The 2017 Broadway musical “Come From Away,” tells the true story of how Newfoundland, Canada, welcomed nearly 7,000 airplane passengers whose flights were in the air during 9/11.
Thirty-eight planes landed in the town of Gander, which almost doubled its population for five days. The feel-good story shows how community and caring for one another is crucial in times of crisis.
I was fortunate enough to see the show with my high school drama club in December 2017. This is one of my favorite productions I have ever seen because of its uniqueness and it excellent storytelling.
This is executed wonderfully by having a small cast and a minimal set of just two tables and 12 chairs. I also love how the show is based on true events and real people, which in my opinion, makes it more meaningful. The real “Come From Aways,” which is what the passengers were called, have seen the show and met the cast numerous times.
While the show premise may sound depressing, it is actually incredibly hopeful and heartwarming.
It reminds us how important it is to take care of each other in times of need. The 9/11 terror attacks were a tragic event that affected everyone, but the kindness of the communities in Newfoundland impacted so many passengers in a positive way. It is told entirely through song; however, the entire show is not entirely sung. Many of the songs are storytelling over music. There is no intermission, and it is a relatively short show.
The musical consists of a small cast of 12, where each cast member plays multiple characters. In other words, the cast members will have one or two primary roles in which they represent hundreds of different people. This is fascinating because in the playbill, the name of their primary role is listed and then followed by “and others.”
For example, one of the actors plays the Mayor of Gander in his primary role. Later in the play, he appears in another scene as a man who is yelling at a passenger speaking in Arabic on the phone. Even though it is one actor playing two different roles, the audience is able to distinguish the difference between the two characters.
Some of the characters include a mother of a New York City firefighter, a gay couple, a news reporter and a pilot who was flying that day, Beverly Bass. Bass was the first female American captain.
In her solo “Me and The Sky,” she sings about her journey to becoming a pilot. She was told that “girls shouldn’t be in the cockpit,” and that World War II pilots told her to get them drinks, indicating that she should just be a flight attendant. This song is empowering and ends with her coming to the realization that what happened on 9/11 is the first thing to stand in her way.
One of my favorite things about this show is that there is no single “main” character. There are characters that have more lines, but there is not one character in which the show circulates around. The show allows the audience to learn something about all of the characters, and it makes us realize that we are not so different after all.