‘Come from Away’ Offers Light During Dark Times

By Janie Walenda

When the U.S. airspace was shut down following the terrorist attacks on September 11, hundreds of aircraft were diverted to airports across Canada.  Thirty-eight of these airplanes landed in a small town called Gander.  The arrival of these airplanes nearly doubled the population of the town, adding close to 7000 people.  “Come from Away,” a professionally recorded musical released on Apple TV+, shows the aftermath as the people of Gander strives to accommodate their new guests while processing the horrific attacks.

“Come from Away” doesn’t hold back in depicting the chaos of the initial arrivals as well as the mounting concerns and tensions that the town faces.  Through the music and staging, the show conveys the sheer panic and confusion experienced by the townspeople and the passengers.  Whether it’s a mother trying to contact her son or a pilot trying to get off the ground before a storm comes, the show doesn’t shy away from the countless problems this town faced.

Neither does it shy away from heartwarming displays of humanity and hospitality.  The townspeople’s dedication to taking care of the stranded passengers is a constant thread throughout the show.  In a throwaway line, a character mentions a store telling him to take whatever he needs.  As the passengers become more anxious, the town decides to throw a party and make them honorary Newfoundlanders.  

All of this is achieved with only twelve actors and a set of chairs and tables.  The costume and set changes are extremely smooth, and the actors do an incredible job of making each character feel unique.  I found that the smaller cast made me care more about the characters, as I was able to grow more attached to each actor.

‘Come from Away’ cast recording for Apple TV+

As a musical theatre fan, I couldn’t be more pleased by the number of professionally shot shows and movie adaptations we’re getting.  Theatre has long had an inclusivity problem, and it’s refreshing to see opinions on pro-shots start to change.  Between “Come from Away” and “Hamilton,” people in the theater industry are seeing that pro-shots build interest in a show instead of lessening it.  It will be interesting to see how “Diana” does, as its pro-shot will be released a month before its Broadway premiere and will therefore be the ultimate test to see if pro-shots weaken, strengthen, or have no impact on a show’s box office.

As amazing as this musical is, the best part is the end credits.  As the names roll by, we see pictures of the cast alongside the real person they played.  I was truly surprised at how many of the characters were based on real people, which made the story all the more touching.

While, on its surface, “Come from Away” is about tragedy, on a deeper level, it is a story about people. People who were confused and scared but chose to help anyway.  One scene that had a big impact on me was between a bus driver and an African family.  Struggling to communicate through the language barrier, the driver notices the wife holding a Bible.  Knowing that the numbering system would be the same, he opens the Bible up to Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing.”  It’s moments like these, connections despite confusion, chaos and cultural barriers, that make this show worth watching.

Many college students are now too young to remember 9/11.  Nevertheless, amid a global pandemic that has killed millions, we’ve felt the panic and frustration of being powerless to stop tragedy.  We’ve been stuck in places for long amounts of time.  And, throughout the last year and a half, we’ve been witnesses to the best and the worst of humanity.

It’s impossible for me to fully capture this show in words, as there is just so much worth talking about.  It blends its heavy storyline with both heartfelt moments and well-placed jokes.  Its somber moments help pave way for joyous celebration.  September 11 will always be one of the darkest days in American history, but by showing how the small town of Gander rose up to care for others, “Come from Away” reminds us that the darkness will never overcome the light.

“Come from Away” is now available to stream on Apple TV+.

Janie Walenda is a freshman Global Business major and an A&E writer for Cedars.  She enjoys musicals, movies, and rereading the same books ten times. 

1 Reply to "‘Come from Away’ Offers Light During Dark Times"

  • comment-avatar
    Teresa West September 24, 2021 (2:17 pm)

    Wow, Janie so proud of you. I knew you were going to have an awesome future.

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