“Come From Away” in Houston

Come From Away – which is scheduled to play in Houston at the Hobby Centre, (3rd to 8th March), Dallas (10th to 22nd March), and Fort Worth (7th to 12th July) – is not your typical musical! The brainchild of David Hein and Irene Sankoff (husband and wife) holds an inspiring message based on actual events after the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers.

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The Inspiration Behind the Uplifting Musical

On September 11, 2001, thousands of scared, confused, and weary airline travelers were forced to land in the small Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland. To the surprise of these passengers, the residents of Gander voluntarily provided them with food, shelter, and emotional comfort amid the unfortunate events.

David Hein and Irene Sankoff – writers of the award-winning musical – point out that Come From Away is more of a 9/12 story. It’s not about the tragedy, but the beacon of hope emitted by people in the face of devastation.

What makes the musical touching is its realism and accurate portrayal of humans at their best. As Canadians living in New York at the time of the attack, Sankoff and Hein had a personal interest in the events that unfolded in Gander. “When we first heard about what went on in Gander, with people taking care of one another, it really resonated with us because our neighbors in New York checked on us” – Sankoff. The couple recalls their experiences and how they shared fellowship with other students in a residence for international students – which contained over 700 people from more than 100 nationalities. “We stayed together as a community, and people would take turns sitting down at the piano and the music and the company really got us through it and gave us some stability on that day,” Hein recalls.

According to Sankoff, “When we started this, we thought it was a Canadian story. What we have realized is that this is really a universal story…That day, everyone felt helpless and everyone wanted to help and I think many people go into the show not realizing how to light a Band-Aid they’ve covered this event up with, so it brings a lot of emotion with it but it does it in a safe, collective way.”

An Account of Real Events

Although the award-winning musical is roughly based on verbatim from interviews, most of the characters are based on real people – including one captain Beverly Bass of American Airlines. In the words of Sankoff, “We couldn’t make this stuff up.”

Bass was on a flight to Dallas from Paris when she learned of the attack on Twin Towers. As per her flight path, Bass would pass over northern Canada on the way to Dallas. But when the plane was within the range of Gander Airport, they were ordered to land following the closure of U.S. airspace.

Gander – a typically quiet airport – had to accommodate Bass’ plane along with 37 other aircraft. After staying onboard the plane for 28 hours (on the direction of Canadian authorities), the passengers were warmly welcomed by the residents. Bass remembers how the terminal “was lined with tables with an enormous amount of food…to serve 7,000 passengers.” Come From Away highlights these unique gestures of kindness by the Newfoundland hosts – complemented by clever levity, humor, and head-bobbing music.

Fun Fact: “Come from aways” is a provincial Canadian term that refers to visitors from another place.

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