Making a musical that is even tangentially related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks is a risky proposition. It requires the skill, patience, and deftness of threading a needle and makes you wonder why anyone would even want to try.
Fortunately, the effort was made, or else we never would have got “Come From Away,” the Tony Award-winning musical playing now through May 26, at the Fox Theatre.
This fantastic show details the real-life events that took place in the tiny town of Gander in Newfoundland, Canada.
Immediately following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, airspace over the United States was closed and all planes had to be immediately grounded. International flights with no place to land were sent to the largest, closest airport, which just so happened to be in Gander, a town of no more than 10,000 people.
In all, 38 planes containing almost 7,000 people were stranded in Gander for several days. The excellent cast of Megan McGinnis, Harter Clingman, Becky Gulsvig, Emily Walton, James Earl Jones II, Kevin Carolan, Andrew Samonsky, Chamblee Ferguson, Nick Duckart, Danielle K. Thomas, Julie Johnson, and Christine Toy Johnson play several characters as they portray both the townspeople on the ground and the passengers from the planes.
What we are left with is a parable about how, even in the worst of times, the best of humanity shines through. The logistical challenges facing the people of Gander are met with almost boundless energy and generosity, while the people on the planes from all around the world have to deal with confusion, frustration, and fear surrounding their unexpected detour.
“Come From Away,” tells this amazing story with humor, pathos, and some really great songs. The versatility of the cast and the set is also impressive. The actors shift between pivotal characters of different nationalities by simply slipping on and off hats and jackets. On the sparsely adorned stage with only a few chairs to work with, we are whisked from inside of an airplane to a local bar to the rugged Newfoundland countryside.
Every aspect of “Come From Away” is outstanding and, since it is performed without an intermission, there’s not any filler or lulls and the show’s vibrancy shines through from beginning to end.
It’s not often a trip to the theater will restore your faith in humanity, but to do it in such an entertaining way makes “Come From Away” a show that is not to be missed.
“Come From Away” is playing now through May 26, at the Fox Theatre. For tickets, call 314-534-1111 or visit metrotix.com.