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Set in Gander, a small town in the far north Canadian province of Newfoundland & Labrador, Come From Away tells the remarkable story of what happened to almost 7,000 air passengers in the aftermath of 9/11.

Having debuted on Broadway in 2017, and then in the West End two years later, this critically acclaimed Olivier and Tony award-winning musical is currently touring the UK and has begun its two-week stay at Birmingham Hippodrome.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001, airspace was closed. Passengers from 38 planes found themselves stranded in Gander, nearly doubling the town’s population overnight. For the next five days, the locals came together to house, feed and care for their traumatised and unexpected visitors, looking after them until it was safe to fly back into American airspace.

The passengers were overwhelmed by the generosity of their hosts, who willingly gave them everything that they needed without asking for anything in return. The people of Gander called their guests the ‘Come From Aways’ - hence the show’s seemingly strange title.

Although the harrowing events surrounding 9/11 are far from ideal material for a musical, this particular story is truly amazing. It is here brilliantly retold through music, song and drama, beautifully showcasing the best in humanity at the worst of times.

There are no big sets, special effects or elaborate costumes. The set design is a timber wall within a forest of trees. There is little scenery, no stage changes, a small cast and no interval in the near-two-hour show. Choreography is simple but effective, with clever lighting. Tables and chairs are used to set the different scenes, creating practically everything from a bar to a plane.

The show’s 12 actors are all exceptional. Each has a strong solo voice - and when singing together, they create great harmonies. They also interchange seamlessly between characters, helping to represent the stories of the townsfolk and the stranded passengers by using simple props such as hats and outer clothing. There’s an eight-piece band situated on stage with them, providing uplifting and toe-tapping folk-rock-style music throughout the show.

One of the most powerful pieces of theatre I’ve seen, Come From Away boasts a gripping and easy-to-follow storyline and some really great music. Emotional and inspiring, it will lift your heart and restore your faith in humanity. Yes, of course there are sombre, tearful scenes, but these are balanced by great humour and laugh-out-loud moments. To coin a phrase, I’d see the show again tomorrow, and judging by last night’s loud and enthusiastic standing ovation, the rest of the audience enjoyed the production every bit as much as I did! If you love musicals and haven’t seen this yet, bag a ticket now.

5 stars

Come From Away was reviewed by Sue Hull on Tuesday 21 May at Birmingham Hippodrome, where it shows until Saturday 1 June. It returns to the Midlands later this year when it shows at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, Tuesday 5 - Saturday 9 November.