I'm a teacher, musician, blogger and uni student living in Sydney and always dreaming about living & experiencing a new corner of the world. Visit my blog at www.youngoldtraveller.wordpress.com.
A musical sharing extraordinary stories by ordinary people
Musicals are supposed to be engaging, and of course, contain singable and memorable tunes. But for the musical Come From Away, it's much more than just that. Normally, musicals contain a person's transformational story (e.g. Book of Mormons), a story of the past (e.g. Les Miserables), or of something magical (e.g. Wicked), but Come From Away deliberately diverge from that. Instead, it tells ordinary stories about ordinary people, with no single person as a central character.
Essentially, it's about an event that changed the world - 9/11, and what happened after that. When the 9/11 occurred, over 4,000 planes had to be diverted from the US. This meant that a small town of 10,000 people called Gander (Newfoundland, Canada) had to host almost 40 planes full of passengers and staff. And this musical celebrates the goods and positives of those Newfoundlanders.
But then again, it's more than just engaging stories and good tunes. It's also a story that unites people. It's about two groups of people (the locals from Newfoundland and the people who 'come from away'), who are both changed when they come together. It's not about us and then, but about all of us.
And the unification goes beyond the people within the musical too. The story unites all of us as audience members. When the 9/11 happened, it didn't matter who we were, what background we were, or where we were, we all wanted to help. So in that sense, the musical can relate to all of our lives, and to me personally, that is the selling point of the musical.
To pay respect to the residents of Gander, these people who have 'come from away' (aka those passengers and staff who were diverted there) visited Gander during the 10th anniversary of the 9/11. This was also when the authors/lyricists/composers David Hein and Irene Sankoff visited the place and interviewed the residents.
Other than being pleasantly surprised by the locals' hospitality, they were touched by thousands and thousands of touching stories, which turned into the original draft being over 5 hours long. When being asked how they filtered out which stories to include in the musical and which ones to throw away, they decided to include the stories that had a clear beginning to an end. Alternatively, David and Irene have had to amalgamate people's stories, for example, all of the characters have a first name from one person, and a last name from another person.
Examples of stories include: The story of Beverly Bass - the first female pilot in any American airline. She was flying from Paris to Dallas when she was diverted to Gander. In the musical, there's a song about her breaking the glass ceiling.
A love story of a Texan girl and a French guy who realised they had spent an awkwardly long amount of time togetherů Of course, no musical can go without having a love story! People from Gander's Salvation Army, who stayed up all night to prepare food for when the planes arrived at 6 am.
And this musical has touched people from all over the world. With sold-out shows in Broadway, Toronto, Seattle, Washington, San Diego, Winnipeg, London and Dublin, it's finally coming Down Under in July 2019. Set in the theatre that was recently refurbished just for this musical, Comedy Theatre will be the place that does what a good musical does - to bring you inside a story that you never want to leave. Don't forget to bring some tissues, because it'll be impossible NOT to be moved by this celebration of mankind.