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 Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland (population of about 9,000). The show follows the story of some of these passengers as they experience the overwhelming hospitality of the overwhelmed townspeople.
The musical 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 stay 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 in 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 dialogue.
Come From Away was written by a Canadian husband-and-wife team, David Hein and Irene Sankoff, 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 show, before opening in the Gerald 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.
In 2021, because of the COVID-19 Pandemic's impact on the theatre and film industry, previously-announced plans for a film production note were scrapped in favor of a professionally-shot version of the show featuring most of the original Broadway cast.note It was released on September 10, 2021 - one day before the 20th anniversary of 9/11 - on Apple TV+.
Tropes from Away:
- 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 attendant: Hot towel? Hot towel? (sees Diane and Nick) ...Cold towel?
- Adapted Out: The filmed version ends right after the "Screech Out" without giving the drummer his curtain call. To make up for it, a POV shot of the drummer backstage is shown.
- 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.
- Bonnie 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 the bonobo from miscarrying.
- 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. note
- Diane's son, David, was supposed to be on a different flight; Hannah's son, Kevin, is a firefighter in New York City. 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) Diane had had two beers by then, 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.
- All There in the Manual: Come From Away: Welcome to the Rock features writers' notes, behind-the-scenes information, an annotated libretto that provides translation to the non-English lines, and cut songs.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Some of the cultural Newfoundland experiences that can seem outlandish to non-Newfie audiences are all real: cod au gratin, the Screeching-In ceremony, the ugly stick, etc.
- Arc Words: A number of lyrics serve as arc words, including most notably "You are/I am here" and "Wherever we are."
- 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.
- Bait-and-Switch: One of the town council lists off the community events that have to be cancelled due to the state of emergency, including hockey practices and games. Claude stops him and asks him to confirm that hockey's cancelled. This seems to set up a joke about Canadians' love for hockey. Cue Janice announcing over the news that all perishable food donations are now to be moved to the Gander community center, which the mayor has declared...Claude: The world's largest walk-in refrigerator!
- 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. Also, the Marsons (Nick and Diane) have seen the show over a hundred times and describe the experience as a form of renewing their vows.
- Beat: 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."
- Bilingual Bonus: The English subtitles for the Apple TV release leaves the non-English lines untranslated. Some of the lines contain their own jokes and context clues, such as Annette's daydream about the gym teacher speaking Spanish or Ali's phone call home just before the Islamophobic incident breaks out.
- 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.
- "Welcome To The Rock" is reprised in the finale, prominently featuring 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.
- At the beginning of the crisis, Claude argues with union representative Garth about the bus drivers' strike (which needs to be put on hold so the plane people can be transported to shelters). After the state of emergency ends, they go back to having the exact same argument.
- The first and last non-soundtrack scenes take place at Tim Horton's. They also involve Constable Oz running in to talk to the mayor, first to tell them about the disaster, the second to tell him about the donations at the Community Center.
- "Welcome To The Rock" is reprised in the finale, prominently featuring the line:
- Oz's warning ticket of "STFD/Slow The Fuck Down" is censored in live performances at award shows and on national television in general as "Slow the Hell Down". For the movie, the F-bomb is simply silenced in post-production.
- Kevin J's speech to Delores ends with "We are all freaking the freak out!"
- Oz's huge "Ho-LY SHIT!" as he takes in the 38 planes is left uncensored for the full impact.
- Camp Gay: Kevin J is decidedly campier than Kevin T. The highlight is his speech to Delores:
- Delores: Excuse me?! I would like to get off the plane. I am claustrophobic!Kevin J: Excuse me! Would you like some Xanax? Because you are freaking out and it is freaking me out and we are all (clapping after every word) FREAKING! THE! FUCK! OUT!
- Canada, Eh?: The show includes references to Tim Hortons, Shoppers Drug Mart (a pharmacy chain), a bus stopping for a moose, and of course a local hockey arena. Due to Newfoundland's unique provincial culture, the trope might also be "Newfoundland, b'y".
- City Mouse: A decidedly positive spin on the trope. Many of the come-from-aways/ plane people the narrative focuses on are residents of large cities; the Kevins are a gay couple from Los Angeles, Diane and Beverly are professional, middle-aged women from unnamed cities in Texas, and Bob is a black man from New York. A good portion of the show's humor comes from their interactions with the townsfolk of the tiny, Close-Knit Community of Gander (population 9,000), with the travelers realizing that their Canadian hosts actually are as kind and selfless as they seem.
