not wrap my head around this concept, until last night. This feel good musical is infectious, enchanting and just what this country needs right now. Humanity in the form of the Canadians who showed such amazing hospitality and graciousness are highlighted. Then the story of the passengers who gave their thanks back in the form of scholarships and funding for the town complete the cycle that humanity may not be such a bad lot after all.
For those who don’t know the story on September 11, 2001; 38 planes with 6,700 passengers and crew descended upon Newfoundland when their planes were diverted due to the 9/11 attacks. Scared, not knowing what was happening the passengers were met with love and the human capacity for kindness, selflessness and generosity. The people of Gander, a town of no more than 10,000, looked at all those planes lined up at the airport and didn’t think of terrorism, didn’t see potential attacks. They just wanted to help. In a city that didn’t have hotels or restaurants to take in that amount of passengers, the community knew that the people from more than 100 countries stuck on those planes were mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and grandmothers. Bus drivers, who were on strike walked off their picket lines and went back to work and the townspeople opened their homes and offered their beds to the “plane people.” They even found a way to care for the 17 dogs and cats and the two rare monkeys that were also stranded.
None of the townspeople would accept money. So after the passengers were able to reboard their plane, the passengers created a scholarship fund for the children of Gander. They had $15,000 when they landed. The Lewisporte Area Flight 15 Scholarship fund has grown to about $2 million.
Director Christopher Ashley and his amazing 12-member cast recreate the story complete with a George W. Bush (Chad Kimbell) broadcast, flawless Canadian accents and simplistic but effective musical staging by Kelly Devine. The cast play passengers, crew members and the Canadians who lived in Gander. Petrina Bromley, Geno Carr, Jenn Colella, Joel Hatch, Rodney Hicks, Kendra Kassebaum, Chad Kimball, Lee MacDougall, Caesar Samayoa, Q. Smith, Astrid Van Wieren, and Sharon Wheatley each have their moment to shine but they are a true ensemble. Ms. Colella’s role of a pilot who was the first women pilot who empowers women, Mr. Kimball and Caesar Samayoa gay couple afraid of acceptance and the prejudices over anyone Muslim might see this PC show winning the Tony.
The music is Gallic has a pop folk edge creating tuneful and addictive melodies such as “Welcome to the Rock,””I am Here,” “On The Edge” and “Me and The Sky”standing out.
The set by Beowulf Boritt is a beautiful rustic wooden landscape of trees making the terrine both desolate, but lovely.
Based on interviews, the memories and the unbelievable kindness it is hard not to be moved. Even as I am writing this I find myself chocking up at the unconditional souls of those who gave without expecting or wanting anything. After 9/11 nobody was the same again, but thanks to Come from Away, we might just see redemption. Come From Away, is tuneful, smart and heartfelt and is sure to have you leaving the theatre feeling just a little bit more positive than when you entered.
Come From Away: Gerald Schoenfeld Theater, 236 W. 45th St.