Come From Away, the little show that shrunk

An intermission was axed, songs were cut, a new one was added and a Broadway hit was born. As the Canadian cast of Come From Away makes its Toronto premiere, we talk to the creators about how they made the final cut.

Sheridan Music Theatre Performance students in the 2013 production of Come From Away at Sheridan College. Photo Credit: John Jones (CNW Group/Sheridan College)

As a piece of musical theatre, Come From Away breaks a lot of rules.

By this point in the show’s extraordinary trajectory, the unlikely nature of its subject matter — the kind treatment of thousands of unexpected visitors by the residents of Gander, N.L., in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 — is well known. So is the fact that it’s based on real-life testimonies of people involved in these events.

On a formal level, too, Come From Away diverges from some musical theatre conventions, starting with its length. While there are notable exceptions (one being The Drowsy Chaperone, another Canadian-made hit), musicals tend to have a two-act structure. Come From Away runs in a single, 100-minute act.

And it’s also the case, as noted by director Christopher Ashley — who won a Tony Award for the show — that it has “no bad guy or central character.” Twelve actors switch back and forth between playing residents of Gander and the “plane people,” with no individual emerging as hero or villain.