Wednesday, March 22, 2017

From September 11th To Broadway: Come From Away

On September 11, 2001, planes that were mid flight when American airspace closed, were diverted elsewhere until the US could get a handle on the emerging situation.  38 of those planes, carrying nearly 7000 people, were diverted to the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland, population 10,000.

When I think about September 11th, I think of a few things.  The big picture of the Twin Towers, Pentagon, and the fourth plane in PA.  The little picture of where I was and what I did that morning and the rest of the day.  Or a few days later learning a friend lost his father in the Pentagon.  And finally the domino effect that would happen over the nearly two decades that followed that day.

But I have never thought about all the planes that were already in the air that day and how their stories would unfold.  What those planes and people would do and where they would go and what they must have felt like to have that additional connection to the bigger picture.

Come From Away, the new Broadway hit show, takes us to Gander.  We meet the people who were on the planes and the people who literally opened up their homes and hearts as their town nearly doubled in the middle of the night.  Come From Away highlights the hustle to find food and shelter for everyone on these planes, including babies and pets, the shock and fear that came over everyone as they finally learned what had happened when they were stuck on planes for over a day without information from the outside world, and how groups of strangers coped in the midst of it all.

As I mentioned yesterday, I read about this show a few weeks ago and immediately decided it was going to be a hit.  My visit to NYC to see my friends Hamilton and Eliza perfectly lined up with the opening week of Come From Away, further adding to the awesomeness of my weekend.  After reading exactly one NPR article and listening to the soundtrack, I boldly declared that Come From Away was the next Hamilton.  And then I hoped no one would remember me saying that.  

Everyone remembers me saying that.  But thankfully, I was right!

Come From Away is amazing!  The show itself is performed without a big set change, using minimal props, and without an intermission.  The cast members each play multiple characters, spectacularly portraying the passengers and the Gander locals, in a way that never once feels confusing.  The transitions are quick and seamless and I am still stunned how they manage to pull it all off.  When they were on a plane or bus or in a coffee shop, I felt it.  I could see that plane or bus or coffee shop, clear as day, despite using the same minimal set and chairs and cast members for each of those scenes.  It's brave and incredibly fresh!

This show is universally relatable.  Everyone in the world can tell you their own personal tale from September 11th.  It's not just an American story; it's a global story that is still playing out today.  To see these passengers who were not just American, but hailing from all over the world, go through this experience together in a tiny Canadian town, hits home in new ways.  It's unbelievable relevant today!

The music, the stories, the writing, and the cast are, in one word, brilliant!  I cried a few times, I laughed constantly, and I found myself grinning from ear to ear throughout the entire show.  

While I loved the complete experience, by far the stand out cast member was Jenn Colella, who so beautifully portrays Beverly Bass, the first female American Airlines pilot.  Her voice is incredible and has the power to take you through each new story without missing a beat.  I get emotional and inspired every time I listen to Me and the Sky.  

I feel so lucky to say I saw this new show at the end of it's first week on Broadway.  Not just because it's sure to be a huge hit and impossible to get tickets for now that the secret is out.  Mostly because Come From Away took me to places emotionally that are rare and special.  I both cried and laughed more than I expected, fell in love with the thousands of characters portrayed by about a dozen cast members, gained a broader understanding of the global impact of 9/11, and shared it all with Hamilton and Eliza.  

If you have the opportunity, I absolutely recommend seeing Come From Away!  You will love it!


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