Review Roundup: The National Tour of COME FROM AWAY - What Did the Critics Think?
The national tour of "Come From Away" is warming hearts across America.
A "Best Musical" winner all around the world, the smash hit musical has won the Tony Award for "Best Direction of a Musical" (Christopher Ashley), 4 Olivier Awards (London) including "Best New Musical," 5 Outer Critics Circle Awards (NYC) including "Outstanding New Broadway Musical," 3 Drama Desk Awards (NYC) including "Outstanding Musical," 4 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards (North American Tour) including "Best Production," 4 Helen Hayes Awards (D.C.) including "Outstanding Production of a Musical," 4 Gypsy Rose Lee Awards (Seattle) including "Excellence in Production of a Musical," 6 San Diego Critics Circle Awards including "Outstanding New Musical," 3 Toronto Theatre Critics Awards including "Best New Musical," 3 Dora Awards (Toronto) including "Outstanding New Musical/Opera" and "Outstanding Production," and the 2017 Jon Kaplan Audience Choice Award (Toronto).
What are critics saying about the musical? Check out reviews from various tour stops below!
Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times: "Come From Away" doesn't need a perfect production to work. The staging at the Ahmanson, good enough to get the job done, more than satisfies the hunger for uplifting goodness that has made this musical such a runaway hit.
Maureen Lee Lenker, Entertainment Weekly: I can't imagine a musical we need more right now than Come From Away. In a time rife with division and tragedies that regularly leave people wrestling with grief, loss, and the capacity for human cruelty, Come From Away is a show about the innate goodness of humanity. Its ensemble structure helps express a message of togetherness and kindness rather than one of individual achievement and exceptionalism. The selflessness demonstrated by the people of Gander - and the warm temporary community built by the townspeople and the stranded passengers - will leave a lump in your throat.
Jay Barmann, 7x7: Each actor plays at least three or four characters in the show, if not more, though most are identified with one particular person either from the island or from one of the planes. The vocal gymnastics they each must do, toggling between accents both foreign and domestic (and Newfoundlander), is astonishing-never mind that there are a half-dozen standbys on the tour, each of whom has to know four or five of these multi-faceted roles at once. I saw one on opening night, Marika Aubrey, in the role of "Hannah and others," and there was no sense at all that she hadn't gone on every night.
Michael Quintos, BroadwayWorld: Mixed in with moments of light comedy and smile-inducing sweetness are vulnerable, heartbreaking scenes that remind us also about the unbelievable real horrors that exist in our world that test our resolve and, in some, encourage swift heroism and good will. It is in this refreshing display of unabashed kindness and neighborly hospitality that elevates COME FROM AWAY from being just another run-of-the-mill musical, but, rather, into one marked by quiet but impactful power.
Tom Titus, Daily Pilot: While "Come From Away" leans more toward character development than musicality, Ian Eisendrath's orchestra sets a joyous tone, particularly during the full ensemble numbers. Conflict, normally a prime ingredient, is kept to a minimum as the show stresses kindness and humanity in adverse times. What disagreements surface are minor as both factions strive for understanding and amity. "Come From Away" is as inspirational a musical as you're likely to find under the most dire of conditions. It's a memorable moment at the Segerstrom Center.
Krista Garver, BroadwayWorld: Although I was excited to finally see this show, I admit that I expected it to be cheesy. But, it wasn't at all. Sankoff and Hein managed to create a show that's inspirational without being over-sentimental, funny without being irreverent, and uplifting without downplaying the gravity of the context.
Julia Silverman, PDX Parent: Perhaps the very best parts of the show, though, are the group numbers, particularly the joyous "Screech In" which stopped the show. The song tells the story of the night that everyone - visitors and guests alike - needed to blow off some steam after days of staring bleakly at the news. A Newfoundland rite of passage/initiation ritual unfolded, complete with kissing of a live cod, a shot of the local witches' brew and the donning of a bright yellow, broad-brimmed rain hat. The music is infectious; the dancing makes you want to get up and join the jig.
Jerry Wasserman, Vancouver Sun: Becky Gulsvig is outstanding as American Airlines pilot Beverley. She sings the show's best song and only solo, a feminist anthem about becoming America's first civilian female captain that morphs into a lament about the horror of 9/11. All the actors have their individual moments. But the greatest strength of the production is its ensemble. Like the story itself, it shows what can be accomplished when people put individual egos aside and work together.
