Come From Away is a Timely Production

As I was writing this review late last week I received word that the Dallas production of Come From Away has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak and the concern of spreading it in large gatherings.  Although I believe that is absolutely the right thing to do I still feel the need to write about this amazing and timely musical.

 

If you don’t know, Come From Away is about a time in our lives that was both shocking, uncertain, and incredibly sad for our nation.  The terrorist attacks of 911 shook us to our core and the outbreak of a pandemic in this country attacking us right now couldn’t be more ironic.  The virus is causing fear, it’s disrupting our comfortable life as we know it, and the uncertainty of our own health is very disturbing and frightening.

Here’s the plot of Come From Away:  COME FROM AWAY is the remarkable true but little known story of 7,000 stranded passengers and the small town called Gander in Newfoundland that welcomed them. On a trip to Gander, Irene Sankoff and David Hein realized the story of what happened in the area on 9/12 needed to be told through the authentic music of the region. Cultures clashed and nerves ran high, but uneasiness turned into trust, music soared into the night, and gratitude grew into enduring friendships. On September 11, 2001 the world stopped. On September 12, their stories moved us all.  Come From Away landed on 2015 “Year’s Best” lists in LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Diego Union Tribune and Seattle Times, before continuing to top the 2016 “Best of” Lists in the Washington Post and the Toronto Star and the 2017 “Best of” Lists in TIME Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Chicago Tribune, NY1, Huffington Post, The Stage, The Advocate, Newsday and Thrillist.

 

The musical recreates the event of the stranded passengers with a relatively small cast playing both the passengers and the townspeople and a very simple set.  The result is engaging and entertaining.  The cast is very talented and manages to switch from the diversity of the passengers that they are playing (yes there is a Texan, a Brit, and a Muslim to name a few) to the entertainingly and humorous Canadian accents of the townspeople.  The musical numbers had me at one minute holding back tears from the painful memories of that time to laughing at the absurdity of the situation the passengers and town found themselves in Gander at times.  In my opinion there are many better musicals out there but I give it A+ for its’ effort, the  creativity of the writers, and the emotions that it elicits in every adult that was alive on 911.  Even those living through the difficult times of today will walk away affected by its’ message.

A subplot of the musical is the celebration of one of the lead characters who was an actual American Airlines Lady Pilot, Beverley Bass.  She is a trailblazing pilot who became the first female pilot promoted to captain by AA in 1986 and led the first all female crewed flight shortly thereafter.  Her groundbreaking career became even more visible when she along with several other pilots were forced to land in the remote town of Gander on September 11th.  Her character has a real show stopping number to celebrate her achievement of breaking the glass ceiling in aviation as a lady pilot.  This is another irony in timing since we celebrated International Woman’s Day last week!

 

Trivia:  Did anyone else wonder where the musical’s title Come From Away came from?  It’s not exactly easy to say or remember for that matter.  I did a goggle search and found this:  Come From Away is a term used in Canada’s Atlantic provinces for someone who has moved to the area from somewhere else.  What an appropriate name!

For me, watching the play took me back to that time of despair, grief,  uncertainty, and pain that the events of 911 caused.  But it also took me back to a time of incredible outpouring of love, kindness for each other and extreme patriotism.  Despite our many differences, America came together as a family and rallied to fight our enemy together and to help our neighbors in any way we could.  Come From Away reflects that time in a heartwarming and incredibly sweet way.  The story of a small town in Canada opening their hearts and homes to total strangers (a lot of them too) is a look back at how we as humans rise to the occasion when we are tested and despite our diversity we are all humans.  I took my 22 year old son, Jared with me to see the musical and despite him not remembering 911, he got the message loud and clear and said to me that his take away was  “Humanity needs something to fight against in order to unit”.  Right now, after the scary announcements of government shut downs, quarantining, and social distancing due to the COVID 19 I feel like there are no truer words.

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