On 11 September 2001, almost 40 commercial aircraft were ordered to make emergency landings in Gander, Newfoundland when US airspace was closed. (Gander once used to accommodate transatlantic aircraft in need of refuelling, which is why it is equipped with a rather large airport.) The warm welcome given by the local community to the 6,500 stranded passengers and crew members is the subject of this surprisingly uplifting musical.
Come From Away is one of those free-form, almost sung-through, musicals that lean a little more towards a song cycle than towards a traditional theatrical piece, with characters frequently talking/singing to the audience. Although there have been such musicals for a long time, they seem to have become a lot more frequent lately.
Even though I missed a more theatrical approach (the lack of sets, especially, is a big obstacle in my book) and even though the style of the music isn’t really my cup of tea, I was won over by Come From Away’s unique mixture of warmheartedness, humour and sheer energy. The twelve actors play an amazing number of characters with astonishing ease and fluidity. The intermissionless play ended on a high just when I was starting to look at my watch.
Are Newfoundlanders the most welcoming people on the planet? It is remarkable that a play set in the aftermath of 9-11 ends up celebrating human resilience in such a heart-warming manner. The audience seemed genuinely touched.