Nfld. & Labrador

The critics weigh in on Come From Away: Flat-out raves … and a few rants

Most reviewers have warmly embraced Come From Away, the musical that formally opened on Broadway this week.
The cast of Come From Away takes a bow before a standing ovation on opening night. (Darryl Murphy/CBC)

After performing in previews since mid-February, Come From Away — the musical that focuses on how Gander welcomed thousands of stranded travellers on 9/11 — formally opened on Broadway on Sunday night.

With the end of previews and the rise of the curtain on opening night, critics are free to publish their reviews, and they started coming in quickly. 

For the most part, critics have welcomed the show, responding to its message of compassion and community in the midst of turmoil, violence and tragedy. 

The majors 

Reviews can be the lifeblood of a Broadway production, where ticket sales (and the lack of them) can be strongly influenced by reviews in the media. 

That's particularly so with heavy-hitters like The New York Times and trade publications like Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. Fortunately for the producers of Come From Away, those reviews were the stuff of a publicist's dream. 

New York Times: 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. But even the most stalwart cynics may have trouble staying dry-eyed during this portrait of heroic hospitality under extraordinary pressure.

Kenda Kassebaum, left, and Petrina Bromley, right, appear in a scene from Come From Away on Broadway. (Matthew Murphy)

Variety: Here's that feel-good show that audiences constantly pine for.

Hollywood Reporter: A deeply moving musical that should prove a tonic in troubled times.

The Washington Post: 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.

Not impressed 

Were all the reviews positive? Not by a long shot. Some critics disliked the show, and used their reviews to warn audiences away, or at least caution them for an excessively sweet experience. 

The Wrap: If you're someone who enjoys being stuck on an airplane for hours as it sets on the tarmac, here's the musical for you.

New York magazine/ Vulture: 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.

Broadway musical 'Come From Away' visits Gander

6 years ago
Duration 1:45
The show is based on the true story of Newfoundlanders who housed more than 6,500 stranded airline passengers following the 9/11 attacks

Newsday: Everyone, of course, is shocked by what's happening on the news. 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.

a.m. New York: Good intentions aside, Come From Away has the depth of a Hallmark card and a pub rock score that is generic and unmemorable.

Park your cynicism at the door 

A number of critics noted that the musical's feel-good tone won them over, in spite of themselves. [This is, after all, New York.] 

Deadline Hollywood: Come From Away eludes the jaded critic's arsenal of dismissive thrusts. It's necessary balm for this mean time. 

Vanity Fair's February 2017 issue featured a photo spread on Come From Away, as it was preparing to launch on Broadway. (Submitted Photo/Polk PR and Vanity Fair)

Huffington Post: What looks to be the significant success of this new musical stems from the fact that even the most cynical among us is likely to be deeply touched. Come From Away is about community; and in this particular community, everyone's a member.

Entertainment Weekly: If you're an out-of-town visitor to New York looking for a feel-good night of theater, then Come From Away is surely recommended. … When the show threatens to feel pat — our opposites-attract travelers fall in love in the space of five days! The Rabbi's kosher cooking feeds Hindus, Muslims, and the vegetarian couple! — it helps to remember this all actually happened.

A political message? 

Come From Away first debuted at the famed La Jolla Playhouse in southern California in June 2015, and created by the husband-and-wife team of David Hein and Irene Sankoff after they attended a 10th anniversary 9/11 ceremony in Gander. Even though the germ of the show began almost six years ago, some critics couldn't resist linking the timing of its Broadway debut to the current American political landscape. At a moment in history when certain politicians are telling us to fear and reject immigrants, we're shown ordinary people who act spontaneously out of a concern for others. Come from Away, which opened Sunday at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, doesn't have an ironic or cynical bone in its body.

Chicago Tribune: 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.

New York Daily News: It's a singing reminder that when things are at their worst, people can be at their best.

Daily Beast: The goodness of people and the meaning of community is what is constantly reinforced, with very little tension to throw it into relief. Come From Away is Broadway's This Is Us: like NBC's hit family drama, this is a piece of theatre to make its viewers feel good about themselves and how we as a community, when tested, rise to the challenge: a soothing, uplifting piece of art for vexing times.

NBC New YorkCome From Away manages to find a spiritual angle to a horrific story, depicting the goodness in humanity while still allowing us room for the feelings of loneliness and fear that will always be connected to that time.

Time Out New York: Warmth is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when Americans think of Canada, if they happen to think of Canada at all. Come from Away, a swelling heart of a musical by Torontonians Irene Sankoff and David Hein, may help change that.