Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the husband-and-wife team who wrote the musical, went to Gander on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and interviewed both the locals and the former stranded travellers who’d flown back to Newfoundland to commemorate the occasion. They put Come From Away together based on the stories they’d heard, with each member of the ensemble cast playing multiple characters, including real people. The show covers a gamut of emotions: confusion, anxiety, panic, pain, but also hope, mischief, joy, and love.
I’d been aware of this musical for some time, and really fell in love with one of the songs, but never caught on to the entire cast recording. This year, though, Apple TV+ (which I’m currently enjoying a free trial of) added a professional filming of the stage production to its offerings. I put it on a week or so ago and was absolutely blown away.
I think it was a combination of factors. The musical is beautiful in and of itself. At a time when we’re all supposed to be “distanced” from one another, there’s also something so powerful in seeing and hearing voices joined in song — it feels like it’s been so long since I’ve seen and heard people do things together. Just hearing the cast harmonising in the opening number brought tears to my eyes. After a tough year of collective stress for so many of us, it was just comforting to be reminded of the human capacity for solidarity and compassion.
At one point in the musical, a local bus driver is dispatched to drive travellers from Africa to a Salvation Army camp. It’s dark out, and people are lost and afraid, with no idea what’s happening and where they’re being taken. (Lest we forget, 2001 was a time before social media and live-streaming keeping us clued in.) The driver has trouble communicating with these terrified passengers. He notices that a woman is clutching a Bible — he can’t read it, but reasons that the numbering system will be the same as the English version that he knows. He borrows her Bible and shows her Philippians 4:6, which says: “Be anxious for nothing.” Be anxious for nothing. At a time of great fear and panic, it’s a small, but extremely powerful, act of kindness and connection.
I just really needed this.