During the time of September 11th, 2001, so many people came together to support and care for others who were coping with grief, fear, confusion, and loss. A great example of strong and inspiring people were the residents of the small town of Gander in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. During that time of the terror attacks, they welcomed over 7,000 stranded travelers into their homes till it was safe to go back up in the air again.
Years later, their story has been told into a powerful, groundbreaking, and moving Broadway musical which is expecting to return when Live Theater comes back in 2021. It's the Award winning Come From Away. The show features an original score and book by real life married couple themselves…. Irene Sankoff and David Hein.
It was first conceived by Lawyer and Theater producer Michael Rubinoff. He was inspired by the story of how the entire community of Gander, Newfoundland welcomed the stranded passengers into their homes during September 11th, 2001 for a whole week till it was safe to go back up into the air. He tried to pitch the idea to many numerous Canadian musical theatre writers to no avail. Luckily at the same time in 2009, an new original musical entitled My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding just opened. It was getting lot of buzz from the Toronto Fringe Festival and was transferred to the Panasonic Theatre. Rubinoff got the autobiographical musical’s composing husband and wife duo Irene Sankoff and David Hein on board for the new musical. From there, the team went straight to work. In 2011, Sankoff and Hein traveled to Gander, Newfoundland on the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. There, they got to meet and interview many of the locals and the passengers that were stranded (who returned for the Anniversary) to share their stories and experiences on what was it like during the long week of the most difficult time in world history. The couple took many of the stories turning them directly into music while others were merged for story purposes. From there, the show went on to be developed for 3 1/2 years, Many readings and workshops for the show were done through the The Canadian Music Theatre Project at Sheridan College, Goodspeed Musicals, and the National Alliance for Musical Theatre.
It officially had its world premiere engagements in 2015 playing Seattle, Washington at both the The 5th Avenue Theatre and the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Both runs earned critical praise and extensions. From there, the show embarked for a pre-Broadway tour in the Fall of 2016. The Pre-Broadway tour played engagements at the Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. and the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, The Toronto engagement sold out by the 2nd week of performances selling over selling $1.7 million in tickets in a single week.
The company also performed a special benefit concert version in the actual town of Gander at the Steele Community Centre as a tribute to the inspirational people there. Many of the residents and the passengers who were grounded during that crazy time were an emotional mess to hear their stories told by performers.
From there, the show officially made its way to the Great Bright Way playing the Gerald Schonefeld Theatre where it was still playing to packed houses 8 times a week before Live Theater was shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the direction of Christopher Ashley, the cast was led by….
Tony nominee Chad Kimball as "Garth", "Kevin Tuerff", and others,
Joel Hatch as "Claude Elliott" and others,
Rodney Hicks (later and now De'Lon Grant) as "Bob" and others,
Caesar Samayoa as "Ali", "Kevin Jung" and others,
Kendra Kassebaum (later Alex Finke, Emily Walton, and currently Pearl Sun) as "Janice Mosher" and others,
Petrina Bromley as "Bonnie Harris" and others,
Geno Carr (later and now Paul Whitty) as "Oz Fudge" and others,
Lee MacDougall (later and now Jim Walton) as "Doug", "Nick Marson" and others,
Q. Smith (later and now Kenita R. Smith) as "Hannah O'Rourke" and others,
Sharon Donaldson-Wheatley as "Diane Gray" and others,
and Astrid Van Wieren as "Beulah Davis" and others.
COME FROM AWAY went on to be nominated for 7 Tony Awards in 2017. It took home only 1 for Best Direction of a Musical (for Christopher Ashley).
With the success of Broadway, COME FROM AWAY continues to move audiences everywhere. It's currently a worldwide phenomenon. Productions are currently being performed all over including….
a sit-down company in Toronto (which the producers planned immediately following the closing of the Pre-Broadway run there),
on Tour all across North America,
in London's West End (where it took home the Olivier Awards for Best New Musical),
How powerful and inspiring is this musical?!!
Who is planning to see it when Broadway returns in 2021?!!