Saturday, January 27, 2018

Come From Away Mesmerizes

…and restores my faith in the goodness of humanity.

“On 9/11, the world stopped. On 9/12, their stories moved us all.”

The one-line sound bite from the play’s website sums up Broadway’s Come From Away. The United States closed its airspace immediately following the 9/11 attack. Planes heading towards the U.S. and aircraft in the country’s skies were ordered to touch down at the closest airport. Thirty-eight passenger jets landed in a small town, population less than 10,000, on the eastern edge of Canada – Gander, Newfoundland, nicknamed by locals “the rock.”

The musical Come From Away tells the story of how Gander, along with nearby fishing
villages, mobilized to house, feed, comfort, and entertain the sudden arrival of 6,759 reluctant passengers and airline crew members, plus 9 cats, 11 dogs, and a pair of endangered apes.

Performers, each portraying more than one character, relate the true stories of a handful of the stranded as well as the locals who hosted them. Funny, poignant, emotional, and at the same time heartbreaking and uplifting, the 100-minute production, presented with no intermission, finds the audience whooping and hollering, cheering and clapping, crying and laughing at the end.

The narrative of kindness, concern and helpfulness offers a beacon of hope in difficult times as our country faces assault from mean-spirited leaders. The story evokes our sense of the inherent goodness of most folks and the ability of people who may not agree on many things to come together, quite different from too many of our current political leaders who embrace a divide-and-conquer philosophy.

The passengers did not forget the thoughtfulness and care received in Gander once home again. Gander townsfolk refused any compensation. So, in a monumental pay-it-forward effort, passengers established a scholarship fund for Gander’s students. Beginning with initial donations of $15,000, the fund totals over $1.5 million. The first scholarships were awarded in 2002 and have been awarded every year since.

Hopefully I remember the feel-good story of Come From Away when listening to the news and talking heads and reading divisive, nasty criticism as the political situation unfolds in this election year and thereafter.