NEW YORK — The reviews are in and Canadian 9/11-inspired musical "Come From Away" appears to be Broadway's newest critical hit.
The production is set in the remote town of Gander, N.L., which provided refuge to thousands of passengers and crew from planes diverted after U.S. air space was closed following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Sunday night marked the official New York opening for "Come From Away" following several weeks of previews. Prior to its arrival on Broadway, the show received raves during engagements in La Jolla, Calif., Washington, D.C., Seattle and Toronto.
Here are a few excerpts of reviews from American critics sharing their thoughts on the Canadian stage show:
"'Come From Away' — set, you should know, on and after the world-shaking date of Sept. 11, 2001 — pushes so many emotional buttons that you wind up feeling like an accordion. That does not mean that you'll leave thinking you have been played.
For this Canadian-born production, written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein and directed by Christopher Ashley, is as honourable in its intentions as it is forthright in its sentimentality. And it may provide just the catharsis you need in an American moment notorious for dishonourable and divisive behaviour."
- Ben Brantley, The New York Times
"Come From Away ... reflects a triumph of the human spirit and an honourable mention of the theatrical. It's by no means the best musical on Broadway, but it's surely the goodest. If that sounds cynical, perhaps New Yorkers may be permitted a bit of side-eye about a work that borrows our local tragedy as background for 100 minutes of Canadian civic boosterism."
- Jesse Green, New York Magazine
"We've been exposed of late to impressions of Canada as an inordinately decent place. One has only to read about terrified immigrants, fleeing across the United States's northern border in search of sanctuary, or to reflect on Canada's vigorous and civilized prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to become sentimental about a place where generosity still seems to be a growth industry. (Irene) Sankoff and (David) Hein's portrait of Gander will only intensify that longing."
- Peter Marks, The Washington Post
"The show's creators, the Canadian husband-and-wife team of David Hein and Irene Sankoff, have set for themselves a unenviable challenge — to make engaging musical numbers from the following situations: Idling on a tarmac; stocking up on toilet paper, tooth brushes, diapers and tampons at a chain store ('Shoppers,' which again made those seated near me titter in regional recognition); and experiencing the unsettling sensation of wearing strangers' donated clothing when your own is stuck in the hold of a 737. Hummable tunes aren't really the point here, but the music is confident and lively, and the direct, if not necessarily poetic, lyrics keep the character-based story moving at a pleasant clip."
- Allison Adato, Entertainment Weekly
"Well, 'Come From Away' may not be Broadway's first feel-good musical about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but it is a feel-pretty-nice musical. Think of the simple 100-minute show as psychological training wheels, perhaps a way to ease us into the unbearable stories our playwrights might someday ask us to confront."
- Linda Winer, Newsday
"The show's accomplishments seem all the more surprising considering that the only previous theatrical credit for the Canadian husband-and-wife team responsible for the book, music and lyrics is something called 'My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding.' This musical, based on interviews with many of the real-life participants, features a savvy mixture of humour and emotion in its fast-paced story, expertly staged by (director) Christopher Ashley."
- Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
"You might think of this populist musical, which was written by the Canadian team of Irene Sankoff and David Hein, directed by Christopher Ashley with breathless, intermissionless bonhomie, and that features one of the older casts ever seen in a Broadway musical, as an idealization of human selflessness. For the record, it was received with atypical warmth and affection on the night I saw the show. Truly atypical.
One can see why. Landing on Broadway at this famously divided and fear-stoked moment, the warm-as-toast show functions as a shrewdly timed commercial for Canada's growing brand as the most welcoming North American host for international refugees (no wonder Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to attend in coming days).
And, beyond both its patriotism and celebration of small-town folks, the show makes the proud declaration that ordinary people, when faced with the other walking right into their kitchen, live and in person, can be counted on to do the right thing."
— Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
The Canadian Press