Come from Away
|Come from Away|
|Productions||2013 Sheridan College|
2018 North American tour
2019 West End
|Awards||Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical|
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical
Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical
Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music
Come from Away is a Canadian musical with book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. It is set in the week following the September 11 attacks and tells the true story of what transpired when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small town of Gander in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon. The characters in the musical are based on (and in most cases share the names of) real Gander residents as well as some of the 7,000 stranded travelers they housed and fed.
After being workshopped in 2012 and first produced at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, in 2013, it went on to have record-breaking runs at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, California, and the Seattle Repertory Theatre in 2015, at the Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., and the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto in 2016. It opened on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on March 12, 2017, and became a critical and box office success, routinely playing to standing-room-only audiences even during previews. In October 2018 it became the longest-running Canadian musical in Broadway history, surpassing The Drowsy Chaperone's previous record of 674 performances.
At the 71st Tony Awards in 2017, the musical was nominated for seven awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Jenn Colella, winning for Best Direction of a Musical for Christopher Ashley.
Inception and development
The idea for the show was first conceived by Michael Rubinoff, a Toronto lawyer, theatre producer, and Associate Dean of Visual and Performing Arts at Sheridan College in Oakville. After approaching various writing teams about the project, Rubinoff attracted Irene Sankoff and David Hein, whose work he knew from their 2009 musical My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding, which was a hit at the Toronto Fringe Festival and later picked up by Mirvish Productions.
In 2011, Sankoff and Hein visited Gander on the tenth anniversary of the attacks to interview locals and returning passengers. The couple translated some stories directly to the musical while others were merged for story purposes. Rubinoff used their initial script to produce a 45-minute workshop version for the Canadian Music Theatre Project, part of the Sheridan College Music Theatre Performance Program, in 2012. The workshop was sufficiently successful that Rubinoff invited Sankoff and Hein to finish writing it for a full production at Sheridan in 2013, as part of the college's regular theatrical season. The full production, directed by Brian Hill, was an artistic success, but Rubinoff was unable to attract a Canadian producer for further development.
In the meantime, Goodspeed Musicals of East Haddam, Connecticut, included the show in its workshop program. The National Alliance for Musical Theatre in New York selected it as a showcase presentation in fall 2013, where a performance, also directed by Brian Hill, led to the show being optioned by Junkyard Dog Productions, the production company behind Memphis and First Date.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the townsfolk of Gander (including Claude the mayor, Oz the police constable, Beulah the teacher, Bonnie the SPCA worker and others) describe life in Newfoundland and how they learn of the terrorist attacks taking place in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania ("Welcome to the Rock").
The attacks result in US airspace being closed, forcing 38 international aircraft to be diverted and land unexpectedly at the Gander airport, doubling the population of the small Newfoundland town, which is unequipped for the influx of stranded travelers ("38 Planes"). The Gander townspeople spring to action and prepare to house, feed, clothe, and comfort the nearly 7,000 passengers (along with 19 animals in cargo) ("Blankets and Bedding"). Meanwhile, the pilots, flight attendants and passengers are initially not permitted to leave the planes, forcing them to deal with confusing and conflicting information about what has happened and why they were suddenly grounded ("28 Hours / Wherever We Are").
Once allowed off the planes and transferred to various emergency shelters in and around Gander ("Darkness and Trees"), the passengers and crew watch replays of the attacks on the news and learn the true reason why they were grounded ("Lead Us Out of the Night"). The frightened and lonely passengers desperately try to contact their families and pray for their loved ones, while the townsfolk work through the night to help them in any and every way they can ("Phoning Home / Costume Party"). The travelers are initially taken aback by their hosts' uncommon hospitality, but they slowly let their guards down and begin to bond with the quirky townsfolk and each other. The "islanders" in Gander and the surrounding towns open up their homes to the "plane people", regardless of their guests' race, nationality or sexual orientation. Two women, Beulah (from Gander) and Hannah (from New York), bond over the fact that both of their sons are firefighters, but Hannah's son is missing ("I Am Here"). Hannah asks Beulah to take her to a Catholic church, and a number of characters make their way to other houses of worship around town ("Prayer").
