I am currently in New York on an annual 4th of July trip with my family. Everywhere I turn I see the “Come From Away” logo on buses, billboards, flyers, brochures, and any other form of advertisement you can think of. Last week while I was working at the Georgia Aquarium, I overheard a guest telling a staff member that she was currently going across the country just to see this show (she said the show’s week-long debut at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta last month was her third time seeing it). Everywhere I turn, it seems everyone is talking about “Come From Away” and for good reason. It’s a really good show that blends excellent choreography, superb storytelling, and catchy songs with one of the darkest moments in our country’s history.
“Come From Away” tells a tale of 7,000 passengers who were forced to land in a small Canadian town called Gander in the province of Newfoundland. Like some of my peers, I was not alive when the September 11, 2001 attacks occurred. The only sense of what happened was through television and documentaries our teachers showed us every year on September 11. It’s hard to really grasp how impactful this time was, given that my whole life was in a post-9/11 landscape. However, this play really gave me a sense of what the world was thinking during this time.
In the musical, many of the passengers on the plane have no idea what the reason was for their abrupt stop. They couldn’t contact their family and were left scared, uninformed, and confused. There is one character whose son is a firefighter and the whole play she’s trying to find out if her son is still alive. This actually leads to the biggest gut punch in the entire show when the audience finds out that he died during the attacks. Throughout their hardships, the characters still attempt to remain hopeful during the five days they’re stranded, which mirrors the US reaction to the attack.
“Come From Away” is 100 minutes long which doesn’t seem that bad until you take into account that there is no intermission. This show reminds me somewhat of the musical “Hamilton” in that it is very song-driven and not enough dialogue, which personally for me makes the show hard to get through because it makes you fall asleep. It might be due to listener fatigue which is when someone gets tired or discomfort from exposure to an auditory stimulus (music) which my mom and I were definitely feeling as we were both falling asleep.
The other problem I had was that it wasn’t funny, like at all. I laughed twice in the entirety of the production and those moments weren’t even supposed to be jokes. Yet it seemed like everyone else was laughing which was really odd until I realized exactly who “everyone else” was exactly — old people. Then it hit me, this play isn’t for me, it’s for the generation who felt the tragedy, the pain, the heartbreak, the confusion all those 18 years ago.
Nonetheless, this was an entertaining musical which I actually learned a lot from with an amazing cast and truly heartfelt message.
I’d definitely recommend seeing this but if it’s not in town right now at your local theatre, the musical was actually based on a book by Jim DeFede called “The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland.” Plus, there is a really good cast album available on streaming platforms so you’ll be fine.
Taj McKnight, 15, is excited to see “King Kong: The Musical” on Broadway.