Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

December 22, 2022

Review: The Bushnell, "Come From Away"

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through December 24, 2022
by Shera Cohen

Photo by Matthew Murphy
Many theatergoers have never heard of the musical "Come From Away," even fewer know the plot, and less recognize the names of Irene Sankoff and David Hein (book, music & lyrics). Until a couple of years ago, I was in this large group. At the very least, I should have known that this piece of theatre had deservedly won numerous awards.

To correct my error by taking the time for a drive to Hartford and back, to spend nearly-two hours to watch this musical, took a lot of coaxing. At the time, I said, "Okay, since none of our writers have the time to review, the burden falls on me".

This long preface to an actual review is to say, that I was wrong...very wrong. "Come From Away" shoots to close to the top of my list of favorite musicals; and I have seen well over 100. This is an amazing, fictionalized true story and production of the most spirited, heart-felt, melodic, passionate, boisterous, and endearing pieces of theatre. Whew, I think I have run out of adjectives. 

It was September 11, 2001. All of us knew exactly where we were. Yet nearly 7,000 of passengers on dozens of airplanes throughout the world didn't know what happened on this horrific date, let alone where they were. A small town in Newfoundland, Gander, instantly became the unexpected way-station for these thousands of people heading to their respective homes. For several days, the population of Gander doubled in size. Where to put all so many bewildered and scared people? Where would they sleep? How long would they be here?

The folk of Gander literally rolled up their sleeves, instantly coming to the rescue. The cast of 12, each taking double or triple roles, is the epitome of ensemble acting. All voices were to perfection in nearly every music genre. The richness of humanity and kindness at its best is the core of "Come From Away".

Unique is the choreography, especially when the cast is simply seated in wooden chairs replicating airplane seats. This is no spoiler; the finale shouts out a regional hoot'nany with the entire band on stage along with the dancing actors, reveling in the miracle of Gander.

"Come From Away" ends its run in Hartford on December 24th; just in time for Christmas. Joy, hope, and camaraderie describe this piece of humanity, made more poignant because it depicts an honest point in human history.