As much a concept musical as “Cats” or “Company,” “Come from Away’ is a musical that came from, seemingly, out of nowhere to captivate Broadway and touring audiences.
The first I heard of it, I had the same reaction that I believe many had: A 9/11 musical? Really.
Learning that the team that concocted the show’s biggest credit up to this was a Toronto Fringe show called “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding” didn’t exactly instill further confidence.
That the show reached Broadway at all is amazing in and of itself, given that its challenges were compounded by not having any well-known performers. Likely of more concern to potential investors, it wasn’t preceded by a movie version or even a concept album.
Oh, and it’s primarily focused on people being nice to each other.
“Come from Away” is a musical collage, a series of vignettes about people who were in the air during the terrorist attacks and the people who hosted them when their planes were diverted to tiny Gander, Newfoundland, and surroundings.
There are small stories woven in, but they don’t develop in the traditional musical sense.
That doesn’t mean it’s short on songs. There are plenty, from the earnest opening “Welcome to the Rock” to the earnest “I am Here” to the earnest “Me and the Sky.” The actors are in near constant motion, switching characters at the drop–or the add–of a hat.
And, much I think to the surprise of audiences, it’s surprisingly packed with laughs. It never trivializes the catalytic events, but it does find humor in both the passengers and their hosts.
I had the pleasure of seeing the original Broadway company twice so some comparisons are inevitable. Adjusting to the size of Clowes Hall only lost some of the show’s intimacy (I was sitting mid-orchestra section and can’t speak for those in the upper balcony). Only occasionally did the cast lean too far in to the humor and only in the case of awkward Brit Nick did cartooning become a bit of a distraction.
in all, though, “Come from Away” remains a cathartic balm, a small wonder of a show that managed not only to win hearts on Broadway but also pulled off a tour that plays well in larger venues.
Next stop, no doubt, will be dozens of regional productions.
I look forward to seeing it again then.