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Theatre / Come From Away

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Come From Away is a stage musical set in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. When hundreds of planes are diverted away from the now-closed American airspace following the attacks, 38 of these planes (holding about 7,000 passengers) ended up in the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland (population of about 9,000). The play follows the story of some of these passengers as they experience the overwhelming hospitality of the overwhelmed townspeople.

The stage play itself has a very minimalist set (a handful of wooden chairs and tables; the only elaborate set piece is the stage turntable, which is barely used). Among the cast, there are no starring roles; the 12 actors in the cast are all billed equally. The cast all stays on stage for the vast majority of the show, and each actor plays many roles: one or two primary roles, and a series of extras or minor characters all other scenes. The acoustic band also comes onstage for a couple of the songs (playing the part of townspeople who are, in-universe, playing instruments, for example) including the closing number, which typically has the audience standing and clapping along. The musical is under two hours long with no intermission, fitting with the nonstop breakneck pace of the action and dialog.


Come From Away was written by a husband-and-wife team following their visit to the September 11, 2011 anniversary gathering of the "come from aways" in Gander. It was workshopped at Sheridan College in Ontario in 2012 and 2013, played in La Jolla and the Seattle Repository Theater in 2015 and the Royal Alex in Toronto in 2016. The cast performed a pair of concerts in Gander, playing to many of the very people portrayed in the play, before playing in the Schoenfeld Theater on Broadway in 2017. Most of the cast stayed on through all of these runs. The musical has received seven Tony nominations for 2017. A second production opened in Toronto in early 2018.


Contains examples of:

  • Accidental Kiss: As they're leaving Gander, Diane starts crying, and Nick leans in to kiss her on the forehead to comfort her...just as turbulence hits. Diane misinterprets this, thinking he missed, and kisses him back. This allows them to break through their shyness, and they spend the rest of the plane ride canoodling.
    Flight attendent: Hot towel? Hot towel? sees Diane and Nick .... cold towel?
  • Adult Fear:
    • 9/11 and its aftermath are shown on display. As one person mentions, this was before cellphones were commonplace, so none of the passengers forced to make an emergency landing know what's happening.
    • For Bonnie, she realizes that the airline personnel forgot about taking care of the animals and risks jail time or getting shot to go rescue them. She fails to save Unga's baby chimpanzee.
    • Ali was just trying to go on a business trip and then go home to his family. Everyone treats him like a criminal because he happens to be Muslim, although he's Egyptian and is trying not to cause trouble. It culminates in airline security strip-searching him before his flight back home.
    • Diane's son, David, was supposed to be on a different flight; Hannah's son, Kevin, is a firefighter in New York. Diane eventually receives good news; Hannah does not.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: After Diane impulsively says "Well why not?!" to the idea of getting married to Nick.
    Nick: (to audience) She'd had two beers at that point, so it was probably the alcohol talking.
    Diane: (to audience) I'd never had more than one beer at a time before, so it was probably the alcohol talkin'.
    Nick: *beat* I went and got her two more beers.
  • Arc Words: A number of lyrics serve as arc words, including most notably "You are/I am here".
  • As the Good Book Says...: How Garth and Muhumuza begin to communicate. Garth realizes the Bible that Muhuzuma's wife is holding would use the same number conventions as his, and so he points to Philippians 4:6: "Be anxious for nothing".
  • Babies Ever After: Unga, the bonobo who miscarried, makes it to her destination and later has a baby that the zoo names Gander.
  • Based on a True Story: Not only is it based on a true story, it's based on a recent true story, and most of the people on whom the characters were based have seen the show. Beverley Bass, the pilot whose character sings the song Me and the Sky, has seen the show over sixty times and is now good friends with the actress that portrays her in the show's main company.
  • Beat Panel: Used extensively and to great effect for the show's comedic moments. With the same cast now in their fifth year performing the show in the main company, they have refined their comedic timing for these moments to an exact science.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Nick and Diane at the end of "Screech In."
  • Bittersweet Ending: As fitting a show about 9/11. The plane people leave and the people of Gander realize that their town suddenly feels a lot emptier, while the Americans arriving home feel overwhelmed by the fear and anger about the attacks in America. In terms of the character arcs Hannah's son is dead, the Kevins' relationship falls apart, Ali faces increased prejudice as a Muslim in America, and Beverley returns to a permanently changed airline industry. However, the plane people return to Gander on September 11, 2011 to reunite with their friends. We find out that Hannah and Beulah are now close friends, Kevin T. has found a new happy relationship, and Nick and Diane got married.
