Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Come from Away (Broadway)


September 11, 2001. As two towers fall prey to a terrorist attack in New York, all flights within US airspace are grounded, forcing incoming planes from all over the world to reroute to an outside airport. 38 of those planes find themselves stranded in the tiny town of Gander in Newfoundland, Canada. With a population of less than 10,000, the small locale along with its neighboring towns suddenly double its population overnight as a temporary refuge for confused and angry passengers who couldn’t make their way to America. Come from Away tells the story of that fateful day in 2001, when the mundanity of the daily lives of Gander’s folks takes a turn for a humanitarian crisis which they successfully band together to go overcome. As departure date looms and the southern airspace becomes accessible once again, the occurrence will have changed the lives of both locals and visitors from away, for life.

I did not know that this was a 9/11 narrative, so I was surprised when I found out a few days prior to seeing the show. I mean, it’s a musical. How can you make a musical out of such a tragic event? Performed without intermissions, Come from Away is a heartwarming tale of solidarity in the midst of tragedy, that human trait we all share but tend to overlook in our daily lives. Punctuated with witty one liners and a dash of Canadian humor, you are bound to enjoy this feel good modern musical theater classic.

In the absence of big names or flashy song and dance numbers, Come from Away is an ensemble effort through and through. The actors portray multiple roles distinguished only by a quick shift in accent or adding/removing a clothing accessory. Because of this, it is a bit difficult to remember the roles quite well, because they just sort of blend in. However, you do realize that such kind of ambiguity serves as a perfect representation for the thousands of people who got stranded there. This is a communal story, and that vagueness makes it even more relatable for those who were part of that narrative in real life.

Even then, there are some standouts when it comes to several subplots. You have the female pilot who gets the test of her career during the unprecedented tragedy, all while subtly tackling sexism in her chosen profession. You also have the gay couple wary how their relationship will be taken in such a remote and seemingly traditional town. And then there’s the worried mother of a rescue firefighter in Manhattan whose whereabouts are left up in the air. Of course, who will forget the Texan and British seatmates who end up becoming an unlikely couple.

It is also educational in a way because it touches upon the logistics of the situation on the ground as it was unfolding. You see it from various points of view including that of the mayor trying his best to micromanage everything, the newbie reporter who is thrusted into the demands of her line of work in her first few days, the town vet who takes it upon herself to oversee the welfare of the animals onboard the planes, etc. It is eye opening in that sense, on top of the predominant human interest angle.

In the end, it is this string of new relationships formed and bonds that will be cherished forever in those few days shared in a strange but welcoming place that take center stage in this musical. The songs are catchy but nothing to write home about, yet they keep a permanent smile plastered on your face as you marvel on the ingenuity and sincerity of humanity when people get together to overcome adversity. As corny and cliché as it might sound, it makes you want to renew your faith in mankind.

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