Robert gorelangton coming soon
Hamilton is easily the most original American musical to have touched down in the West End in the past year. But the most unlikely of next year will surely be Come From Away. It’s a feelgood show despite being about the hideously grim attacks of 9/11.
I love this musical, which I have just seen on Broadway, for several reasons, not least because it is set in the little town of Gander in remote Newfoundland. I’ve been there. Gander has 10,000 people, seven traffic lights and the occasional stray moose. When the Twin Towers were attacked, 38 planes were diverted to Gander’s airport, with their 7,000 passengers and crew, including several cats and dogs and a pair of chimpanzees en route to a zoo.
Come From Away is all about the day after, when local Newfoundlanders instinctively took in the stranded ‘plane people’. Everyone got busy. The air traffic controllers made chilli. Three hot meals a day were conjured up for thousands under the command of a genial, if frazzled mayor. The local ice rink was used as a giant fridge. Various faiths were catered for, fresh clothes provided, kids looked after. When the travellers got back on their planes a few days later, some were in love, some distraught with grief, but all were grateful to the islanders who refused cash or thanks. These temporary refugees left Gander, but Gander never left them.
The musical comes from husband-and-wife team David Hein and Irene Sankoff. They hit upon this story (there was also a BBC radio play, The Day The Planes Came) and went to Newfoundland to interview the locals. They boiled down hours of material for this remarkable show. The result is crisply directed by Christopher Ashley with no design bells or whistles, just lots of snappy roleswapping and Celtic-flavoured folk-rock from what sounds like a well-oiled Newfoundland pub band.
The cast features big-hearted locals and a shy British traveller who finds romance on the ground. There are ‘Newfie’ scenes involving ritual fish-kissing and a local rum called screech (the sound people make when they drink it). In London the cast will feature Rachel Tucker (from Wicked) as Captain Beverley Bass, who was American Airlines’ first female captain. This is not a show built on stars or power ballads. It’s