To alleviate rising fear and mounting tensions ("On The Edge"), the passengers are invited to be initiated as honorary Newfoundlanders at the local bar ("Heave Away / Screech In"). The gravity of the attacks nevertheless continues to set in as US airspace is eventually reopened. One trailblazing pilot, Beverley Bass, comments on how her once optimistic view of the world has suddenly changed ("Me and the Sky"). While one pair of passengers starts to develop a romance despite the terrible thing that brought them together ("Stop the World"), another pair sees their long-term relationship fall apart under the stress of the event.
As the passengers and crew fly away to their homes, they joyously exchange stories of the immense kindness and generosity that was shown to them by the Newfoundland strangers in their time of need ("Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere"), but not before a Muslim traveler, faced with increasing prejudice from his fellow passengers, undergoes a humiliating strip search prior to boarding. The townsfolk in Gander return to normal life, but comment on how empty their town now seems and how different the world now feels. The passengers and airline staff who return to the United States are faced with the horror of the attacks' aftermath—including Hannah, who learns that her firefighter son lost his life during the rescue efforts ("Something's Missing").
Ten years later, the crew and passengers (the "come from away") of the once stranded planes reunite in Gander, this time by choice, to celebrate the lifelong friendships and strong connections they formed in spite of the terrorist attacks ("Finale"). As Claude the mayor professes, "Tonight we honour what was lost, but we also commemorate what we found."
Characters and casts
|North American tour
|Garth, Kevin Tuerff and others||Chad Kimball||Jack Noseworthy||Andrew Samonsky||David Shannon||Doug Hansell|
|Annette, Beverley Bass and others||Jenn Colella||Eliza-Jane Scott||Becky Gulsvig||Rachel Tucker||Zoe Gertz|
|Claude Elliott and others||Joel Hatch||George Masswohl||Kevin Carolan||Clive Carter||Richard Piper|
|Bob and others||Rodney Hicks||Kevin Vidal||James Earl Jones II||Nathanael Campbell||Kolby Kindle|
|Ali, Kevin Jung and others||Caesar Samayoa||Ali Momen||Nick Duckart||Jonathan Andrew Hume||Nicholas Brown|
|Janice Mosher and others||Allison Spratt Pearce||Kendra Kassebaum||Steffi DiDomenicantonio||Emily Walton||Emma Salvo||Sarah Morrison|
|Bonnie Harris and others||Petrina Bromley||Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan||Petrina Bromley||Kristen Peace||Megan McGinnis||Mary Doherty||Kellie Rode|
|Oz Fudge and others||Geno Carr||Eric Ankrim||Geno Carr||Cory O'Brien||Harter Clingman||Harry Morrison||Simon Maiden|
|Doug, Nick Marson and others||Lee MacDougall||James Kall||Chamblee Ferguson||Robert Hands||Nathan Carter|
|Hannah O'Rourke and others||Q. Smith||Saccha Dennis||Danielle K. Thomas||Cat Simmons||Sharriese Hamilton|
|Diane Gray and others||Sharon Wheatley||Barbara Fulton||Christine Toy Johnson||Helen Hobson||Katrina Retallick|
|Beulah Davis and others||Astrid Van Wieren||Lisa Horner||Julie Johnson||Jenna Boyd||Emma Powell|
Notable cast replacements
- Kevin T. and others: David Thaxton (from 9 September 2019)
- Beverley and others: Alice Fearn (from 10 February 2020)
- "Welcome to the Rock" – Claude, Company
- "38 Planes"† – Company
- "Blankets and Bedding" – Company
- "28 Hours / Wherever We Are" – Company
- "Darkness and Trees" – Company
- "On the Bus" – Company
- "Darkness and Trees (Reprise)"† – Company
- "Lead Us Out of the Night"† – Company
- "Phoning Home"† – Company
- "Costume Party" – Diane, Kevin T, Beverley, Hannah, Kevin J, Nick, Bob
- "I Am Here" – Hannah
- "Prayer" – Kevin T, Company
- "On the Edge" – Company
- "In the Bar/Heave Away"† – Company
- "Screech In" – Claude, Company
- "Me and the Sky" – Beverley, Female Ensemble
- "The Dover Fault" – Nick, Diane
- "Stop the World" – Nick, Diane, Company
- "38 Planes (Reprise) / Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere" – Beverley, Company
- "Something's Missing" – Company
- "Finale" – Claude, Company
- "Screech Out"† – Band
†Not listed on the show's Playbill.
