By Tracy Wang
Almost everyday, we get a piece of disheartening news of violence around the world that makes us stop whatever we are doing, and ponder the nature of human cruelty. Out of all these events, we are always looking for proof that humans are not only capable of violence, and with ‘Come From Away’s return to the 5th Avenue Theatre, we have found our proof.
One such event happened in 2001 when people around the world gathered in front of TVs to get the latest news of the destruction of the World Trade Center in the United States; after that day, everyone remembers the date of 9/11, but what they do not know is the human kindness and generosity shown by the less-than-10,000 inhabitants of Gander, Newfoundland starting from that day. Ultimately, ‘Come From Away’ is a musical that celebrates human kindness, and will become a beacon of hope for many ‘come from aways’, who are only foreign or different because of some mental boundaries we set.
Very much born and grown in Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, and written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, ‘Come From Away’ makes its welcoming comeback on October 12 (opening night), and forever marks Seattle as the starting point of its first US national tour.
Already on Broadway and many other cities around the world, ‘Come From Away’ tells stories that are largely untold, the ones of the locals at Newfoundland, and of the passengers who were stranded on an island in Canada, because of the terrorist attack. Though 911 is very much at the heart of this musical, its focus no longer stays on the human cruelty and many tragic events that ensue the attack, but on what a seemingly unknown spot on the map and its inhabitants have to offer in such an emergency situation.
The locals got the message that many planes would be diverted to their airport because of an attack, and without question or hesitation, they began to prepare its small town for the arrival of about 7,000 passengers who came from around the world. When they arrived, confusion, fear and worry reign their minds, but as they went into the open arms of the locals, they began to make friends and finally feel safe.
We’ve all heard of or even lived through the 911 attack, but most of us have never heard of Gander or the heroic deeds done by its locals. However, in this 100-minutes musical, we all get acquainted with the locals who are the town’s mayor, police, teacher, mother and many others. We get to know the place called the Rock, and we are often laughing throughout the show, because of the many witty remarks made by the passengers and the locals.
Hearing the legend Titanic tune among a bunch of scared passengers, watching the locals helping to ‘steal’ their own grills, and witnessing the male passengers who willingly clean up the toilets, we are being taken to a very intimate and human part of the many stories that surge after the attack.
Out of this tragic event, we, along with the locals, get the chance to meet people from around the world. May they be a gay couple, a British man, a woman living in Texas or a mother waiting to hear from her firefighter son in NYC, we witness and join them in making friends and having as much of a fun time as possible. More importantly, ‘Come From Away’ is not a musical that dwells on the attack, but one that is deeply relevant to the 2018 audiences.
From the locals, we are shocked to see how open-minded they are in terms of sexuality, and we are grateful to know someone cares deeply about the animals on those diverted flights. From the flight captain who is the first female captain for American Airlines, we are moved to tears by the long journey of a woman’s dream come true.
To a world of countries that are often divided by opinions, beliefs and biases, and to the many plays or musicals that are discussing the same topics, ‘Come From Away’ does not shy away from the difficult topics; instead, it points at the issues right in the eyes, and utilizes humor, music and human kindness to distill the essence and lessons of and for humans. Facing differences and new ideas every single day, people either choose to accept them or despise them, but in the end of the day, ‘Come From Away’ asks us to look outside and within ourselves, and realize that we are all ‘come from aways’ in one way or another. It does not matter that we may foreigners, immigrants, or locals, we all came from somewhere and we are all going somewhere far or near.
Like the revolving stage that mirrors the earth, in the end of the day, we, all human beings, are all foreigners to one another. It is not our origins or birthplaces that make us different, but our perceptions of differences that make us different.
With its diverse cast and its focus on all the topics that we still care so much about today (animal, women and gay rights), ‘Come From Away’ soars high, leaps away from its musical genre and becomes our very own melodies, thoughts and beliefs.
A must-watch musical, ‘Come From Away’ will make everyone feel welcome and safe, no matter where you come from or where you are going next. It lights up the darkness that constantly threatens to swallow us, and reminds us of the power of kindness that everyone is capable of.