In Come From Away, a small Canadian town offers hope to stranded passengers on 9/11

-Brenda Hillegas
photo by Matthew Murphy

Everyone remembers where they were on September 11th, 2001. Especially the 7,000 people on 38 planes diverted to a town so many of them had never heard of before.

Gander, Newfoundland.

Welcome to the rock!

Come From Away is a musical inspired by the real events surrounding 9/11 and how a small Canadian town came together to take care of the strangers who “came from away”. If you missed the Tony-winning show when it was at the Kimmel Cultural Campus back in 2019, do not miss it again. You only have until Sunday, February 12th to catch it.

The story is told with a small ensemble cast, everyone plays more than one role. The simple set of mismatched chairs and not much else allows you to focus on the storytelling and characters. Come From Away really wows me as everyone moves with one another, there’s not much chorography when it comes to the music but the staging highlights how in sync the cast is- they’re on their toes and watching each other’s every move. From quick prop changes and new accents, moving chairs to form airplanes or bars- what I love the most about the story is how well it flows. It’s funny, it’s sad, and it’s full of hope.

The entire cast gets individual moments to showcase the importance of the people they are playing- all inspired by real life residents of Gander or from the planes. You can read my interview with the real Kevin T. here from earlier this month, or my interview with Nick Duckart who played Kevin J. in 2019 here. Captain Beverly Bass, the first female captain in American Airlines history, is heavily featured in Come From Away and the solo “Me and the Sky” is one of my favorite Broadway showtunes ever. Standby cast member, Cailin Stadnyk, sang it beautifully. The music is all original (music, lyrics and book are all written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein who visited Gander on the 10th anniversary of the attacks to interview locals and returning passengers) with a score inspired by Celtic and folk styles. The full band on stage includes an Irish flute, fiddle, bodhran and accordion. Stay after the curtain call for a little bit of a traditional cèilidh! “Screech In”, a little over halfway through the show, is also a fun tune that brings the band on stage.

Travel to Gander via Philly, this week only. You’ll experience so many emotions and stories in just 90 minutes. Tickets can be purchased on the Kimmel Cultural Campus website here… and don’t worry, the 1pm matinee on Sunday means you’ll be home in plenty of time for the big game.

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