I didn't know what to expect when I turned up at the New Theatre to see Come From Away.

I had been told that the musical, direct from the West End, has been inspired by events surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attack.

I was nervous that such a serious subject matter couldn't possibly be the basis for a life-affirming, uplifting evening at the the theatre.

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But that's exactly what Come From Away offers.

For it focuses not on on the 2001 terrorist attack on New York itself but on events surrounding it instead, when 38 planes were diverted to the Newfoundland town of Gander.

The town's 10,000 residents made sure that about 7,000 people stranded for several days were properly looked after.

Irene Sankoff and David Hein's musical focuses on the life stories of the town's residents, and how they rallied to help those stranded passengers.

Some of passengers' stories are picked out and intertwined with the lives of the residents who react in such a kind way when disaster is brought to their doorstep.

Oxford Mail: The cast of Come From Away"I take something new away from it every time," says Gander's former mayor Claude Elliott, who has watched himself portrayed by different actors more than a dozen times.

"And each time you feel how useful this good news story is," he added.

"On 9/11 we saw the worst that could happen, but around 7,000 people in that tragedy saw the best in humanity."

It was up to Claude and the mayors of neighbouring towns to work out how to accommodate the passengers - many of whom didn't speak English, or had challenging dietary, religious, or medical requirements - and crew, at a time of extreme suspicion and fear.

Bonnie Harris, who worked in Gander's animal shelter, realised there would be animals in the aeroplane holds and made it her mission to care for a menagerie of 19 animals that included dogs, cats and two bonobo monkeys.

It is stories like Bonnie's that help to provide such a colourful evening's entertainment and there are some memorable musical numbers including Welcome To The Rock, Me And The Sky, and Stop The World.

Oxford Mail: The cast of Come From AwayNicholas Pound as mayor Claude is a strong presence to lead the cast while Sara Poyzer as pilot Beverley, Kirsty Hoiles as Diane, and Daniel Crowder as Nick were among the supporting actors who really stood out.

Come From Away, which ran from Tuesday to Saturday, tells an inspiring story and manages to pack an awful lot in - there are even two passengers who meet and fall in love and go on to get married.

The New Theatre continues to stage top quality productions, and we were lucky to be able to watch such innovative musical theatre direct from the West End.

Andy Ffrench

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

You can also read his weekly Traffic and Transport newsletter.