Review of Come From Away at Proctors
This review first appeared in our Albany region, but the national tour will be performing in several KidsOutAndAbout regions. Click here for details.
by Katie Beltramo
Come From Away is the remarkable true story of 7,000 airline passengers who were stranded in, and welcomed by, a small town in Newfoundland after air traffic was grounded on September 11, 2001. For adults, this vaguely familiar footnote to the massive historic event we remember from 21 years ago comes alive with specific true storylines and characters based on real people whom you can read about (and see) on the Come From Away website. For us, this musical carries the emotional weight of memory, and moments like the familiar tilt of everyone's head to watch the TV news, a snippet of a presidential speech, and people's frantic calls to relatives feel familiar and heavy. Lively music, foot stomping choreography, goofy humor, and a love story lighten the mood.
For our children and teens who don't have clear recollections of September 11th, they'll definitely need some context before the show: the basics of what happened, why planes were forced to land and grounded for days, and explanations of other important context (like that cell phones and service were still new and fairly rare). There is very little spoken about exactly what was happening elsewhere--this is the story of a global emergency happening in a "rock" in the middle of nowhere--and so that context is key.
Along the way, people's true stories hit on many issues that illustrate all sorts of interesting topics for family discussion: prejudices based on religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation, approaching new people with suspicion or welcome, how people cope with change or loss differently, and how different cultures can clash or build community. As the feminist mom of two daughters, I especially appreciated the portrayal of Captain Beverley Bass and her song "Me and the Sky" detailing her journey to become the first female American captain and how over the years, the World War II pilots who called her "baby" and asked her to fetch drinks retired and were replaced by an all-female crews (who sing back up). This is a great reminder that history is just people living their lives, and seeing these characters portrayed builds empathy all-around and certainly is a great example of Mr. Rogers' adage to "remember the helpers."
The set is spare: a few chairs will form a bus, a plane, barbecue grills, even a scenic overlook. Characters wear everyday clothes, and it's worth paying attention, as cast members switch between characters with small markers like an extra jacket or hat. A small band plays on stage and adds to celebratory moments.
I appreciated that theater goers were required to present proof of vaccination and wear masks. This was my first live theater performance and first formal live music performance since before Covid, and that was surprisingly emotional for me. The story of post 9/11 Newfoundland in Come From Away illustrates that there's always an after after bad stuff happens: even if we are mourning or changed, there is still community and joy. As musicians played one last tune at the end of the show and the audience stood, stomping and clapping along, that point was illustrated again right here in 2022 Schenectady.
While this is appropriate for all ages, younger audience members (elementary school age) may have trouble following the story lines.
Come From Away is playing at Proctors, Schenectady, from Wednesday, January 26 to Sunday, January 30 at Proctors. Proof of vaccination and identification and masking is required. For schedule and ticket information, call 581-346-6204 or visit www.proctors.org.
Photos provided by Proctors.
© 2022 Katie Beltramo.
Katie Beltramo, a mom of two, is communication director at Kids Out and About and blogs at Capital District Fun.