SALT LAKE CITY — I was recently in New York City and as I looked upon the scars of hate and intolerance where the Twin Towers once stood, I found myself picturing what it must have been like on that spot that fateful day. I imagined smoke filled streets, emergency crews running towards the crumbling towers, citizens running away in terror. What I hadn’t considered was what it was like to be on a plane elsewhere as our country and the greatest city in the world fell under attack. With book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away at Eccles Theatre vividly brings this story to life. Full of mirth and melancholy, this show is contemporary theatre at its finest.

An important reminder and celebration of shared humanity, Come From Away recreates the true story of 38 planes and 7,000 passengers forced to land at Gander International Airport due to airspace closures after the 9/11 attacks. The passengers don’t know why they have landed, and the town of Newfoundland, Canada doesn’t know how they’ll accommodate an influx of people doubling their population. This show is a beautiful unfolding of human compassion as the townspeople take in the scared and frazzled passengers from all over the world. New Yorkers, Europeans, Middle Easterners and locals come together and turn those horror filled, uncertain post 9/11 days into an exhibit of benevolence and acceptance. Among the passengers are a female pilot, a mother with a son in the New York City Fire Department, and a Middle Eastern man unfairly treated with suspicion. Many stories are told, and audiences watch strangers transform into friends and the tragic aftermath that 9/11 forced upon their lives.

Directed by Christopher Ashley, Come From Away is an intermission free, 100 minutes of swiftly paced excellence — with poignantly placed pauses and generous tugs at the heartstrings. This show is tragedy bathed in humor and warmth. While I feel many modern heavy content productions hide behind slapstick humor and excessive cheap jokes, Come From Away finds an impeccable balance to pathos and humor. I laughed. I cried.

The scenic design by Beowulf Boritt is simple, with a concrete backdrop and large tree trunks interspersed with an eight-piece band which adorned the margins of the stage, reflecting the remoteness of the town. Heavy use of light design by Howell Binkley effectively brought to life the minimal set. The bursting hues and textures mirrored the emotions of the characters while also signifying  location changes. The sparse use of props and set was a terrific choice for this play as it allowed the audience to singularly focus on the content of this important and relevant story.

Show closes April 28, 2024. Featured photo by Matthew Murphy.

The extremely talented, dynamic cast did not have an easy task as each cast member played many characters. Actors had rapid switches between characters with minimal costume changes. Addison Garner fantastically embodied the role of the pilot—her emboldened number “Me and the Sky” was moving and fixating. Garner’s ability to change characters onstage was also remarkable. As the character Beverly, Garner brought a commanding presence to the stage and her musical numbers were the most memorable of the production. Trey DeLuna played both Kevin, a humorous character and half of a gay couple, as well as Ali, the aforementioned Middle Eastern man whom others treat with caution. DeLuna brought laughs with the first character one minute before showing a devastating unjust intrusion as the other soon after. Candace Alyssa Rhodes was convincing and gut-wrenching as the mother of the firefighter son. And Erich Schroeder brought the best laughs as the affable sheriff of Gander.

While Come From Away is a musical, it’s not the type of show with huge catchy tunes and booming memorable ballads. The music is used as a storytelling vehicle and to add an emotional layer to the dialogue. The musical effectively blends music into the script and the cast performed cohesive ensemble numbers with wonderful vocals and agile choreography. There were energetic and fun numbers such as “Welcome to the Rock” which introduced the townspeople as well as emotional numbers such as the closer “Something’s Missing” which detailed the aftermath once the characters leave Newfoundland.

Come From Away was a superbly executed Broadway at the Eccles production. It is a play that needs to be seen and I hope it never stops being produced; a significant memorialization of one of our nation’s greatest tragedies and its widespread and devastating impact on the lives of the people of the world. And foremost, it is a message of hope and kindness, and an eloquent example that we are all the same thing despite our differences: human.

The national tour of Come From Away plays at The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater (131 South Main Street, Salt Lake City) April 26 at 8:00 .m., April 27th at  2:00p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and April 28th at 1:00p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  Tickets are $89-159. For more information, visit