  • Book-Ends: "Welcome To The Rock" is reprised in the finale. More specifically, so is the line:
    On the northeast tip of North America, on an island called Newfoundland, there's an airport... And next to it is a town called Gander.
    • "38 Planes" describes the planes landing at Gander, while "38 Planes - Reprise" describes them taking off again.
    • Similarly, the ending of "Welcome to the Rock" repeats at the end of "Finale," with a few changes.
    • The first and last non-soundtrack scenes take place at Tim Horton's.
  • Camp Gay: One of the Kevins is decidedly more camp than the other.
  • Canada, Eh?: The show includes references to Tim Hortons, Shoppers Drug Mart (a pharmacy chain), and of course a local hockey arena. Due to Newfoundland's unique provincial culture, the trope might also be "Newfoundland, b'y".
  • Composite Character: While some of the characters are based on specific people the writers met at the 2011 reunion, others are amalgamations of a number of different people. Specifically Janice Mosher, who is a combination of real-life Rogers TV journalists Brian Mosher and Janice Goudie.
  • Counterpoint Duet: "Prayer" ends with Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish hymns/prayers being sung at the same time by the various come-from-aways in the church and the school library.
  • Distant Finale / Fast Forward to Reunion: The final song takes place at the ten-year reunion of the come-from-aways back in Gander.
  • End of an Age: As a show about 9/11, it goes without saying. Also a common theme expressed in "Something's Missing". Beverley in particular notes that the atmosphere among her fellow airline pilots was different after 9/11, and that security regulations meant children could no longer visit the cockpit as was previously customary on flights.
  • Exact Words: Beulah's prank on the schoolchildren. "I told 'em we'd only have a half day this morning and they were quite pleased... until I told 'em we would have the other half in the afternoon!"
  • Female Gaze: Annette gets a very good look at Captain Bristol's... er... legs.
  • First Day from Hell: Poor Janice.
  • Flying Under the Gaydar: Subverted. The Kevins don't tell anyone they're together because they never know how people will react. They are so bad at this that the people they're trying to hide from don't even realize they're trying to hide it.
    Kevin J.: (to audience) There's this Texan woman and this English guy with a huge stick up his -
    Kevin T.: They're nice enough. But...
    Kevin J.: Kevin and I are both a little wary of telling people we're together. I mean... you just don't know how redneck people can be.
    Diane:(also to audience) This nice gay couple come along with us...
    • Later, when they're in the bar (and drunk), Kevin T. accidentally lets their relationship slip, at which point the townspeople start talking about the gay people they know (daughters, sisters, brothers, etc.), causing Kevin T. to remark that "we somehow ended up in the gayest town in North America!"
  • Foreshadowing: Bonnie is insistent that the animals from the planes, especially the pregnant bonobo, be properly cared for because animals are affected by stress just like humans. The pregnant bonobo eventually miscarries.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: There are many, many characters, and in the show's 100-minute runtime, most of them have a complete story arc. The vast majority of these story arcs are conveyed three or four lines at a time, with any given character having, at most, one scene longer than about 20-30 seconds focused on them. And yet, the frantic pace of the musical means that it never feels like any of the story arcs are actually waiting.
  • Good Samaritan: Gander is a town full of them. The plane people return the favour, putting over $60,000 in the town hall suggestion box when the locals refuse to accept payment; they continue collecting money on the way home, starting a scholarship for Gander youth that eventually grows to over a million dollars.
  • Grief Song: Inevitable in a story set anywhere near September 11. "I Am Here" and "Something's Missing" have parts that are this.
  • Hidden Depths: Ali reveals he is a chef at an international hotel, and he wants to cook to deal with the stress. The minute he tells Beulah, who is in charge of the kitchen, that he needs to cook because it calms him down, she understands and tells him to get in there.
  • "I Am" Song: "Me and the Sky", the only solo song in the entire show, is this for Beverley Bass and her love of flying.
  • Imagine Spot: Annette's fantasies of various male characters are treated as this.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Half the people trapped on the planes in "28 Hours/Wherever We Are".
