When I first learned there was a musical based on the aftermath of 9/11, I thought it would be horrific to watch and definitely not for kids. But the opening night performance of the National Tour of Come From Away, which landed in Portland for a one-week run yesterday, is nothing short of magical. In fact, it’s one of the most delightful, feel-good shows I’ve ever seen.
Based on true events and real people, Come From Away takes place in Gander, a small town on the island of Newfoundland in eastern Canada. When 38 commercial jetliners en route to the United States make forced landings there on September 11, 2001, the population nearly doubles. The citizens of Gander welcome almost 7000 stranded passengers from all over the world, showing unbelievable kindness and hospitality in the face of unspeakable tragedy. The relationships that develop between strangers who otherwise would never have met will warm your heart and restore your faith in humanity. You will likely tear up a few times, but you will also laugh out loud (a lot).
Come From Away is recommended for ages 10 and up. There is very little swearing, some drinking and only a few “adult” moments. (Two women flash their bras and a man describes a humiliating strip search). Most of the details of the hijacked flights and crashes are alluded to but never spoken of, but parents should know that there are heavy moments throughout. Characters cope with what happened on 9/11 and worry about unaccounted for loved ones. They deal with death, fear and racial profiling. I think a good gauge to measure whether this show is appropriate for your child is whether or not you’ve already talked to them about your own 9/11 experience, and, if so, how they handled that conversation.
I didn’t see many children in the audience on Tuesday night, but the ten-year-old two rows behind us was delighted to be there. Her aunt said she’d seen a recording of the show on Apple TV+ before attending the live performance, and she was a big fan. If your kids aren’t ready for Come From Away, do whatever it takes to get a sitter and go see it yourself. It’ll be worth it.
With no intermission and a run time of about an hour and forty-five minutes, I highly recommend visiting the restrooms prior to showtime. You won’t want to miss a second of the production from the opening notes of “Welcome to the Rock” to the wonderful band’s on-stage encore after the curtain call.
Normally, I recommend listening to the soundtrack of a musical prior to seeing it live at Keller, since it can often be hard to understand the lyrics. But there’s no need to do so with Come From Away. Despite the thick accents of the Newfoundlanders who sing “you probably understand about half of what we say,” my husband and I caught most every word. The performers enunciate clearly and their voices are never drowned out by the band.
Come From Away runs now through Sunday, May 7, at Keller Auditorium. Tickets are still available from Broadway in Portland and range in price from $34.75-$139.75, plus fees.
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