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Thursday, September 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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“Come From Away” gets warm welcome on Broadway

The musical “Come From Away” opened March 12 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater. (Come From Away)
The musical “Come From Away” opened March 12 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater. (Come From Away)
By James Hebert Tribune News Service

The reviews are in for the Broadway premiere of the musical “Come From Away,” and this uplifting show set on one of modern history’s darkest days seems to have melted the hearts of most critics.

“Try, if you must, to resist the gale of good will that blows out of “Come From Away,” the big bearhug of a musical that opened on Sunday night at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater,” writes Ben Brantley in the New York Times.

“But even the most stalwart cynics may have trouble staying dry-eyed during this portrait of heroic hospitality under extraordinary pressure.”

Brantley goes on to say that besides its artistic qualities, “Come From Away” has good timing on its side:

“(W)e 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.”

“Come From Away” is based on the real-life story of how the tiny Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland, took in and comforted thousands of stranded air passengers on 9/11, when the grounding of air traffic after the terror attacks forced 38 jetliners to land there.

The show had its world premier at the La Jolla (California) Playhouse in June 2015. It’s directed by Playhouse artistic chief Christopher Ashley. Coeur d’Alene’s Laura Little is a co-producer for the show.

Writing for the Washington Post, Peter Marks said of the Broadway production:

“The lump that forms in your throat in the opening minutes of ‘Come From Away’ – and remains lodged there for 100 buoyant minutes more – is the physiological confirmation that this effervescent musical, enveloped in Canadian good will, is an antidote for what ails the American soul.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck wrote that while “the material might have lent itself to sickly sweet sentimentality, creators Irene Sankoff and David Hein have crafted a heartwarming and thoroughly entertaining musical. Especially in these politically fractious times, it should prove a true crowd-pleaser on Broadway following previous hit engagements in San Diego, Washington D.C. and Toronto.”

While the reviews appear to be overwhelmingly positive, some critics did express reservations that “Come From Away” grapples only glancingly with the horror of the 9/11 attacks.

“(E)veryone, of course, is shocked by what’s happening on the news,” writes Newsday’s Linda Winer of the characters in the show. “Over five days, however, they get distracted into what feels just a bit too much like 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.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones writes, in a similar vein:

“It’s a fair bet that many in the audience for this show will have been more impacted personally by the losses of Sept. 11 – this show never explores that truth, nor sufficiently connects its stories to these bigger themes, even though there is one severely underdeveloped character (played by Q. Smith) with a New York relative in harm’s way.”

The show “would rather put the kettle on, and venerate the day when all of Gander showed the world what hospitality means.

“And, you know, we all need a good cup of tea when the world goes haywire, and we’re adrift from those we love.”

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