Mark Robins, Vancouver Presents: What really makes Come From Away sing though is in the genuine way in which the creators present the material. Yes, there is a certain sentimentality to it, but it benefits from a unique view into a catastrophic event which, though of a global impact, largely affected the United States. While definitely patriotic, it skirts a potential jingoistic sensibility from this Canadian perspective. Unafraid to go a little deep where necessary, there is a feeling of hope that permeates the entire proceedings, without having to rely on even a whiff of schmaltz.
Dustin Cook, Edmonton Journal: Having seen an incarnation of the show with the original cast before heading to Broadway, this cast's connection with the audience only faltered slightly, with a valiant effort to keep up the high pace. Some of the vocals struggled in challenging bits while fighting with a fluctuating sound mix. Where the show really excels is the seamless transitions between scenes (through Kelly Davine's musical staging), sometimes moving from a plane to Tim Hortons with just the use of 12 chairs and a few tables. The rustic wood set by Beowulf Boritt, surrounded by trees as hiding spots for the vibrant on-stage band, remains stagnant. The quick-moving stage magic is guided by powerful and ever-changing lighting (by Howell Blinkley) used to keep the audience in a state of flux, not knowing where the next turn will go.
Vicki Trask, BroadwayWorld: There is something about this show that feels like coming home. Something so distinctly Canadian - something that is still in so many people's hearts. I walked out of the theatre almost giddy from holding my breath for 100 minutes. All of the laughter and tears stirred me to my feet in praise of this show and everyone involved. It is an all-out emotional journey.
Louis B. Hobson, Calgary Herald: Believe everything you've read and heard about Come From Away the musical by Canadian husband and wife team of David Hein and Irene Sankoff. It really is a big, brash, boisterous, uplifting, life-affirming night out at the theatre. You may not leave the Jubilee Auditorium humming any of its tunes but you most certainly will be recalling some of its comic zingers and gentle pathos.
Christine Swerczek, BroadwayWorld: Besides being a fantastic story (and it's a true story!), everything about this show is sublime. The music by a top notch 8 piece orchestra including some instruments I am unfamiliar with such as uilleann pipes, bouzouki, and bodhran. The musicians are so good that the audience remained in place on their feet clapping along to the Irish influence music well after the show ended.
Warren Gerds, WFRV Local 5: There is only one full-through, one-story song in the show, "Me and the Sky," with Becky Gulsvig resonating as she unfolds the life of the determined pioneering pilot Beverley Bass. The other songs are multi-colored as they reveal perspectives of many people caught in overwhelming circumstances. The music captures the essence of the Gander region, too - a rainbow of folk music colors. Creators Irene Sankoff and David Hein do a beautiful job all around. Tuesday's outburst at end - a kind of release from the waves of information and emotions - was followed by the band continuing to unleash a festive tune. Very life-affirming.
Ted Hoover, Pittsburgh Current: Now the first national tour is in town and it's very easy to understand why it's become such a personal favorite for so many people. Come From Away manages to be heartfelt without ever being calculating and life affirming without ever making you want to throw up. With fluid and fleet direction by Christopher Ashley on Beowulf Boritt's stunning set, this is a piece of organic theater growing from one moment to the next, seemingly without design. It's only at the end do you suddenly realize the emotional depth that's been excavated.
John Harding, DC Metro Theatre Arts: Come From Away is the ultimate ensemble show, with a handful of performers bringing to life the play's wide array of characters. The touring cast has been chosen more for versatility than star power, though all are fetching singers who do themselves and their show proud. There's something fundamentally spiritual about a true story given its full human voice. Like Titanic and Ragtime before it, Come From Away introduces us to a large cast of souls choosing love over fear. The heroic act of hospitality that occurred in Newfoundland in 2001 lives on now as an inspired and inspiring night of musical theater.
Christopher Arnott, Hartford Courant: If you had understood the sets and staging of "Come From Away" to be sparse and simple - "12 people, two tables, 12 chairs" comes up a lot in descriptions - you will be pleased to learn that that is kind of a crock. The show is teeming with technical surprises. There are hidden doors, a revolving floor, a sweet starlit night effect and unexpected props like a shopping cart and a pile of boxes. The show easily fills the large Bushnell stage. One imagines truly sparse productions in this show's future, once it trickles down to small theaters, which will adore it. Seeing it now gives you the bonus of a spectacular design and marvelous mood-setting lighting.
