The thirty-seven producers listed above the title for COME FROM AWAY were on to something. This low-budget musical about the citizens of Gander, Newfoundland and the seven-thousand passengers of the planes forced to land there on 9/11 turns out to be a sellout hit and a nominee for the Tony Award for Best Musical. It's a total crowd-pleaser.
Twelve actors play a variety of roles--citizens of Newfoundland who treat the "plane people" with amazing generosity and passengers who begin angry, frightened and confused and become good friends with their hosts. It's a little hokey. The Canadians are all sweet, liberal (except at first to the Muslim), kind and provincial. The Americans are like a disaster movie cast--everything but a singing nun. There are two middle-aged people who fall in love and a gay couple who expect bigotry in this small town but find none. There's a female pilot who lives for her work. For the most part characters address the audience directly. This is an ensemble piece about community, so for the most part the actors remain on stage throughout the performance changing characters without changing costume. Most of the musical numbers are ensemble pieces.
The music has a Celtic flavor. It is serviceable. At first I cringed at the opening number, which is basically one note--kind of Celtic rap. I thought, "Oh, God, it's going to be like ONCE,"which I hated. There isn't much in the way of great tunes. The songs are basically lyric heavy (good, lyrics too), patter songs that are interwoven into the dialogue to tell us more about the characters or the community dynamic. The show rarely stops for applause.
All in all, COME FROM AWAY is a superbly crafted show. It's a feel-good musical but you never feel that you are being cheaply manipulated. The ensemble is excellent and the simple staging fits the material perfectly. There isn't any set except chairs, but that's all the show calls for. It's about people, not scenery. A number of my friends were left cold by the show so I went in curious but skeptical. By the end of the show's intermission less one-hundred minutes, I was won over. In the angry, dark age of Trump, it's good to see a show that makes you feel positive about the human race.