- Bob in particular gets this treatment while staying with the Mayor of Appleton. While initially suspicious of the total strangers who would welcome him into their home and treat him like an old friend — especially when the Mayor send him out to round up all the neighbor's grills for a cookout (which causes Bob to worry he'll end up shot at for trespassing) — Bob eventually becomes quite comfortable and happy in Newfoundland. When he finally gets back to the USA, he has a hard time explaining to his family how happy he was in Canada, struggling to reconcile the warmth and care he received in Newfoundland with the tragedy of the circumstances that stranded him there.Bob: My dad asks: 'Were you okay where you were stranded?'
How do I tell him that I wasn't just okay
I was so much better
- The Kevins are initially wary of disclosing their relationship to the provincial residents of small-town Gander, fearing that they'll end up the target of anti-gay discrimination (it was 2001 after all). When their relationship is unwittingly revealed during the evening of drinking at the Legion, they Kevins are happily surprised to find out that the townsfolk treat it like no big deal. The residents of Gander list off their own gay relations (daughters, sisters, brothers, etc.), leading the Kevins to remark "We somehow ended up in the gayest town in Newfoundland...there must be something in the water."
- Bob in particular gets this treatment while staying with the Mayor of Appleton. While initially suspicious of the total strangers who would welcome him into their home and treat him like an old friend — especially when the Mayor send him out to round up all the neighbor's grills for a cookout (which causes Bob to worry he'll end up shot at for trespassing) — Bob eventually becomes quite comfortable and happy in Newfoundland. When he finally gets back to the USA, he has a hard time explaining to his family how happy he was in Canada, struggling to reconcile the warmth and care he received in Newfoundland with the tragedy of the circumstances that stranded him there.
- 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.
- Beulah Davis is also a combination of Beulah Cooper (who was the treasurer of the Ladies Auxiliary at the Legion who befriended Hannah) and Diane Davis, (who, like Beulah's character, is a teacher and helped organize the school.)
- Ali was inspired by at least five passengers, including chef Vikram Garg, and an unidentified Muslim man whose strip-search Beverley Bass had to witness. Besides the come-from-aways, he's also inspired by the writers' friend Amal, a Muslim woman.
- 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. Some of the lyrics come from "The Prayer of St. Francis"/ "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace", the Hebrew prayer "Oseh Shalom", and "Asatoma Sadgamaya" taken from Brihadaranyaka Upanishads.
- Couple Theme Naming: The Kevins share a name. Kevin T. says it was "cute for a while".
- Cultural Translation: A recursive example. In the original Broadway production, Janice Mosher was contacted by Tom Brokaw, who was doing a documentary. This in and of itself is a Mythology Gag - Brokaw's documentary Operation Yellow Ribbon was consulted by the authors during the writing process. However, in real life, Oprah Winfrey was the one who contacted Brian Mosher, one of the people Janice is based on. For the London and Sydney productions, where Brokaw is less well-known, Janice talks about receiving a call from Oprah.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Ali quickly experiences heavy prejudice from the others in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks led by Islamic terrorists. Even the main cast regard him with some wariness, and towards the end Bass has to bear witness to a strip-search of him. She apologizes afterwards, but agrees to it as she has to take "perceived threats" seriously.
- Distant Finale / Fast Forward to Reunion: The final song takes place at the ten-year reunion of the come-from-aways back in Gander.
- Empathic Environment: Reinforced throughout the show:
- As early as the opening number, "Welcome to the Rock," it's made clear that the weather in Newfoundland can be dangerous and unpredictable. The residents of Gander sing about the multitude of natural conditions (the wind, the water, and the winters) that have tried and failed to discourage humans from settling there — it gets nicely summed up in the line, "Welcome to the wildest weather that you ever heard of! Where everyone is nice, but it's never nice above." Beulah mentions that her class "isn't exactly thrilled to be inside on such a gorgeous day," establishing that the weather in Gander on September 11th was pleasant, while reinforcing the infrequency of such nice weather.
- In "Blankets and Bedding," the locals explicitly express their concern over the weather in the line "We better start praying the weather stays nice," referencing the obvious logistical complications that could arise if a storm compounded the issues facing a community that finds itself suddenly hosting 7,000 travelers for an indefinite period of time.
