Those grounded without choice meet those grounded with character.
- Why see it:
- Entertainment, culture, and history
- Emotion, energy, and efficiency
- There, but for the grace of Gander …
Summary and thoughts:
This is a musical to be seen and a story to be known. The non-stop performers wonderfully portray the actions of plain and plane folk under extraordinary stress.
The term “Come From Away” refers to the unexpected influx of 38 aircraft with nearly 7,000 international passengers to Gander, Newfoundland, diverted there September 11, 2001. The Canadian town’s population is only slightly greater than the guest list, but it has one out-sized asset and discovers another.
Viewers learn that a notable feature of Gander is a major runway capable of handling jumbo jets, a remnant of days as a refueling stop for cross-Atlantic flights. Another is the astounding capability of its people to respond to the needs of others, shown in outstanding fashion by the creatives and actors.
The writing of Irene Sankoff and David Hein is joined by director Christopher Ashley with Kelly Devine’s staging to make this as much a “play” as a musical. The set and props are simplistic. Fifteen songs in total place the narrative above planting earworms. Roles are as much acted as sung. This is theater, not theatrics. This is storytelling. This is drama.
The charming cast throws off rays of humor and humility amidst emotion and uncertainty. The audience sees people, not quirky common caricatures. The mix includes Broadway talent, off-Broadway, regional, and Canadian actors. A small-town feel is accented by putting much of the band on-stage. (Two notes: the playbill lists “band,” not “orchestra;” I lamented that “On Your Feet” did not have the same staging.)
Nobody is defying gravity in song or dance. Nobody is dreaming the impossible dream in the aftermath of the unimaginable nightmare that has occurred. The performance is exactly what it needs to be: a story, not a spectacle. Simply, those grounded without choice meet those grounded with character, creating something wonderful in 2001 and again in the theater. The audience is enthusiastic throughout.
The time may come when you are in a position such as this, either beset or bestowing. May you feel the good graces of Gander, population 14,000 for one brief but unforgettable week in the fall of 2001.
Viewed February 24, 2018, Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, NY, NY.