After seeing Come From Away, I've been asking friends to help me try to describe how good it is.
A friend who saw it said: "I've been telling my friends about it, and I'm trying to make them see it next week. I described it as the best show I've ever seen, and I've seen Hamilton."
I found myself in full agreement. I saw Hamilton when it came through town earlier this year, after listening to the soundtrack for years. No one was more excited to see Hamilton than I was. And Hamilton was good—don't get me wrong—but Come from Away is better.
"Saw you from a distance last night at Come From Away," a different friend texted the morning after opening night. "I was very moved! I started crying in the first song."
I didn't start crying during the first song—I'm not that bad—but if I saw the show a second time, I probably would start crying during the first song, just knowing how good everything was about to be.
The script, music, and lyrics are by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. The writing is unbelievably vivid, concise, and funny. Twelve actors play a whole bunch of different characters. All they have to work with are 12 chairs onstage that they move into different configurations, plus fantastic choreography. I can tell I'm already losing you. This doesn't sound like it could be that good. But it's so unbelievably good.
"I was impressed by the fact that the actors played multiple characters without you ever being lost," said the friend I took to the show, a dancer and performance artist. With reference to the fact that it's a musical about 9/11—specifically, it's about a town at the farthest tip of North America where tons of planes that were in the sky that day got diverted to, a tiny town that suddenly had to deal with a huge influx of people from all over the world—she added: "Subject matter sounded possibly depressing but was quite funny at times and ultimately uplifting. A good reminder of what it means to be part of human fucking kind."
She also said, "I loved the gestural movement, especially the piece where they were all stuck in the plane," and the scene of air traffic controllers sitting in front of computer screens, trying to solve the puzzle of fitting as many planes as possible on the landing strip.
"The sparseness of it all was just a template for how amazing those actors were and a reminder than you can do a lot with a little love in this godless world."
Since opening night at the 5th Avenue Theatre was also the first performance of Come From Away's national tour, there was a surprise at curtain call. The real-life people whom the characters were based on came out of the wings and embraced the actors who played them. That's when I started crying.