Nancy Sasso Janis, Patch: I loved everything about this unique performance and I came away feeling uplifted, despite the subject matter of the tragedy of 9/11. I did not anticipate being affected so much by the memories of that awful time that are still vivid in my mind, but it ultimately added to the experience of the show. There was a surprising amount of gentle humor that perfectly lightened the tone of the performance presented without an intermission.
Kelsey Lawler, BroadwayWorld: Though panic, sadness, and uncertainty are felt in Come From Away, there's very little all-out gloom. Rather, this is a story that celebrates the best of humanity and how, in a time of crisis, we have the capacity to come together as friends and neighbors above all else. One line in the show reflects on 9/11 with a simple truth: "So many stories gone just like that." Come From Away preserves one such story - a story that's uplifting and deeply worthy of its musical retelling.
Gwen Rice, OnMilwaukee: While there's no title role, there are definite stand-out performances, and some characters' stories cut deeper than others. Becky Gulsvig brings a cool head and no-nonsense approach to the plum role of Beverley Bass, an actual American Airlines pilot who landed in Gander on 9/11. A petite blonde, when Gulsvig dons a pilot's cap and jacket, she is a commanding presence, doing her job to protect her plane, her passengers and her crew. Phoning her family back home and reminiscing about how she learned to fly, Gulsvig also mines Captain Bass's more sensitive side. She absolutely nails her anthem, "Me and the Sky," generously filling low notes and adding a playful Texas twang to those above the scale. Her other primary character, Annette, is a teacher at Gander Academy who has read one too many romance novels. With an entirely different spirit, Gulsvig goes all aflutter when fantasizing about many of the male "come from aways."
Lindsey Anderson, Milwaukee Magazine: The songs are similarly bouncy and energetic, for the most part, with the earnest and expansive opening number, "Welcome to the Rock," setting the tone for the rest of the show. A few of the slower numbers near the end of the show, most notably "Me and the Sky" and "Something's Missing," are standouts too, though. And audiences are all but guaranteed to find themselves clapping along to the finale. Ultimately, like Dowdeswell's message to the audience on Tuesday, this play is a touching reminder that - regardless of how divisive our world today has become - there are still more good people in it than bad, and we can still lean on our friends and neighbors in times of need.
Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Ashley brings such directorial imagination to the show that it's well worth seeing just for his striking stage pictures. And his vision is perfectly complemented by the contributions of scenic designer Beowulf Boritt and lighting designer Howell Binkley. A hit on Broadway, "Come From Away" doesn't quite live up to its hype. But it's an engaging, big-hearted musical that addresses the aftermath of an unspeakable tragedy with the proper reverence.
Tara Bennett, BroadwayWorld: However, it is the stories the characters tell that are the heart of this production. They are engrossing, bringing feelings of wonderment, anger, loss, love, and community. Though met with moments of heartache, fear, and uncertainty, this musical is not made of doom and gloom. Instead, it is filled with many resounding laughs while also serving as a look into the enduring spirit of humanity and creating connections that will last for a lifetime. COME FROM AWAY is more than a story about being stuck in a strange land. It's a beautiful affirmation of generosity.
Theodore P. Mahne, NOLA.com: There's not anything flashy about the show, with a simple set in which locations are suggested primarily by a few chairs and lighting shifts. Nevertheless, "Come From Away" draws the audience convincingly into its world with a warm hug, which needs nothing more than the hospitable spirit that it honors.
Carolan Trbovich, BroadwayWorld: The thing I liked most about this production is that no one character upstaged any other. Their stories were the focus. They were all excellent. This cast kept the energy level high and respectfully toned when more dramatic scenes required some refinement. Those playing the townspeople displayed a balance compassion and humor in the sweetest way. Everyone's singing, dancing and acting abilities were put to the test and they all came from away to bring this brilliant staging to life.
Seth Kubersky, Orlando Weekly: The real star of this show is Christopher Ashley, a director previously best known for comedic camp like Xanadu and The Rocky Horror Show, who here handles potentially disastrous subject matter with subtle grace and sensitivity. Along with Kelly Devine's genius gesture-based musical staging, Ashley transforms Beowulf Boritt's deceptively minimalist set - which consists of literal lighting trees surrounding simple straight-backed chairs - into a swirling whirlpool of locations and characters, flowing seamlessly from the first foot-stomp to lighting designer Howell Binkley's final razor-sharp blackout.
Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel: It's not uncommon to be moved to tears when reflecting on the events of 9-11, but more often than not the tears fall from sadness. The brilliance of "Come From Away" is that when you reach for the Kleenex, the tears are not only for what was lost but, as the show puts it, what was found: In the darkest of times, the best of humanity will still shine.
Cristina Pla-Guzman, BroadwayWorld: Every piece of this masterful production was perfectly crafted. Come From Away features a book, music and lyrics by Olivier, Drama Desk & Outer Critics Circle Award winners and Grammy & two-time Tony Award nominees winners Irene Sankoff & David Hein, direction by Tony Award winner & Outer Critics Circle Award winner Christopher Ashley, musical staging by Olivier Award winner and two-time Tony Award nominee Kelly Devine, and music supervision by Olivier Award winner and Grammy Award nominee Ian Eisendrath.
Bill Hirschman, Florida Theater Onstage: The tour is not noticeably different from the New York production. But that's not a bad thing. If you've haven't seen it, this is what people were and still rave about. If you have seen it, this is one of the few productions worth seeing again to recapture that vibe - with no worry about being disappointed by a watered-down tour's production values. It's coming to the Broward Center and Kravis Center next season. That's not a reason not to see it at the Arsht. It just means you can see it yet again. We will.
Manning Harris, Atlanta INtown Paper: What effect do you think the performance of this show has on an audience? If the Fox's first night is any indication, the answer is-close to ecstasy. You may wonder how a story with a background of such horror can succeed as a musical. I could answer that it's the music, mixing pop, rock and folk: It snaps and crackles and is sung brilliantly by the cast, accompanied by a crack eight-member onstage band.
Wendell Brock, AJC: The musical unfolds like a brisk ride on a speeding jet. We zoom back in time to a day the world stopped, then hold our breaths to see what's next. In moments of such darkness, all differences vaporize, and we find our common humanity. "Come From Away" is the equivalent of a warm hug on a grim day. Out of something horrible, something beautiful was born.
Roy Berko, BroadwayWorld: Come From Away" is a special musical that creatively tells a heart-wrenching story of compassion, caring and a display of the best of humanity with humor and pathos. It makes for one of those special moments in the theater. The touring production is beyond excellent and is an absolutely must see!!
Lawrence Bommer, Stage and Cinema: Superbly shaped by director Christopher Ashley, the national tour, now playing Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre, features eighteen sterling performers from inside out. With care to spare, they dig into the clever lyrics and irresistible melodies of 15 storytelling songs. Watching this priceless ensemble instantly switch roles from coping locals to befuddled outsiders until both sides bond - it's a joy to take home and cherish.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: "Come From Away" is an ensemble piece; you meet the mayor of Gander, the police chief, a local reporter, air traffic controllers and so on, as well as marooned airline passengers from around the world. Each of the dozen actors plays several roles. But the pilot is as close to a lead character as the show affords and Gulsvig beautiful combines dramatic tension with big-hearted vulnerability. It's a gorgeous piece of acting and, alongside the work of Megan McGinnis, anchors this production.
Courtney Castelino, BroadwayWorld: The cast has an energy that is palpable and enhanced through the music. No one character is more important than another and to reinforce this, the entire cast appeared together at the curtain call to a well-deserved standing ovation.
Lynn Saxberg, Ottawa Citizen: In the end, the real star of Come From Away is the townspeople of Gander, who sprang into action to make the visitors welcome during the crisis, demonstrating a level of hospitality and empathy that's well worth a musical celebration. Yes, the world changed on 9/11, but this show provides a reminder that humans can still make it a better place.
Stefani Chudnow, BroadwayWorld: As said earlier, I could talk forever about all the things I loved about Come From Away. Ultimately, everyone should experience it for themselves and develop their own opinions since every person has a different connection to 9/11. As a result, each audience member will leave feeling a different way about this event that's been a cornerstone of American culture for the past 18 years.
Dana Casadei, Revue: While Come From Away is full of laughter and light and so much heart, it doesn't ease up on the fact that the world did change after 9/11. People's views of others switched drastically and fear seemed to be lurking around every corner. But musicals like this - that showcase real people from a small Canadian town who took in thousands of complete strangers, into their homes and their schools and their ice rinks with open arms - also shows that in times of tragedy can come the best of humanity. No agenda, no "what will I get out of this," but people truly coming together and embracing those around them in any way possible. And the musical does that in such a way that by the end of the show, you might feel like an islander too.
