Review: Come From Away, Gerald Schoenfield Theatre, NYC

I’m fascinated by the phenomenon of Come From Away. It’s a mighty good story (if you don’t know, about how a small town in Canada ended up hosting over many days thousands of stranded passengers who had been rerouted after 9/11). It’s gotten huge word of mouth and the official publicity too, like Justin Trudeau taking Ivanka Trump to… was it the opening?

It also seems like a canny commercial plot. The musical is likely to draw in every Canadian visitor to Broadway (and we are numerous) and then New Yorkers, as far as I can tell, love to see shows about themselves… But of course, the material has to be good to continue to draw them in, and it seems to be one of the top musicals on Broadway right now. I was also intrigued that the NYT reviewers, while complimentary in the official review, get a bit snarky in their review of Tony nominees, with Jesse Green calling it ‘little more than an evening of Canadian civic boosterism’ and Ben Brantley ‘a work of efficient sentimental manipulation’.

I worried a bit about this too, considering the subject matter, but right from the start, I thought it was far too quirky and honest to deserve Green’s criticism (although I’d probably agree with Brantley’s). To portray small-town Canada with odd accents intact and propelled with a musical backbone from the Maritimes seemed pretty honest to me; and the various details of the script (based on real interviews and people, or composite characters) felt strange enough and true enough to provide an originality to the piece.

I liked that the musical is ensemble-driven, with all the cast playing multiple parts; I thought there was a good combination of light and dark, and the comedy not too broad. The music was pretty catchy and somewhat memorable. It was great to see a range of actors who looked like real people. The themes – hospitality and kindness to strangers – are more pertinent than ever, and the age of terror started with 9/11 is still with us. So, it feels like this musical has legs… and many people agree with me… and in the end, I was even successfully emotionally manipulated to feel bit proud of the country I was born in.

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