Robert gore­lang­ton com­ing soon

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - THEATRE -

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

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