- As the show progresses, it's pointed out that the weather in Gander remains clear and temperate for the duration of the come-from-aways' stay. While the weather contrasts with the tragedy and upheaval of the days directly following the attacks, it mirrors the welcoming attitude of the Newfoundlanders towards the come-from-aways. For the first half of the musical, the only indication of any bad weather is when Captain Bass brings up Hurricane Erin brewing in the Atlantic during the tense, anxiety-filled number "On the Edge." Her concern over the storm mirrors the fear, anger, grief, and paranoia that the passengers express in that song.Beverly: I check in with air traffic control again and its more bad newsNot only is the airspace still closed, but theres a storm headed for Newfoundland!Hurricane Erin is making landfall tomorrow or the day afterIf we dont get these planes in the air soon, no ones going anywhere!
- The tension and anxiety in "On the Edge" is released in the very next song, "In the Bar/ Heave Away," when all concerns about the weather are temporarily allayed: During Oz's spoken lines at the beginning of the song, he mentions that some guests are "swimming in the river" out behind the Legion (though whether this is due to the good weather or the good spirit of the guests in the face of copious amounts of alcohol at the local tavern is debatable).
- Even the sickly Make-A-Wish kids get the opportunity to explore the sights and go canoeing thanks to the nice weather (and it's mentioned that had they made it to Walt Disney World, they would have faced days of continuous rain), while Nick & Diane take advantage of the good weather to hike to the Dover Fault for a romantic moment.
- The weather does eventually change for the worse in "38 Planes (Reprise)", when Captain Bass explains that Hurricane Erin is making landfall as the come-from-aways re-board their planes and take off.Beverly: The winds start to pick up - fifty mile an hour winds! We've been here too longWe're still on the ground, there's a hurricane coming, and I'm thinking, "We're running out of time!"We have to leave - we have to leave now!
- The clearest example of the trope is deployed at the beginning of "Something's Missing", when the residents of Gander take a moment to slow down and reflect on the departure of the 7,000 passengers, and to process the events of the past few days as the weather turns:Janice: Back to the way that t'ings wereOz: Back to the simple and plainDwight: For five days the weather had been so niceBonnie: But as they boarded, it started to rain
- 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. Her first day of work for the TV station is on 9/11.
- 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!"
- Hannah's attempts to get in contact with her son, a New York City firefighter, are all unsuccessful. Starting with her line "Pick up!" when she borrows a phone to call him in "28 Hours/ Wherever We Are," through her mounting desperation in "I Am Here" when Beulah relates that Hannah "leaves message after message for her son, until there's no more room on his answering machine." This is mirrored by Diane's attempts to get in touch with her son, who was traveling on a separate flight. While Diane eventually confirms that her son is safe, Hannah returns to the USA without having heard any updates on where her son is or his condition. By the time Hannah gets back in touch with Beulah in "Somethings Missing," it's to tell Beulah that Hannah's son died trying to help save people from the North Tower.
- 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.
- I Am Very British: In the original Broadway production at least, Nick speaks with a very posh English accent.
- Iconic Outfit / Signature Headgear:
- Initially averted by Kevin Tuerff, who told the writers that he would never wear buffalo plaid, as his fictional counterpart did. Now he makes sure to wear it to the musical's opening nights, as does David Hein.
- Enforced by Derm Flynn. He is portrayed in the show as wearing a certain kind of hat note The real man asked the writer what kind of hat his fictional version wore, then went out and bought one so everyone would know it was him onstage.
- 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.
- It Will Never Catch On: An out-of-universe example as detailed by the book. Initially, the writers had little hope of the show being popular, thinking that most likely Canadian high schools would be forced to do Come From Away because of its minimalism and Canadian material. Similarly, some Ganderites were bewildered that they'd want to make a musical about "people making sandwiches", as they consider their actions something that they had to do in the situation. Reg Wright, president of the Gander airport, even wished the writers "Good luck with that." Averted by Matt Kane, a Gambo resident who correctly predicted that "This project that [the writers] are working on? It's going to be big. Much bigger than [Broadway]." Three international productions note , a (sadly canceled) tour of China, one North American tour, a planned film adaptation and a professionaly-filmed version of the musical later, he was proven right.
- 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 gets reprised once last time 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.
- Manly Tears: After five days of not sleeping, not letting himself cry, constantly being in action, Claude finally turns on the television and breaks down after the come-from-aways have left.
- 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. Interestingly, this specific conversation also happened in real life.
