Barnard on Broadway: Come From Away

By Emma Cunningham

Come From Away

*BEEEEEEEP!* It’s 5:30 am on a Saturday. For some people, this means that it’s time to remain fast asleep for another 4-10 hours. For others, this may entail still being awake from the previous night’s festivities. But for a small, small portion of the population, 5:30 am on a Saturday means waking up, bundling up, drinking your body weight in coffee, and getting in line to rush for a Broadway show.

This week, it was not just any Broadway show, but one that told the story of one of the most infamous days in American history, September 11th, 2001. On this day, 38 planes traveling around the world were diverted to Newfoundland, Canada, where the population doubled in size due to these newcomers. It tells the story of each person’s individual experience with 9/11, and how a small town can bond together in a time of need to help their fellow man. Come from Away has been sweeping the globe as one of the most profound and unique musicals of our generation, so you could say I was okay with losing a few hours of sleep to claim those sought-after rush tickets.

Every broadway show has a different rush or lottery system, so it was important for me to learn the ropes before I made my way downtown that day. The box office for Come from Away opens up at 10 am, but because the show was so popular, there were already 6 people in line by the time my friends and I arrived at 6:30 am. Most shows sell about 20-30 rush tickets per day, so we knew our chances were good; at that point, there was nothing for us to do but huddle for warmth and wait for 10 am to roll around. After hours of waiting, attempting to do homework, and taking turns to get snacks and use the restroom, we finally were let into the box office to claim our tickets. Most available rush tickets come with a partially obstructed view, but it’s hard to beat a $38 ticket for one of the most coveted shows in town.

Once we had claimed our tickets, we had the rest of the day to relax until 7 pm, when we headed back downtown to finally see the show. Our view was indeed partially obstructed but since we were in the orchestra, we could still see plenty. The experience was definitely worth the 5:30 am wake-up; the next 100 minutes were unlike anything I had ever experienced before. With a cast of only twelve individuals, each member takes on a number of roles without leaving the stage, keeping audience members alert and engaged. Though it told the story of such an emotional event, the show was a perfect mix of drama and comedy to keep audience members laughing as they reflected on such an treacherous and draining time. There was no main character or star of the show, highlighting the importance of everyone’s individual experiences during 9/11.

As if it wasn’t enough for us to get to experience this amazing show at such a low cost, my friends and I found ourselves on the subway home with Astrid Van Wieren, who played Beulah, one of our favorite characters in the show. Though she was exhausted from the two shows she had performed that day, she eagerly answered all of our questions about the show and even asked us questions about our own lives, which were seemingly boring in comparison! Since she had been in the show since it’s very beginning, she explained to us in great detail how it took them five years to conduct interviews from Newfoundlanders, how they were able to perform the show in Newfoundland itself, and the emotional experience of meeting the woman who her character was based on. She also shared that the show has no intermission because, since many people who attend the show have their own emotional connection to 9/11, the director wanted the audience members to be able to see the whole show before speaking with one another and reflecting on their own experiences.

Though it was not awarded ‘Best Musical’ at the Tony Awards this year, I can confidently say that Come from Away was one of the best Broadway shows I have seen and one that I would love to see again and again (I have actually seen it twice now!). If you have the gusto to wake up early one Saturday morning and brave the cold for a few hours, then rushing this show is an experience you will not want to miss.