Come From Away

By Joanna Langfield

As nicely staged and well intentioned as it is, I just can’t feel good about this feel good 9/11 musical.

The popular, acclaimed theatrical hit looks at one of the worst days in modern history through the prism of the events in Newfoundland, when some 7,000 people were grounded mid flight in the small town of Gander. God bless the natives, who went all out to care for the stranded, terrified travelers. And in this telling, we see how the locals and their wards made it though the few days together, with compassion, laughs (yes, laughs) and even newfound love.

The filmed version of the show, which is just opening again on Broadway, after being shuttered by another international crisis, is debuting on Apple TV+, in salute to the 20th anniversary of the horrifying tragedy. In an ironic twist, the live performance we see on film was filmed during the pandemic, in front of a live audience of 9/11 survivors as well as front-line workers. There’s no opening up of the piece, what we see is what that audience got. And they, along with myriad others, seemed to love it.

But I continue to be nagged by the incessant positivity, the peek of good cheer in the ongoing face of what was the unthinkable. Maybe showing the bright side can teach us something. But has it? Taking a lesson from our generous neighbors, have we learned to greet strangers with open hearts? Do we spontaneously give them food, shelter and the clothes off our backs? Do we look at our fellow countrymen with kindness, camaraderie? Or are we satisfied enough to watch this for a bit and then get on with whatever, this warm hug of a musical, packaged like a happy meal, just a nice diversion for an hour or two?