This year marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11, when terrorist attacks in Washington and New York closed US airspace for the first time in its history.

It was then that 38 planes carrying nearly 7.000 passengers from over 100 countries were diverted to a tiny island called Gander in Newfoundland, Canada affectionately known by locals as ‘The Rock’.

Over the following five days the locals took care of the influx of  passengers, affectionally known as the ‘come from aways’, until US airspace freed up again, and they were able to get up in the air again.

The operation undertaken by these Canadians was named Operation Yellow Ribbon.

Canadian writing team, David Hein and Irene Sarkoff

Canadian jewish husband and  wife writing team David Hein and Irene Sarkoff were astute enough to know that there was a play to be found in this material. Albeit that it was a far cry from their first production ‘My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccon Wedding’,  based on Hein’s own mother’s story.

At its heart this musical tells a very relatable story. When disasters happen, we humans do come together to help and care for those in need. Disaster relief funds are set up. All sorts of contingencies are put in place. Miraculous work is done. And so it was the case with Operation Yellow Ribbon.

Hein and Sarkoff had the vision to see the script as a musical. They were wise enough to know that the story should be told in the world’s only universal and most powerful language

COME FROM AWAY works like a dream. Christopher Ashley’s direction is assured. Beowulf Boritt’s  set design features a revolve with the cast moving around tables, chairs and tables to signpost different settings such as  cafes, pubs et al.

Performances are of a high standard. All of the twelve cast members play multiple roles, and they do it well.

Special mention to Gene Weygandt’s performance as the Mayor who manages to deal with all the pressure thrust upon him. Zoe Gertz is exceptional as the equally pressured American pilot  Beverly Bass. Sarah Morrison is excellent as reporter Janice who had just started her first professional position.

The only performance that I had a problem with was Phillip Lowe’s portrayal of passenger Nick  who falls for fellow passenger Diana, played by Angela Kennedy.  I just found his portrayal and tone of voice too wussie and insipid.

The catchy score is soft rock with a Celtic twist played by a band of seven musicians. After the cast received a standing ovation the band came back on stage to do one more song.

COME FROM AWAY is playing the Capitol Theatre, 13 Campbell Street, Haymarket until 22 August, 2021. Performance times Tuesdays 7pm, Wednesdays 1pm and 7pm, Thursdays 7pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 2pm and 8pm, and Sundays 2pm and 8pm. Tickets from $59 plus handling fee.

Production photography by Jeff Busby