Anne Simendinger, BroadwayWorld: I walked out of the theatre with newfound hope in humanity, remembering that there is goodness and kindness in the world if we are just willing to open our arms to people. There was not a single moment of hesitation from the Newfoundlanders when they were called upon to help. People opened up their homes and their hearts, and though it took a while from the passengers, they were eventually met and rewarded with beautiful, new relationships that will last and have meaning for many, many years.
Michael Rabice, BroadwayWorld: Andrew Samonsky stands out with a star presence as Kevin T, as a gay man from Los Angeles who is traveling with his boyfriend Kevin J (Nick Duckart). Mr Samonsky has a charismatic swagger and gorgeous voice, highlighted best in "Prayer." This emotional song included the tune prayer of St. Francis but merges with multiple other religious tunes, underscoring the amount of multi-national praying that occurred during the 5 days that Gander was taken over. Mr. Duckart is appropriately bitchy in his portrayal of the Kevin J., but also does fine work playing Ali, the Muslim passenger who is on one of the planes and is ostracized.
John Szablewski, Buffalo Theatre Guide: The show is an ensemble piece, where the actors seamlessly portray numerous characters. Newfoundlanders, Plane People, and other characters are all present in this story. The actors are so incredibly talented, and they give this story their absolute all. To name anyone specifically would be a disservice to the entire cast because each one of them is just absolutely captivating. It is also great to see a veteran cast of all shapes and sizes. This isn't one of these shows where the cast is young, ripped, and all similar. This cast is full of character actors who give strong and enjoyable performances. I could watch them perform all day.
John Timpane, The Philadelphia Inquirer: Come from Away is a gem. Some dancing is ragged, but that seems to fit, and if we see signs of fatigue, well, the show is about halfway through a 65-stop haul that began in Seattle and is scheduled to end in Chicago next September. It has been remarkably successful already, having recouped its investment after only 19 weeks on the road. I bet word of mouth is involved. This is not just a feel-good romp: This is a real-life story of our best arising from our worst.
Alix Rosenfeld, Broad Street Review: The actors are all magnificent, speaking to the family feeling that they've strived to create. But especially glittering are Christine Toy Johnson as Diane, a middle-aged woman who finds love in British businessman Nick (Chamblee Ferguson) while grounded in Canada; and Danielle K. Thomas, who plays a mother waiting to hear the fate of her son, a firefighter in New York City.
Jan Nargi, BroadwayWorld: COME FROM AWAY is a breath of fresh air fusing humor and pathos within a story that is almost too astounding to be believed. It reminds us with overwhelming good will that simple acts of kindness and compassion can end up being heroic and life changing. It also reminds us that when we pull together, we have the power to overcome unbearable darkness. Mayor Claude says he believes in America. May he be an inspiration to us all.
Don Aucoin, The Boston Globe: Throughout "Come From Away,'' the musical staging (by Kelly Devine) is efficient but expressive. Whether stomping in place or striding across the stage, the cast is in constant, vigorous motion. It feels authentic to who the townspeople and the passengers are, to the upheaval they're going through, and to their need, in the face of a nightmare, to do something.
Colin Fleming-Stumpf, BroadwayWorld: It can't be overstated just how critically important shows like Come From Away are right now, given the divisiveness and polarization that we're all currently engulfed in every day. Rather than turn a cold shoulder and retreat to the safety of their homes, the people of Gander showed compassion and love during a time of terror and darkness despite differences in culture, national origin, religion and lifestyle. Rather than the millionth jukebox musical or movie adaptation, I sincerely hope Broadway producers find more opportunities to bring shows like Come From Away to audiences, because they're so tremendously needed.
Perhaps the best thing about this production is Beowulf Boritt's stunning set of towering tree trunks and a few bits of mismatched furniture. And I'll throw in the soaring anthem "Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere," at the conclusion of the show, the one memorable tune of the evening. Otherwise, "Come From Away," in town through Sunday, is a fragmented, skin-deep account of an event of unspeakable suffering. Rather than anguish, writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein opt for tired jokes and comfortable clichés to recount this dark moment in our history.