From the first stomp of the foot by a citizen of Gander in Newfoundland introducing the upbeat tempo of "Welcome to the Rock" we learn how a small town of citizens was faced with over 7,000 strangers who are being forced to stay in their town unprepared for how their lives, the citizens and the visitors, would be changed.
Due to the terrorist attack of 9/11/2001 38 planes were diverted from landing in the USA and landed for an unknown amount of time. For the next 100 minutes, we watch this town of citizens extend hospitality in ways they never thought possible starting with the gathering of supplies, necessities, such as food as the travelers are not allowed to leave the planes at first. When they are allowed to deplane there are the problems of dealing with 7,000 strangers in not only finding places for them to sleep but helping them contact relatives. They also discover the horror that caused the passengers being diverted and all of a sudden 9/11 effects each of them.
Mainly through music, we see one couple find each other, another breakup, friendships made, suspicions of others aroused, the journey of one woman to become a pilot for American Airlines that brought her to this place and time, of another woman concerned about the animals aboard the planes, while a Gay man comes out only to be welcomed by many of the citizens who have Gay relatives and a Black man who at first feels unwelcomed only to be embraced by the town.
With 18 cast members, along with 8 musicians on stage, keeping track of who is playing play who gets a little complicated especially when the cast is given a name or two and then has added 'and others' to their name. It really doesn't matter as each presents a distinct character no matter which one they are playing at what time.
The book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein keeps the show going at a fast clip with songs such as the opening number plus "Stop the World" and "Me and the Sky", but not too fast that they don't show and tell the many individual stories of the citizens and passengers. The main message of the show brings everyone together, the cast and the audience, people's humanity to one another under all conditions.
The actors transform from one character to another with a flip of the jacket or a movement that helps differentiate one from another with both the costume designer Toni-Leslie James and director Christopher Ashley keeping everyone going smoothly. The scenic design by Beowulf Boritt along with the lighting design by Howell Binkley keeps the cast on the toes not only with moving chairs to represent different scenes but being under various spotlights all over the stage.
The only problem and one hopes that it is only an opening night one, is the sound system which lets the cast down as far as being decipherable at certain points whether singing or talking.
With such a fine cast it is unfair to point out any one individual and when the musicians take center stage at the curtain call all deserve the standing ovation they get!
"Come From Away"
The show runs 1 hour and 40 minutes without an intermission.