|Production||Venue/Location||First Preview||Opening Night||Closing Night||Notes|
|San Diego||La Jolla Playhouse||May 29, 2015||June 13, 2015||July 12, 2015||Debut production. Out of town tryout.|
|Seattle||Seattle Repertory Theatre||November 13, 2015||November 18, 2015||December 20, 2015||Second out of town tryout.|
|Washington D.C.||Ford's Theatre||September 2, 2016||September 8, 2016||October 9, 2016||Third out of town tryout.|
|Gander||Steele Community Centre||N/A||October 29, 2016||October 29, 2016||Concert version prior to Broadway.|
|Toronto||Royal Alexandra Theatre||November 15, 2016||November 24, 2016||January 8, 2017||Fourth out of town tryout. Prior to Broadway.|
|Broadway (New York)||Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre||February 18, 2017||March 12, 2017||Currently running||First major production.|
|Canada||First venue: Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre Winnipeg.
Current venue: Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto.
|January 4, 2018||January 11, 2018||Currently running||
|North American tour||First venue: Capitol Theatre, Yakima, WA||October 5, 2018||October 14, 2018||Currently running|
|Dublin||Abbey Theatre||December 6, 2018||December 11, 2018||January 19, 2019||Transferred to London.|
|West End (London)||Phoenix Theatre||January 31, 2019||February 18, 2019||Currently running||It was announced on 2021-01-20 that the previously scheduled concert version of the musical has been cancelled.|
|Australia||Comedy Theatre||July 3, 2019||July 20, 2019||Currently running||The Australian production was supposed to tour China in 2020, but it has been postponed to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This production started performances in July 2019. It is scheduled to go to Brisbane in March 2021 and then transfer to Sydney in June 2021.|
The first professional production was a collaboration by the La Jolla Playhouse and Seattle Repertory Theatre in 2015. The play had extended runs in each location. The musical opened at the La Jolla Playhouse in June 2015, directed by Christopher Ashley and featuring Joel Hatch as the Mayor of Gander, Jenn Colella as Beverley, and Chad Kimball as Kevin. In Seattle, it broke all box office records (including highest grossing show and largest single ticket sales day) at Seattle Repertory Theatre.
Following its runs in San Diego and Seattle, the show played out-of-town engagements at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., from September 2, 2016, to October 9, 2016, and then at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, from November 15, 2016, to January 8, 2017. The entire run of the Toronto production sold out during its second week of performances. The show's ticket sales set a record for the then 109-year-old Royal Alex Theatre, selling $1.7 million in tickets in a single week. The show could not be extended due to its Broadway commitment but, as a result of the strong demand, Mirvish Productions announced on December 2, 2016, that it was adding an additional four box seats and 12 standing-room locations for the duration of the show. An additional show was also added on the evening of December 18, 2016.
The musical opened in previews on Broadway on February 18, 2017, and officially opened on March 12, 2017, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. The show has been playing to standing-room-only audiences. Direction is by Christopher Ashley, choreography by Kelly Devine, scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Gareth Owen, and music direction by Ian Eisendrath. The performance of March 15, 2017, on Broadway was attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (who addressed the audience before the show), other current and former Canadian federal politicians and provincial politicians from Newfoundland and Labrador, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and Ivanka Trump.
As of March 12, 2020, the show suspended production due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The show's production will be suspended until January 3, 2021, at the earliest. On October 9, 2020 the Broadway League announced that New York City theatres will remain closed until at least May 30, 2021.
Another Canadian production opened in a sold-out, four-week run in Winnipeg at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in January 2018. The production began performances at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto on February 13, 2018. The production recouped its full capitalization in 14 weeks. Due to continued demand, the show transferred to the nearby Elgin Theatre on February 5, 2019, after ending its run at the Royal Alexandra Theatre on January 20, 2019. During the hiatus, the cast performed eight benefit concerts of the show at the Holy Heart Theatre in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. The net proceeds from the performances were donated to Gander, Gambo, Appleton, Lewisporte, Norris Arm, and Glenwood, the six towns that hosted the 7,000 travellers. In addition, the money also went to the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Community Food Sharing Association. According to David Mirvish, the production had to move to the Elgin Theatre in order to accommodate the Canadian production of Dear Evan Hansen, which was promised the Royal Alexandra Theatre. On July 3, 2019, following the announced closure of Canadian production of Dear Evan Hansen, it was announced that Come from Away will transfer back to the Royal Alexandra Theatre on December 13, 2019. The production will close at the Elgin Theatre on December 1, 2019, in order to facilitate the move.
