“The Plane People” perform at the Pantages

“The Plane People” perform at the Pantages

Based on a true story, the hit musical “Come From Away” hits heartstrings on last week’s field trip.

When Performing Arts Magnet Coordinator Ms. Fanny Araña announced that all 11th-grade history students would have an opportunity to see the musical “Come From Away” at the Pantages as an extension of their United States History requirement, I just about lost my mind.

“Come From Away” was one of my favorite musicals freshman year, and I listened to the soundtrack religiously, even though I had never actually seen the show in person. 

Oh, and the tickets were free? Count me in. 

After 7,000 passengers got stranded in Newfoundland, Canada following the airspace closure of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the citizens of small-town Gander must come together to house and welcome these “Come From Aways” while they await the airspace reopening.

With its first performance in 2013 and circulating the Tony Awards in 2017, “Come From Away,” celebrates the beauty of the human condition itself, and the power of human kindness, resilience and unity in times of crisis. 

Although the story is specific to the tragedy and the events in Gander during 9/11, the core elements of the show are recognizable and timeless “human experiences.”

The musical follows the stories of both Newfoundlanders and these stranded passengers, as they deal with the stress of the diverted planes, the terrible attack that had just occurred, falling in and out of love, finding new friendships and coping with grief.

Historical fiction, or retellings, are quite common in the art world, with musicals like “Hamilton,” telling the story of the American Revolution, focusing on founding father Alexander Hamilton, or “Newsies,” which takes inspiration from a real-life newspaper worker strike in 1899. 

This retelling is a little bit different however, as many audience members were alive and cognizant during 9/11, which was very traumatic, even to people who merely saw the news broadcasts. 

Some, especially those who lost loved ones or were present at ground zero, may find this story particularly emotionally difficult because the story is portrayed in a beautiful, yet very realistic way.

This musical is unapologetically emotional; however, for such a depressing topic, it is very lighthearted. Instead of focusing on 9/11 itself, the show focuses on the events in Gander, and the changes brought on by the landed planes there. 

The show duly addresses the core trauma of this event, with major plotlines and songs recognizing the impact of this attack. This is seen in the song “Me and the Sky,” sung by pilot Beverley Bass, the first female airline captain who, after fighting her whole life against a sexist industry, finds herself grounded yet again by this terrorist attack. 

The second-to-last song “Something’s Lost,” which laments the ironic pain of this newfound connection being forged because of something so tragic, also encapsulates the societal shift caused by the attack. 

As folksy fun as this all was, elements of the show left not a dry eye in the house. 

The musical also features the social stressors that arose after the attack, such as racial profiling specifically towards Middle Eastern individuals.

From a production standpoint, the musical is beautifully crafted. The set design is minimal, yet poignant, with living trees surrounding the sides of the stage; two of them lie broken to represent the twin towers of the World Trade Center. 

With this minimalist set of 12 chairs and two tables, the blocking takes the role of certain setpieces, with the chairs arranged as a plane, a bus and even a set of stairs on a mountain range. For example, when the travelers are in a bus traveling through the forest, the actors move in unison to make it seem that the bus is swerving back and forth, and stopping abruptly. 

The cast consists of only 12 actors, so each person plays multiple roles, but if someone didn’t tell you, it would be very hard to tell. 

Each character was so well defined, even with the knowledge of the double actors, I only put the pieces together halfway through the show.

“Come From Away” is truly a testament to the beauty of a strong ensemble cast. It was apparent that each performer was very aware of every small detail happening onstage. Each performer has immense chemistry with the others, so much so that I felt like they could read each other’s minds, or were performing a synchronized set of well-practiced choreography. 

The show also featured a live band that sits onstage, often featured in numbers throughout the show, sharing that connection with the cast members.

“Come From Away” is a beautiful celebration of the human spirit in times of crisis, and a well-done piece of historical retelling. If you missed the field trip, but are interested in seeing this wonderful show, I highly recommend watching the pro-shot on Apple TV+. 

I have learned many lessons this school year, but a notable one is– if Ms. Araña offers you free tickets to see a musical, take it, because you never know what you might be missing. 

My Rating: 9/10

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About the Contributor
Adrianna Bean
Adrianna Bean, Staff
Swiftie and first year Journalism writer Adrianna Bean can be found screaming the lyrics to whatever album she’s obsessed with right now (it’s always different). From animation and art, performing in plays and musicals, writing about topics she cares about, to re-reading her favorite books, Adrianna loves a good story, fiction and nonfiction. Story of Us? Love Story? Long Story Short? “The story starts when it was hot and it was summer and…?” She loves them all!
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