- Mood Whiplash: Often, sometimes in the same song. For example:
- "28 Hours / Wherever We Are" ping-pongs between melodies that echo the confusion and helplessness of passengers stuck on the planes, their anger and panic in the face of being confined without explanation, and the exuberant celebration of the passengers who get tanked on the complimentary booze distributed by the flight staff to keep them manageable.Diane and Nick: (softly) Somewhere in between
Diane: Your life
Nick: And your work
Company: When the world may be falling apart
And you think
Diane: I'm alone
Nick: I'm alone
Diane and Nick: And I'm so damn helpless-
Company: (loud and sudden) There's nothing left to do but drink!
- The low, foreboding start of "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.
- There's a sudden shift at the end of "Me and the Sky," which starts out as Beverly's punchy, triumphant folk-rock anthem about overcoming sexist attitudes and workplace discrimination to make a career out of her love of flying, and finishes with her voice utterly breaking in the last three lines as she describes the toll the attacks have taken:Suddenly I'm flying Paris to Dallas
Across The Atlantic and feeling calm
When suddenly someone on air to air traffic says
"At 8:46 there's been a terrorist action"
And the one thing I loved more than anything was used as the bomb...
Suddenly I'm in a hotel
Suddenly something has died
Suddenly there's something in between me and the sky...
- In the scene right before "38 Planes (Reprise)," Bonnie goes from admonishing one bonobo for 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. The weight of that emotional turn again falls on Captain Beverly to convey. She takes the lead in the last verse of "Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere", charging from the elation of finally returning home to the shell-shock of seeing her family after the events of the past week, finally having time to let her brave face slip and process her grief even as she echoes her reassurances from "28 Hours/ Wherever We Are."Coming 'round past the field, then the wheels touch the ground
Taxi-ing, we're all cheering, we're down
Thanking everyone, thank you for flying American
Hugging them, hugging my crew, 'cause we're home again
Past the gate, up the stairs, and we're there!
And he's waitin' in line
No I'm fine, Tom, I'm fine...
- "28 Hours / Wherever We Are" ping-pongs between melodies that echo the confusion and helplessness of passengers stuck on the planes, their anger and panic in the face of being confined without explanation, and the exuberant celebration of the passengers who get tanked on the complimentary booze distributed by the flight staff to keep them manageable.
- No Antagonist: This show doesnt have or need a villain. (Unless you count the terrorists who started the whole affair, but they never appear on stage.)
- 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.
- Ode to Intoxication: "28 Hours/ Wherever We Are" becomes one after the passengers are given copious amounts of complimentary booze by the flight staff in an effort to keep the travelers from going stir-crazy while confined on the planes. The free alcohol has the effect of reversing most of the panic and anger at being stuck on a plane with nothing to do. The atmosphere turns into something of a party, with passengers singing off-key to the soundtrack of Titanic (1997) and a few boisterous drunks flashing the ground crew through the open plane doors.Joey: So the flight attendants brought out
All the mini-bottles of liquor
And delivered them to everyone
Company: Soon everyone got friendlier!
Joey: I took a couple of pictures of the view there with my camera
We didn't know where we were-
Company: But we knew that we were hammered!
- 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: Kevin T and Kevin J, along with Hannah's son- you guessed it- Kevin. Justified, as this musical is based on a true story and in real life many people share names.
- Outliving One's Offspring:
- Hannah's son Kevin died in the collapse of the North Tower. Having spent most of the musical receiving the comfort of Beulah over the uncertainty of Kevin's whereabouts, Hannah calls Beulah immediately after learning Kevin is dead.
- Though not included in the show because it happened after the Broadway premier, one of the women Beulah was based on, Beulah Cooper, also ultimately outlived her son, who was also a firefighter.
- 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!
- Precious Puppies: Ralph, the ten-week-old cocker spaniel puppy.
- Precision F-Strike:
- "Fuck" is uttered twice in the show. 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!
- Oz lets out a huge "Ho-ly SHIT!" when he realises just how many planes are coming in.
- "Fuck" is uttered twice in the show. 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.
- Race Lift:
- Hannah in real life was a white Irish woman; in the show she's played by a black actress with an American accent.
- Bob is a composite of real life passengers Tom McKeon, Shirley Brooks-Jones and Robert Ferguson, all white, but is played by a black actor. This is intentional, as both he and Hannah are also cast as an eastern African couple.
- In general, the real life come-from-aways are slightly less diverse racially than the fictional ones. Winnie House mentioned feeling very conscious of the fact that she was the only Black person in town.