  • Initiation Ceremony: The "Screech In" ceremony to make these strangers honorary Newfoundlanders is wild and friendly. It involves singing a song, drinking "screech" (which tastes like bad Jamaican rum), and kissing a freshly caught cod.
  • The Knights Who Say "Squee!": Janice geeks out when Tom Brokaw asks to collaborate with her on a feature story about Gander's hospitality after the attacks.
    Janice: Tom Brokaw phones me... Tom. Brokaw!
  • "Knock Knock" Joke: Newfoundlanders are no good at knock-knock jokes, because if someone knocks, they just yell "Come on in, the door's open!"
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • In "28 Hours/Wherever We Are", Nick asks to sit next to Diane because "there are some drunk people in the back of the plane singing at the top of their lungs", after half the company has finished a couple rousing verses about how drunk they're getting.
    • "Screech In" has Claude point out that "there's thirty verses in this song".
  • Leitmotif: The "I am an Islander" chant gets repeated several times throughout the show. First it appears in "Welcome to the Rock" to introduce Gander. It then gets repeated in "Screech In" as the come-from-aways become honorary Newfoundlanders. It reappears when the plane lands in America in "38 Planes (Reprise)/Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere" as "Home in America", symbolizing how the come-from-aways, even as they've returned to their homes, have still retained part of Gander. It again gets reprised in "Finale" when the come-from-aways return to Gander.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Alluded to; one of the planes had been heading to Orlando, Florida with Children's Wish kids on board for a trip to Disney World. The kids ended up having a great time, exploring the local sights and going canoeing; had they been stranded in Orlando they would have faced five days of rain.
  • Mistaken for Romance: Diane and Nick are thought to be married at the start of the song "Screech In". They later get married, and honeymoon in Newfoundland, where they met.
  • Mood Whiplash: Often, sometimes in the same song. For example, "Darkness and Trees" segues into the relatively lighthearted "On The Bus", which itself is split between cheerful exposition by two of the bus drivers, Micky and Terry (plus the moose), and the reminder that Diane, like many people, hasn't been able to contact her family and has no idea if any of them were hurt. "On the Bus" goes right back into "Darkness and Trees", a dark and scary (but ultimately heartwarming) song.
    • In the scene right before "38 Planes (Reprise)," Bonnie goes from talking about one bonobo throwing its own feces to consoling the other about losing her baby.
    • The transition from "Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere", an exhilarating song about the characters' excitement to be going home and their affection for the connections they made in Gander, to "Something's Missing", in which they are confronted with the realities of a post-9/11 world.
  • No Periods, Period: Explicitly averted in "Blankets and Bedding".
    Beulah: You know, those planes are probably full of women of child-bearing age.
    Oz: So...
    Beulah: So I'm back to Shoppers to pick up as many pads and tampons as they have.
  • Now What?: Shared by the plane people and the locals as the planes start leaving and the reality of what happened starts sinking in.
  • Oh, Crap!: Oz's reaction after he does the math, and figures out that the planes sitting on the tarmac have nearly as many people on them as the town's population.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted (with a Lampshade Hanging) for the gay couple on one of the planes.
    Kevin: We're both named Kevin... it was cute for a while....
    • There's actually a third Kevin (Kevin O'Rourke, Hannah's son), though he never actually appears onstage, and is only mentioned by name once (usually just referred to by Hannah as "my son") - and even that is in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment before Hannah's story arc is fully established.
  • Power of Trust: Bob, at first, is worried to even leave his wallet unattended for fear that the people hosting him will rob him. He's then terrified to (under his host's instruction) go to neighbors' yards and simply take their grills for a community cookout, certain that he's going to get shot. After one of the neighbors catches him in this act and offers him some tea, he learns to trust the people around him. By the time of the "Screech In" ceremony, he's by far the most eager to become an honorary Newfoundlander.
    Bob: I'm not worried about my wallet, I'm not worried about getting shot... I am a little worried about how much Irish whiskey I'm drinking!
  • Precision F-Strike: Fuck is uttered twice in the play. Once by Oz when he writes speeding warnings with the acronym STFD (Slow The Fuck Down) and once by one of the Kevins when a claustrophobic woman in the seat row behind them begins to panic, Punctuated! For! Emphasis! with hand claps.
