ABOUT COME FROM AWAY
A Canadian musical with book, music, and lyrics by Irene Sankhoff and David Hein, Come From Away takes place in 2001 in the week following the September 11 attacks and is set in the small town of Gander in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The show is based on the true story of Operation Yellow Ribbon and what occurred when 38 airplanes were suddenly told to land in Gander. The show’s characters are based on the real-life residents of Gander and the 7,000 or so people stranded in the town. The show’s first production played at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, in 2013 and it premiered on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on March 12, 2017.
It is the morning of September 11, 2001, and Claude the mayor, Oz the police constable, Beulah the teacher, Bonnie the SPCA worker, and several other members of the Gander community are describing their experience of life in Newfoundland and how they came to learn about the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C.
US airspace has closed in response to the attacks, which has huge repercussions for the people of Gander – suddenly 38 planes are forced to divert their course and land at their local airport, instantly doubling the town’s population. Gander is ill-equipped to cater for the arrival of these marooned travelers, but the townspeople rally to find blankets, beds, food, and other provisions for the almost 7,000 passengers and 19 animals. At the same time the pilots, crew, and passengers have been told not to leave the plane and are trying to make sense of the scant and bewildering information about the circumstances of their grounding.
After the passengers and crew are permitted to leave the planes and decant to the emergency shelters nearby, they begin to see the attacks on the news and learn of the reason behind their unexpected landing. Scared and deserted, they pray for and reach out to their loved ones while the residents of Gander endeavor to help them through the night however they can.
To pacify the scared and tense passengers, the townsfolk invite them to become honorary Newfoundlanders. The “Plane People” are welcomed into the homes of the “Islanders” of Gander, regardless of their race, nationality, or sexual orientation. At first, the passengers are hesitant to accept the neighborliness shown to them but eventually, begin to warm to the unusual inhabitants of Gander and to each other.
However, the magnitude of the situation lingers as US airspace finally opens up once more. One pilot no longer carries a trusting and positive view of the world and may never feel that way again. A mother learns her firefighter son has died in the relief effort. A couple of passengers find a burgeoning romance together despite the horrifying circumstances, while another pair find their long-term relationship has crumbled under the strain.
Whilst the crew and passengers fly back home they eagerly swap heart-warming stories of the overwhelming altruism that they received from the townspeople. However, before they board one Muslim man has a very different experience as he is subjected to a thorough and humiliating strip search. The people of Gander go about their usual business but note how bare their town now feels and how altered the world now seems.
A decade later, the “Plane People” return to Gander, this time through choice, and commemorate the deep friendships and enduring relationships they forged together despite the terrorist attacks. Claude, the mayor of Gander summarizes that "Tonight we honor what was lost, but we also commemorate what we found."
"Irresistible and inspiring, it’s a musical that gets everything right." - The Times ★★★★★
"This miraculous masterpiece is totally, soul-feedingly wonderful" - Timeout ★★★★★
"It will make you laugh, cry and leave the theatre full of hope." - Daily Express ★★★★★
"A must-see musical that’s a life-affirming celebration of human decency." - The Mirror ★★★★★
"A triumph of both the human spirit and musical theatre." - Sunday Express ★★★★★
"A global phenomenon, and you can see why." - The Guardian
"This is the show we all need right now." - Sunday Times
"A hymn to the power of community." - Evening Standard ★★★★
"A moving, irresistible show that unapologetically champions kindness." - Financial Times ★★★★