Come From Away
The Capitol Theatre, Haymarket, Sydney
Come From Away looks at the period after American airspace was shut down due to the terrifying events of September 11, 2001, when aircraft had to land at their nearest airport – and quickly. In Newfoundland, Canada, that meant that 38 planes carrying 6,579 passengers on flights from Europe, swooped from the heavens to touch down on the tarmac at Gander Airport. It is the story of how the lives of the ‘plane people’ – the ‘come from away’ people, were looked after by the heroic, kind and quirky locals for days. Imagine having that many people land on your doorstep without any bags, food, or somewhere to sleep. But the folk of Gander rose to the challenge. Given the subject matter, it could be a really sad story. And in parts, a stray tear or two might have meandered down my face. But really it is about the good in people. The good people of Gander. And how this experience bonded them all for life.
The writers of Come From Away carried out thousands of hours of interviews with everyone involved in this Gander experience. The crew of the planes, the passengers, the townspeople, the powers that be who were in charge. Everyone. And the stories were so moving, that it became this musical.
From the first song, Welcome to the Rock, the cast of 12 have the audience eating out of their hands. They each play multiple roles, deftly moving from one to the other with the addition of a vest, or a hat, or a jacket. How they remember who they are from minute to minute defies belief.
The songs in Come From Away tell the story. 28 hours/Wherever We Are tells of the arduous hours passengers spent on the plane, not knowing what was going on, looking out the windows at people looking in. It is funny, as we see how they coped – or didn’t cope. To the moving I Am Here from a mother desperate to find out if her firefighter son in New York survived. To Prayer, which looks at the coming together of some of the many religions. The toes start tapping with In The Bar/Heave Away followed by Screech In, both of which are lively, rollicking tunes showcasing the talented musicians. The latter looks at the interesting Newfoundlander tradition of ‘come from awayers’ kissing a cod while wearing a yellow rainhat. I wanted to become a Newfoundler right then and there. Me And The Sky is the story of Beverly Bass, a female captain of an American Airlines flight. She is a living legend. Stop the World and Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere keep the bar high, and the Finale will have you rocking in your seat. Keep those hands clapping when that magnificent band take to the stage again with Screech Out. You won’t be able to stop smiling, tapping and clapping. It is joyful.
Then you hear what has happened since then. The feel good, restoring faith in human nature stuff. We all could do with being a Newfoundlander at times. Someone bring me a cod?
Gander is located on the island of Newfoundland. Known as ‘The Rock’, it has its own time zone – 30 minutes ahead of Atlantic Standard Time. This airport has welcomed a very impressive list in the days when all the Trans Atlantic aircraft had to stop here. The Queen. The Beatles. Frank Sinatra. It was known as the ‘Crossroads of the World.’
If you get to Gander, you can do the Beyond Words Tour, which will take you to some of the places that played a key role during that period of time. You might even get to meet some of the locals who inspired a character.
The last aircraft to depart Gander, with crew and airport employees and Town of Gander officials. Courtesy of the Town of Gander.
What I loved:
All of it. Every. Single. Minute.