The cast of 'Come From Away' at The 5th Avenue Theatre. Credit: Matt Murphy
The bottom line
The show highlights an unexpected outcome of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and offers a terrific adults' night out option or an important conversation starter with your older tweens and teens. I highly recommend this incredible show.
"Come From Away" follows the story of some 7,000 airline passengers forced to land in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, and how the townspeople welcomed them.
Immediately following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, dozens of flights in the air were directed to land immediately. One relatively remote spot able to receive intercontinental jetliners was the airport at Gander, a town of about 12,000 people in far eastern North America.
The "plane people" — as the locals call them (a term used as a subcategory of "come from aways," a local expression used to refer to anyone not from Newfoundland) — desperately try to figure out what has happened, where they are and how and when they'll be able to go home.
Meanwhile, Gander's mayor and townspeople try to figure out how to feed and house all the people who've plopped into their midst, at a tragic and confusing time.
The resulting acts of humanity and connection lie at the heart of the show. I laughed more than I expected to, and cried as well but mostly while smiling.
The cast is made up of a dozen or so actors, dressed in fairly plain street clothes. Each one portrays multiple characters — both locals and passengers — altering their voices and adding or removing simple clothing props, such as a hat or jacket. It's remarkable how seamlessly the actors achieve this when considering that the show requires non-stop dialogue and singing.
Speaking of singing, the strong, upbeat Celtic-influenced music threads the entire show together, with many terrific ensemble numbers ("Welcome to the Rock") and lovely, powerful solos ("Between Me and the Sky" and "I Am Here.")
The character who sings "Between Me and the Sky" is a pilot based on real-life pilot Beverly Bass, the first female captain for American Airlines, who landed in Gander. The real-life Bass has reportedly seen the show many times.
The onstage band is marvelous. They came out on stage at curtain call on the night we attended; hopefully, the same will be true on subsequent performances. The audience was on its feet already and if there were a next-level standing ovation to give — perhaps jumping up and down? — that was the right moment for it.
Parents should know
I originally considered bringing my 9-year-old son to this show. He knows about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and I wanted to show him that sometimes out of unspeakable tragedy emerge incredible individual acts of humanity. That fact is, indeed, the essence of the show.
The stories in "Come From Away" are told almost entirely through song and dialogue. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, focused intently on the lyrics and words. I do not think my son would have been able to follow it well enough to understand what was happening.
The 5th Avenue recommends this show for ages 10 and up. For families with tweens who are experienced theatergoers, it will work well. Of note, the set is simple and there is no intermission so there is a bit of attention stamina needed.
If you do take kids, plan to discuss ahead of time the main premise of the story so they'll have a platform of understanding.
There are a few swear words, including the f-word, and racial bias against a man who appears to be Muslim. Find out more in The 5th's content advisory.
If you go ...
Parking: There are four parking garages, all within a short walk of the theater, or consider ride-hailing or transit to avoid parking hassles.