New York City's Broadway is a place theater-lovers flock to from around the world, to see the best and brightest put on a show. The circumstances that brought the world to Gander, Newfoundland in 2001 were radically different. In "Come From Away," tragedy becomes art, as the best of humanity comes alive in a surprisingly-vibrant matter, considering the subject. The short, sweet Musical is one of the best to hit the stage in recent years.

About the musical

"Come From Away" was first workshopped and produced by Canada's Sheridan College in 2013. After traveling to the west coast of the United States, Washington D.C., and Toronto, it finally made landfall on Broadway on March 12, 2017.

The musical tells the true story of what happened north of the border following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Thirty-eight planes were forced to land in Newfoundland after United States airspace was shut down. For days, strangers united in a country that didn't have to be hospitable and certainly wasn't prepared to be from a resource standpoint. But people's lives forever changed that day - both in Canada and America.

Away we go

The set design of the play is the first thing people notice when sitting down at "Come From Away." The stage has chairs and tables, but the most recognizable feature is the trees that line the divider between the stage and the side stage. It's very understated, with the trees looking as natural as the timber in Newfoundland (one would imagine).

Once the show begins, audience members need to quickly grow accustomed to the fact that every actor is playing several characters, primarily one from the town and one from a stranded airplane. The magic of Broadway can be confusing, especially with the dueling narratives over the first third of the plane, but it's essential to show that the people are no different from one another.

But once the stage is set - with some people aware of what happened in the world and some not - the show begins to fly. The warmth in "Come From Away" emanates from all sides, with the "plane people" trying to be patient and learning, while the Gander population works around the clock to cater to everyone's needs, from joy to religion to somebody to joke with.

"Come From Away" is a true ensemble piece, a rarity for Broadway. There's no clear star to the show, yet nobody is letting down the rest of the cast either. Even during a Sunday matinee, there was no let-up, leading to a necessary standing ovation after the show.

The best part of the show is that it jam packs a lot of emotion into a very short period. "Come From Away" is only about an hour and a half long, with no intermission (and no Act Two dropoff). Yet there are plenty of opportunities to laugh, cry, think, and smile. It never feels like actors on a stage - it feels like family members and people you see performing at your neighborhood grocery.

The integration of the orchestra into the show is also unique.

During a song-and-dance number in a Canadian pub, most of the band make their way on to the stage to perform and interact with the townspeople and visitors effortlessly. Most shows need the orchestra, but not on stage. In this show, it again shows the depth of humanity and how everyone can be linked together.

Where it lacks

First and foremost, "Come From Away" is a musical. The music from the show isn't bad by any means. But there are no songs worth singing as one leaves the theater, or a soundtrack worth purchasing. The music works within the bounds of the show, then becomes forgettable.

Additionally, there's only one standout number, told from the point of view of a pilot. The song isn't one of the better ones - while the tune works, the repeated use of the word "suddenly" to start every phrase gets old.

Additionally, there just didn't need to be a song like that, which interrupted the momentum of the show.

The political commentary is also heavy-handed. It's not a surprise that Broadway would want to highlight human rights issues - some would even declare it the mission of theater. But the suspicion surrounding a Muslim character from Egypt (who unsurprisingly doesn't turn out to be a threat) felt forced. That may certainly have been a fear in the wake of 9/11, but it just felt out of place, even if it fit in the show's ultimate messaging.

Final thoughts

"Come From Away" does it all. It draws laughs, tears, cheers. Above all, it promotes a message of tolerance and humanity at a time when we all really need it.

There's nothing wrong with a Broadway showing heart above star power and pizzazz. Tackling September 11th is a near-impossible task, especially in New York City. The tact and grace shown here, however, should make this one of the defining pieces of art when looking back at that pivotal moment in history.

Rating: A