Is Broadway Ready for a 9/11 Musical?

Chris Peterson

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This past week, it was announced that the musical Come From Away, will open on Broadway in February of 2017. 

The show is based on the true story of when the isolated community of Gander, Newfoundland played host to the world. What started as an average day in a small town turned in to an international sleep-over when 38 planes, carrying thousands of people from across the globe, were diverted to Gander’s air strip on September 11, 2001. 

The show has received exceptional word of mouth from its performances in CT, Los Angeles and Seattle. But I have to wonder, how well is this going to play in New York? 

While there certainly have been plays in the past that either centered on or around the events of 9/11, none of them have had run on Broadway. Also most 9/11 themed material aren't usually commercially successful. Films like World Trade Center and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close are good examples of how audiences usually feel about reliving that day. 

While some might think the piece is exploitative of the events of that day, according to critics, that's not the case at all. Misha Berson of the Seattle Times wrote, 

“Come From Away” merits a broad audience for its thoughtful, unsplashy depiction of the kindness of strangers — strangers who become friends, and when thanked modestly reply, “You’d do the same for me.”

But regardless of the tone or content of the piece, for some, this is already creating an uneasy taste. I've heard from a couple of readers, one of which lost a family member in the attacks. They said, 

"It's going to be uneasy to see a story about bunch of people laughing, dancing and falling in love at a time while here in New York, smoke was still coming out of Ground Zero and we were searching for loved ones." 

No matter how positive the message is, bringing as show like this to New York is a tremendous risk. But I believe it's a risk worth taking. Shows like this, coming to the locations where the events took place, can be a tool for healing and understanding. The Laramie Project performed in Laramie, WY. Allegiance performed in CA where so many Japanese Americans were removed from their homes. And Come From Away should come to New York

I'm sure this show will generate a lot of discussion, on both sides, as we get closer to its opening. We'll see what happens in  February 2017 when Come From Away opens.