The La Jolla Playhouse’s Come From Away opened last Sunday at Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th Street.
The Irene Sankoff/David Hein musical tells the upbeat story of over 6700 airline passengers stranded in Gander, Newfoundland, for several days after 9/11. Many had been in holding patterns for many hours. They were tired, fearful, and out of touch with a world forever changed.
True story: the citizens of Gander opened their doors and hearts to the bedraggled travelers — opened wide. Come From Away premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse in June 2015. It swept the Craig Noel Awards. Before going to Broadway it had lengthy runs in Washington DC and Toronto.
Peter Marks, Washington Post: “The Tony race for best musical of the year just got interesting.” “The musical…is about terrorism’s mortal enemy: love.” “Directed by Christopher Ashley, doing some of the most impressive work of his career.” “Most people want to believe they’re capable of taking in stricken strangers, so just as anyone who’s flown can easily project themselves into stranded invaders, we also like to imagine we’d be as welcoming in a crisis as the people of Gander. That’s why this musical is so suited to this particular moment. Not as a mournful reminder of who we all might have been for one another, but who we are all meant to be.”
Ben Brantley, New York Times: The “big bearhug” of a musical “pushes so many buttons that you wind up feeling like an accordion. That does not mean that you’ll leave thinking you have been played.” “Is smarter than it first appears.” “An air of improvisational urgency.” “We are now in a moment in which millions of immigrants are homeless and denied entry to increasingly xenophobic nations, including the United States. A tale of an insular populace that doesn’t think twice before opening its arms to an international throng of strangers automatically acquires a near-utopian nimbus.”
Jeremy Gerard, deadline.com: “As with A Chorus Line, Come From Away weaves the true stories of real people into a compelling tapestry; unlike the 1975 landmark musical, Come From Away is not about cutthroat competition but its mirror image, cooperation.” “Come From Away eludes the jaded critic’s arsenal of dismissive thrusts. It’s necessary balm for this mean time.”
Robert Kahn, nbcnewyork.com: “Come From Away manages to find a spiritual angle to a horrific story, depicting the goodness in humanity while still allowing us room for the feelings of loneliness and fear that will always be connected to that time.” “Tellingly, the musical is composed almost entirely of group numbers, with the principal exception of ‘Me and the Sky,’ powerfully sung by [Jen] Coella, in which the airline pilot laments how ‘the one thing I loved more than anything was used as a bomb.’”
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: “the 16-member cast is a hearty group and so good-natured they really put the lyrics across.” “By the end of the show, the characters are scarcely more than they were at the beginning, and the monotonous music (juiced up by a nifty eight-piece band playing interesting instruments) may be pounding on your head. But the intentions of the show are so heartfelt — and so warmly received by the audience at one late preview — that you can sense the connections with the show being felt in the house, row by row.”
Matt Windman, amNewyork: “It’s a heartwarming story told with high energy, not to mention an effective seminar on crisis management…but good intentions aside Come From Away has the depth of a Hallmark card and a pub rock score that is generic and unmemorable.”
Linda Winer, newsday.com: “a feel-pretty-nice-musical” “the townspeople implausibly pleasant, salt-of-the-rocky-coast folk” “Director Christopher Ashley…gets solid, likeable performances from 12 actors, who play both the townsfolk and what they begin to call the plane people.” “Over five days…they get distracted into what feels just a bit too much like a hootenanny camp. When they finally fly home, they sing that ‘something’s missing.’ Most people in New York that day can tell them what’s missing from their show. The real thing.”
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: “Warm as toast show.” “It’s a fair bet that many in the audience…will have been more impacted personally by the loses of Sept 11 – this show never explores that truth, nor sufficiently concedes its ….
Jesse Green, Vulture.com: “It’s by no means the best musical on Broadway, but it’s surely the goodest.” “Borrows our local tragedy — 9/11 — as background for 100 minutes of Canadian civic boosterism.” Gander people “portrayed as teeth-grindingly sweet. Saints cannot be elevated any higher.” “That it may succeed in making the audience cry is a testament to its fine qualities, which are sufficient to position Come From Away as a possible feel-good hit…the message that we all ‘come from away’ in a sense, could hardly be timelier. “That a story is basically true does not make it more believable onstage.”