    Kevin: Excuse me, would you like some Xanax? Because you are freaking out and it is freaking me out and we're all! Freaking! The fuck! Out!
  • Reality Ensues: Bob is thrilled about becoming an honorary Newfoundandler. Then he gets back to New York, and it sinks in that he didn't actually become on.
  • Running Gag: Annette lusts after several of the male bit characters.
  • Setting Introduction Song: "Welcome To The Rock" introduces the audience to Gander, Newfoundland.
  • Shipper on Deck: After mistaking them for being married not one minute earlier, Mayor Claude gets Diane to kiss Nick.
    Claude: You gotta kiss the cod!
    Diane: I can't do it!
    Claude: Alright, I'll make you a deal. Either you kiss this fish, or you kiss this Englishman that you're not married to.
  • Shout-Out: Listen carefully when the cod appears. Sound familiar?
    • One of the movies being shown to passengers while they're stuck on the planes was Titanic (1997); the old lady behind the Kevins then belts out a few lines of "My Heart Will Go On" — and again during karaoke at the bar.
  • Show Stopper: Beverley's solo number "Me and the Sky"
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: Invoked in the song "Costume Party"; when the plane people don the clothes donated to them by the townspeople after being stuck in the same clothes for 40-plus hours following their flight (including being trapped on a plane for much of it, and the draining news of the September 11 attacks), they feel like new people. Or, in Kevin's case, a gay lumberjack. They switch back to their traveling clothes in the scene before they board their planes again.
  • Small Towns: Gander has a population of about 9,000. It's a rare example in media of a Close-Knit Community that goes far out of its way to help complete strangers.
  • Somewhere Song: "I Am Here" is something of a Somewhere Song about getting back home.
  • The Sheriff: Constable Oz is, like all the Newfoundlanders, friendly and helpful.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: More like "stay in the stewardess's cabin". Beverley Bass sings about the sexist pilots who had this attitude when she started working for American Airlines in "Me and the Sky".
  • Suddenly Ethnicity: Early in the show one of the plane people is revealed to be an Orthodox Jew, an outlier in a town with no Jews. During "Prayer" he's approached by a local who had lived in the town for nearly his entire life; he reveals that he's Jewish, but that his parents, who came from Poland and likely survived the Holocaust, had told him to conceal it from everyone he met, even his own wife. By the song's end he's the proud owner of a yarmulke.
  • Supreme Chef: Ali, a Muslim who works at a 4-star hotel. His character arc centers around the prejudice he faces after the people realize that the attacks were caused by Muslims like him while he attempts to assist with, and is repeatedly denied in, cooking meals for the plane people. Beulah at first thinks he's trying to work when he's a guest after he's asked repeatedly if he can help; when he explains cooking is his job and would help him deal with the stress, she lets him into the kitchen.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Most everyone is treating Ali with hostility, from the airline personnel who question him repeatedly, to the fellow passengers that are scared of him. But Beulah listens when he says he wants to cook in the kitchen because it's his job back at home, and she lets him know where he can pray in peace. Later on, he sends her a thank-you postcard because when his daughter asks what being stranded was like, he can tell her about the nice lady who helped him.
  • Title Drop: The first line sung in the first song: "Welcome to the Rock, if you come from away / You'll probably understand about half'a what we say."
    • "Finale", being a reprise of "Welcome to the Rock", has the line "Welcome to the friends who have come from away / Welcome to the locals who have always said they’d stay."
  • Token Good Teammate: Downplayed; one of the few people who don't treat Ali with suspicion and distrust is Beulah. Later on, he sends a postcard thanking her for her kindness and asks for her fish and cheese recipe.
  • Translation Convention: Muhumza, one of the passengers from Africa during "Darkness and Trees", addresses the audience and sings in English but when interacting with the other characters he speaks Swahili.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Canoodling" isn't that unusual, but "We'll make your cradles rock!" definitely is.
  • Wham Line:
    • To emphasize that this trip has been a stress for everyone, Bonnie delivers one while talking to Unga the chimpanzee: she apologizes for not being able to save Unga's baby.
    • It doesn't really change the story, but one that delivers a huge gut punch and ends Hannah's story on a tragic note:
      Hannah: He's gone. It's over.

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