We all remember where we were when first hearing of 9/11. Some people were on trans-Atlantic flights. When the US closed the North Atlantic airspace, 38 passenger planes were directed to land at Gander in the northeast of Newfoundland. Gander has a large, military scale airfield but a population of only 10,000. The jets brought 7,000 ‘plane people’ to Gander; they stayed for the best part of a week. Gander didn’t have hotels or restaurants to take in 7,000 people so the residents of Gander filled their schools and community halls with bedding for the stranded passengers and provided them with food. Some even opened their homes. The horror of 9/11 inspired countless acts of comfort and hospitality. Improbably these events also inspired a musical, Come From Away, now an international, award-winning hit.
Come From Away was written by David Hein and Irene Sankoff who developed the plot from dozens of interviews they recorded with townspeople. The quaint title means ‘not born in Newfoundland’. The attractive score is celtic, folk-rock. From 2013 the show was workshopped in Ontario, finally opening in 2015 in La Jolla and Seattle where it was an unprecedented success. Audiences loved it. It opened on Broadway in March 2017, was nominated for 7 Tonys, winning Best Director for Christopher Ashley. Come From Away opened in the West End earlier this year and has won four Olivier Awards including Best New Musical. It’s landing in Melbourne in July.