There is a reason that Come From Away went from a hometown hit to a Broadway sensation, with Tony nominations, Drama Desk Awards, touring companies, extensions and a huge mound of success for the producers and writers and that’s because it’s special. It doesn’t rely on fancy sets, or pyrotechnics or dramatic stage effects. It relies entirely on a moving, inspiring true story about a bunch of ordinary folks living in Gander, Newfoundland and how they opened their hearts and communities to hundreds of displaced passengers on September 11, 2001. Hundreds of planes were diverted to Gander and this small town suddenly swelled in population to thousands of people for the next five days.
The people of Gander welcomed the people into their community and later into their homes. They worked day and night— feeding them, clothing them, entertaining them and loving them. On September 11, the world as we knew it changed forever. The plane people who ended up in Newfoundland would be shown that in this time of unspeakable horror, that goodness, kindness and generosity of spirit still existed.
Husband and wife team David Hein and Irene Sankoff have written a remarkable musical. They spent several years going back and forth to Newfoundland, interviewing the people of Gander and collecting some of the many stories that would become part of the show. It’s filled with humour, heartfelt emotions, lively music and moving ballads. Newfoundlanders are a special group of people and that essence is captured in this show.
The cast in uniformly strong and play multiple characters. There is no real star and it’s very much the strength of the entire ensemble that makes this musical vibrate. The singing is powerful, the choreographed movement minimal but precise with lots of upbeat dancing and great musicians accompanying the action.
This is the second time I have seen the show, I have read books about the topic, listened to the soundtrack countless times and watched a documentary. To say I am a fan is an understatement. I enjoyed it even more this time because somehow the world seems to continue to get crazier but this show showers us with a huge dose of hope. It’s a reminder that we don’t need to do huge things to change the world, we just need to open our hearts and be there for each other. If you haven’t seen this show, you must. If you have seen it’s definitely one to see again.