Must-See Musical “Come From Away” Lands Smoothly on Broadway

Must-See Musical “Come From Away” Lands Smoothly on Broadway

The ensemble of "Come From Away" (©Matthew Murphy)

Known as “the 9/11 musical,” the beautiful production of Come From Away” is so much more than just that. This original new Broadway show—based on the true story of what happened in the week following 9/11—shows how in the face of tragedy, compassion is stronger than fear. (And that we all should aspire to be as good of people as the Canadians in Gander, Newfoundland.)

On September 11, 2001, when U.S. airspace was closed and planes in flight were rerouted, 38 of them ended up in the tiny town of Gander, nearly doubling the town’s population instantly. With 12 performers covering multiple roles apiece, “Come From Away” depicts the challenges the people of Gander faced as they scrambled together resources for their unexpected guests, as well as the stories of the people who were on the planes. Small-town Canadians welcomed these shaken strangers not only into their community, but their homes and lives and all are changed over the course of several days as both the townspeople and the plane people wait for U.S. airspace to reopen and for flights to get the go-ahead to get back in the air.

The strength of “Come From Away” lies in its talented ensemble. Everyone gets their moments to shine, but its how they work together while individually morphing from one character to another—sometimes mid-song (with the aid of an accent and simple wardrobe changes like the addition of headwear or a jacket)—that not only drives the plot, but also reinforces the ever-important message of unity.

I would be remiss not to point out Rodney Hicks’ brilliant comedic timing, Caesar Samayoa’s heartbreaking turn as Ali (an Egyptian passenger who gets racially profiled), the joy I felt from finally hearing/seeing Chad Kimball perform in person and Jenn Colella’s powerful delivery of “Me and the Sky.” At this point in the show, Colella is Beverley Bass, one of the grounded planes’ pilots. She sings about knowing how she’s wanted to be a pilot every since she was a kid, overcame a bonkers-amount of sexism to become American Airlines’ first female captain and then was heartbroken that people on 9/11 took something she loved and turned into a weapon.

Beowulf Boritt’s minimal set design (tables and mismatched chairs surrounded by tall tree trunks—earth tones for days!) provided a perfectly homey playground for the actors to constantly move about as they delivered Irene Sankoff and David Hein’s emotionally gripping, yet hilariously funny, book, music and lyrics. I laughed often and loudly during the show, but I also found myself tearing up, and not just at obviously sad moments surrounding this historic event. I got emotional over how this community automatically kicked into hosting mode and, though they were not financially well-off, they were—as we say in my family—rich with love, and gave everything of themselves to these stranded strangers. I was moved by their compassion and realized just how scarily timely this show is. I’m also a complete sucker for a “where are they now” coda and the tears that had been welling up completely broke free during the finale.

I see a lot of productions, but few have immediately impacted an audience as much as this show. When the performance I attended came to a close, there was an energy in the room that we were all on the same page—filled up with hope from the inspiring story and ready to turn that into something tangible. I walked away with the reassurance that there are good people in this world and every day we all have the opportunity to be among them.

“Come From Away” is not to be missed. Now in previews at the Gerald Shoenfeld Theatre on W. 45th St., this charming and important musical officially opens on March 12, 2017. Get your tickets now. Get those tickets here.

"Come From Away" is a celebration of the human spirit. (©Matthew Murphy)

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