The musical started its North American tour of more than 50 cities in October 2018 at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, Washington.
The musical ran at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, from December 2018 to January 2019, before transferring to the Phoenix Theatre in London's West End from January 30, 2019, with a British cast.
An Australian production opened at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, in July 2019. The Australian Company will tour China, starting in Beijing from 23 to 26 April 2020. It is then to stop in Nanjing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Shenzhen, and one more location yet to be named. After the Australian Production finishes its China Tour, it will then transfer to Sydney; the cast is confident that the China Tour would be cancelled or postponed if there was danger posed by SARS-CoV-2. On 2 March 2020, it was announced that the Beijing and Nanjing stops would be cancelled likely due to SARS-CoV-2. Then on 9 March 2020, it was announced that the Chinese Tour would be postponed until 2022. Their Melbourne Fall Season was cut short due to SARS-CoV-2. It was revealed that there would be short encore in Melbourne in February 2021 before briefly stopping at Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane before transferring to Capitol Theatre in Sydney.
David Gerson with DC Metro Theatre Arts called the show "one of the most refreshing pieces of art that I have seen in years. The folk and country influenced pop score is tuneful and the cast sings the hell out of it." Peter Marks, in his review in The Washington Post, noted that the musical "stirs powerful memories of 9/11 ... if the book's mechanics unfold with too much sugar, the score has an infectious, gritty vitality: Especially good is a number set in a Gander pub, choreographed by Kelly Devine, during which a risibly nutty local initiation rite is performed, involving the embrace of a recently caught codfish."
Kelly Nestruck of The Globe and Mail wrote that "the heartwarming musical lives up to the hype" and that "the accessible story, strong emotional core and gorgeous songwriting should not distract from how original and smart this gem of a musical is." Robert Cushman of the National Post called the production "outstanding." Liz Braun of the Toronto Sun gave the show a perfect 5-star review, writing "Blame Canada: a grim day in American history has been transformed into a joyous and emotional musical about the indomitable human spirit." Alan Henry of Broadway World said "You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll be a better person when you leave the theatre. Don't miss 'Come From Away'."
Ben Brantley, chief theatre critic for The New York Times, wrote "Try, if you must, to resist the gale of good will that blows out of 'Come From Away,' the big bearhug of a musical that opened on Sunday night at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater. But even the most stalwart cynics may have trouble staying dry-eyed during this portrait of heroic hospitality under extraordinary pressure." He awarded the show the Critics' Pick designation, given to productions the critic believes have particular merit. Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News called the show "big-hearted and crowd-pleasing" and "a singing reminder that when things are at their worst, people can be at their best." Joe Westerfield with Newsweek wrote that "'Come From Away' accomplishes what all the best musicals do: It takes you to a place where you didn't know you wanted to go, and makes you not want to leave." Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter called the musical "heartwarming and thoroughly entertaining ... especially in these politically fractious times." Johnny Oleksinski with the New York Post wrote that "Every New Yorker must see this show", referring to the musical as "Broadway's biggest and best surprise of the season." Peter Marks of The Washington Post called the show "an effervescent musical" and "an antidote for what ails the American soul." Michael Dale of Broadway World called the show an "inspiring, funny and kick-ass beautiful new musical" and went on to say that "as long as 'Come From Away' is playing on Broadway, I will recommend it to everyone. Everyone." Steven Suskin, drama critic for The Huffington Post, wrote that "'Come From Away' is altogether different and altogether gripping, ... brave and new and unusual and overwhelmingly heart-tugging." Robert Kahn with NBC called the piece "a dignified, often funny new musical" which "find[s] a spiritual angle to a horrific story, depicting the goodness in humanity while still allowing us room for the feelings of loneliness and fear that will always be connected to that time." Jennifer Vanasco with WNYC called the show "a love letter – to Newfoundland, to New York, to what people can do if they set aside fear and hate. Don't miss it."