- Reality Ensues: While the Ganderites are kind and selfless, and most of the come-from-aways are nice and cooperative, putting scared, stressed, confused people together in crowded conditions will cause friction. Verbal fights initially break out, the striking bus workers have to be convinced to provide transportation, and Ali is subjected to Islamophobic incidents of varying degrees, ranging from Beulah being mildly suspicious of him wanting to help in the kitchen, to a full-blown altercation with bigoted threats in a hallway.
- Reality Is Unrealistic:
- At one point in Gander, a Muslim man was offered a prayer mat by one of the staff at the academy. This moment was omitted from the show because audiences thought it was too kind to have actually happened. Instead, it became Annette directing Ali to the library where he could pray in peace.
- The conversation about "the gayest town in Newfoundland" happened word-for-word to the writers - they were reluctant to reveal that their previous musical was called My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding.
- Regional Riff: Most of the soundtrack features instrumentation unique (within Canada) to Newfoundland, including the fiddle, the accordion, the pennywhistle, the bodhran, and the ugly stick. As well, classic sea shanties such as "Heave Away" make up a significant portion of Newfoundland's musical culture.
- Running Gag:
- Annette lusts after several of the male bit characters, delving into romantic fantasies where the gym teacher, a group of doctors, and then a pilot all dance suggestively and speak in cheesy pickup lines.
- Bob fears getting robbed, and is paranoid that the nice and helpful townspeople have ulterior motives or may "go Norman Bates" on him. (It's mostly Played for Laughs.)
- Janice apologizing because she's new (to the town and to reporting).
- 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: Now you've got to kiss the cod its a vital part of the ceremony.Diane: I can't do it!Claude: Alright look. Ill make you a deal. Either you kiss this fish or else you kiss this Englishman that you're not married to.
- Bob mentions Norman Bates at one point.
- Show Stopper: Beverley's solo number "Me and the Sky", as well as the epic "Screech In".
- Significant Name Overlap: The gay couple on one of the planes are both named Kevin.Kevin: We're both named Kevin. It was cute for a while.
- 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 sent him to Canada from Poland before World War II began, had told him to conceal his religion from everyone he met, even his own wife. By the song's end he's the proud owner of a yarmulke.
- Supreme Chef: Ali is a Muslim master chef for an international hotel chain who oversees restaurants around the world. Initially, he is denied access to the kitchen when he tried to help (both because of his status as a Muslim and a guest), but when he explains his status he is allowed in.
- Survivor's Guilt:
- The plane people are all understandably shell-shocked by their experience, and by the trauma of the attacks. When they start waking up on Wednesday morning in "Costume Party," Kevin J. sings the line, "it's like any of us could have died on Tuesday," to which Kevin T. replies "and like we're dared to see things differently today," reflecting on their place in the tragedy that has them grounded in Newfoundland.
- Even the residents of Gander feel survivor's guilt. A good example of this can be seen in the number "Prayer", when an elderly gentleman living in Newfoundland seeks out a stranded Rabbi for a conversation. The older man shares the story of how as a boy, his Jewish parents sent him out of Poland before WWII, drilling into him that he had to hide his religion to stay safe. He had kept the secret for nearly sixty years, but the tragedy of 9/11 makes him feel compelled to share his story: "After what happened on Tuesday so many stories gone, just like that. I needed to tell someone."
- Upon returning to the States after their stay in Gander, many of the plane people have a hard time re-adjusting. The stress of the events prove too much for the Kevins, and they break up. Bob has a difficult time reconciling how happy and care-free he felt during his stay in Gander with the tragedy that stranded him there. Nick and Diane's new relationship is strained by the guilt they feel for finding love in the midst of horrible events:Diane: Nick and I call each other when we can.But... it's awful.The only reason we met was because this terrible thing happened.
- 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 Annette lets him know where he can pray in peace. Later on, he sends Beulah 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 theyd 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: Muhumuza, one of the passengers from Africa during "Darkness and Trees", addresses the audience and sings in accented 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.
- 'Me and the Sky' is a genuinely joyous and triumphant song detailing Captain Bass' life and career as a pilot, including becoming the first ever female captain for her airline and making news by flying with an all-female crew, starting a family and becoming a flight instructor...and then the final verse tells us of the moment she heard about the attacks:Suddenly someone on air-to-air traffic
Says at 8.46 "There's been a terrorist action"
And the one thing I loved more than anything was used as the bomb.