Comes From the Heart
As a Mirvish subscriber, I was very excited that ‘Come From Away’ was included in my package this year. It’s the unbelievable true story about a small town called Gander in Newfoundland whose population doubled practically overnight when 38 planes had to land in their airport on September 11th when US airspace was closed.
The townspeople of Gander housed and fed thousands of stranded, stressed and scared passengers.
I walked into the Royal Alexandra Theatre wondering how what I thought of as a somber story could become a play (and overnight sensation, to boot). I ended up being pleasantly surprised and immediately won over by the opening number ‘Welcome to the Rock’.
My heart was warmed by the cast, who were so charming and believable as the residents of the small town of Gander, where everyone knows their neighbours. Watching the townsfolk rush to prepare school buses, community centres, their own homes and yes, even a hockey rink to help accommodate their ‘visitors’ made me feel strangely patriotic. They didn’t bat an eye; they didn’t sleep for days, they gave the shirt off their backs and even had people from the town show up to help without being asked. Where else, I thought, than Canada?
Stranded passengers shared stories that were relatable and had you asking what you would do if put in the same situation. There was a scared mother trying to get in touch with her son, a relationship that was beginning to crack under pressure, a young man skeptical of the ‘Canadian hospitality’ he was being shown and a courageous female pilot from American Airlines, Beverley Bass, who’s efforts to keep her passengers calm & help keep the situation under control, hid her own struggle with the situation.
Beverley Bass quickly became my favourite ‘character’, I say character, but I knew from press on the play that she was very much a real person and worked with the cast to help tell her side of the events. In 1986 she became the first female captain for American Airlines and the first woman to fly a Boeing 777 for an airline. Her passion for the industry really shone through and her almost desperation to begin flying again a week after September 11th was touching. As someone who has worked in an airport and where travelling is a very important part of my life, when Beverley Bass told her story of stopping what few passengers were still showing up to the airport to shake their hand and ‘Thank them for still flying’, it hit me hard.
I went from wiping my eyes to laughing and being overcome with joy when residents of Gander opened up the local Legion to invite the stranded passengers to have a few drinks, dance to a live band (and an ugly stick) and get ‘Screehed’ in to become an official ‘Newfoundlander’. If you don’t know what getting ‘Screeched in’ means, it involves hard alcohol and kissing a cod, be sure to Google it. The audience pretty much screamed with excitement when the ‘Screech In’ number ended, and I was one of them. I have never felt so many different emotions while watching a play before. I almost felt like I knew these people, I felt for them and their stories and their unending kindness for strangers in their town. I felt like I knew them.
What makes this play even more interesting was that it started off as a 45 minute workshop piece for the Canadian Music Theatre Project as part of the Sheridan College Music Theatre Performance Program back in 2012. It became a full production at Sheridan in 2013 and from there it played in Connecticut, Seattle and finally Toronto. I loved knowing that this great production was created in our own backyard and hope to see many more from Sheridan in the future.
I would definitely recommend this show; it will be playing until January 8th, 2017 before moving onto Broadway and would make for a great holiday gift. (Be sure to visit Mirvish.com for more info, tickets range from $65-$225). It runs 100 minutes with no intermission.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go book a flight to Newfoundland…. I’ve got a cod to kiss!
Until next event!
Hey! I'm Sarah! A 30 something living in downtown Toronto with a great guy and an OK dog. I love seeing what my city has to offer and try to hit up as many fun events or attractions as I can! I haven't slept since 2004.