I have raved about “Come From Away” several times since I saw it on Broadway four years ago. It is not only one of the best musicals of the last decade, but arguably deserves a spot on any all-time list.
I’m bringing it up again because there’s a filmed version of “Come From Away” debuting today on Apple TV+ to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the horrible day in American history that’s at the heart of the show’s plot. Though I’ve experienced the musical three times in person, I plan on watching this version, which stars some of the original cast members. It was filmed this in May of this year at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater in New York City (where the Broadway production is staged) for an audience that included 9/11 survivors and front-line workers.
Here’s what I wrote in my initial review of “Come From Away” in June, 2017:
It’s about the little Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland, where the population nearly doubled for a few days because of the 9/11 attacks. That day, when US airspace was closed, 38 planes were diverted to the Gander airport, where the locals opened their homes, schools, and businesses to help out the 7,000 stranded passengers and crew. The musical uses some of the real names and stories of those who were there.
“Come From Away” has a cast of 12 who play both the Gander locals and the plane people, telling their stories and experiences in song — a score that’s performed live by a band of six terrific musicians who are off to the sides of the stage. As the actors (many of whom have been with the show since its first run in La Jolla in 2015) switch between dozens of roles, the chemistry never suffers, and the characters come to life: the town mayor, an American Airlines pilot, a teacher, a gay couple, a cop, an SPCA worker, a Muslim man who is eyed warily, and many others.
The music is vibrant, the tales are gripping, the performances are so good that we joined the rest of the audience in leaping to our feet for the curtain calls (including a several-minute-long jam session by the band, which takes center stage for the finale). “Come From Away,” which Ben Brantley called a “portrait of heroic hospitality,” is the best musical I’ve seen since “Fun Home.” This is a show that will not only have a long run on Broadway, but will no doubt be performed by road companies, regional theaters, and even high school/college drama departments for a long time to come.
Even if you don’t subscribe to Apple TV+, find a friend who does and borrow their login information so you can catch this remarkable musical. Seeing it on your television won’t be nearly as exciting as seeing it in person, but I think you’ll still find it worthwhile, memorable, and uplifting.