Awards and honors
Original Washington, D.C. production
|2017||Helen Hayes Awards||Outstanding Musical—HAYES Production||Won|
|Outstanding Direction of a Musical—HAYES Production||Christopher Ashley||Won|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical—HAYES Production||Jenn Colella||Won|
|Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan||Nominated|
|Astrid Van Wieren||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical—HAYES Production||Joel Hatch||Nominated|
|Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical—HAYES Production||Won|
|Outstanding Choreography, Musical—HAYES Production||Kelly Devine||Nominated|
|Outstanding Musical Direction—HAYES Production||Ian Eisendrath||Nominated|
|Outstanding Sound Design—HAYES Production||Gareth Owen||Nominated|
Original Broadway production
|2017||Tony Award||Best Musical||Nominated|
|Best Book of a Musical||Irene Sankoff and David Hein||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||Nominated|
|Best Featured Actress in a Musical||Jenn Colella||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design in a Musical||Howell Binkley||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Christopher Ashley||Won|
|Best Choreography||Kelly Devine||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Awards||Outstanding Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Jenn Colella||Won|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Christopher Ashley||Nominated|
|Outstanding Choreography||Kelly Devine||Nominated|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical||Irene Sankoff and David Hein||Won|
|Outstanding Orchestrations||August Eriksmoen||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design for a Musical||Toni-Leslie James||Nominated|
|Drama League Award||Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Production||Nominated|
|Outer Critics Circle Awards||Outstanding Broadway Musical||Won|
|Outstanding New Score (Broadway or Off-Broadway) (The Marjorie Gunner Award)||Irene Sankoff and David Hein||Nominated|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway)||Won|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Christopher Ashley||Won|
|Outstanding Choreographer||Kelly Devine||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Jenn Colella||Won|
|Outstanding Sound Design (Play or Musical)||Gareth Owen||Won|
|Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography||Outstanding Ensemble in a Broadway Show||Nominated|
|Outstanding Choreography in a Broadway Show||Kelly Devine||Nominated|
|Grammy Awards||Best Musical Theater Album||Ian Eisendrath, August Eriksmoen, David Hein, David Lai & Irene Sankoff (producers); David Hein & Irene Sankoff (composers/lyricists)||Nominated|
Original West End production
|2019||Laurence Olivier Award||Best New Musical||Won|
|Outstanding Achievement in Music||David Hein, Irene Sankoff, Ian Eisendrath, August Eriksmoen, Alan Berry and 'the band'||Won|
|Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical||Clive Carter||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical||Rachel Tucker||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design||Howell Binkley||Nominated|
|Best Sound Design||Gareth Owen||Won|
|Best Director||Christopher Ashley||Nominated|
|Best Theatre Choreographer||Kelly Devine||Won|
|Evening Standard Theatre Award||Best Musical||Nominated|
|2020||Critics' Circle Theatre Award||Best Musical||Won|
|Casting Directors' Guild Award||Best Casting in Musical Theatre||Pippa Ailion, Natalie Gallacher and Katherine Skene||Won|
Planned film adaptation
In November 2017, it was announced that The Mark Gordon Company would produce a feature film adaptation of the musical, with Sankoff and Hein writing the screenplay and Christopher Ashley as director. In an April 2019 interview, Sankoff and Hein stated that the intention was to film in Gander and cast lesser-known actors, with residents of Gander as film extras.
Live stage filming
On February 2, 2021, it was announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the film industry and the performing arts, the plans for the film adaptation were cancelled in favor of producing a live film recording of the stage production with the members of the Broadway cast reprising their roles, to be released in September 2021 on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It will be produced and financed by Entertainment One and RadicalMedia and filmed in May 2021 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater with Ashely directing and Gordon still attached as producer. Joining the producing team are Jennifer Todd, Bill Condon and one of the stage production's producers, Junkyard Dog Productions. Sankoff, Hein, Jon Kamen, Dave Sirulnick and Meredith Bennett will executive produce. The film will employ 222 people including the members of the New York cast, crew, staff and creative and film teams.
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