The hottest musical at this year’s TONY Broadway theater awards is the story of one of the few good things to come out of the disaster that was September 11th, 2001.
“Come From Away” tells the story of a tiny Canadian community in Newfoundland that welcomed nearly seven thousand people into their midst when their planes were forced down because U.S. airspace was closed.
CGTN’s John Terrett reprost.
As actor Joel Hatch sings in the opening moments of the show, “On the northeast tip of North America on an island called Newfoundland there’s an airport and next to it is a town called Gander.”
And the Gander welcome those “plane people” – as they came to be known – received when 38 planes descended from the skies over the Atlantic for an unscheduled stop-over in Newfoundland was remarkably hospitable.
Playwright David Hein says, “Any Newfoundlander will tell you what they did. They say it’s just ordinary. It’s what anyone would have done and it’s been amazing to watch the world say it’s not it’s extraordinary it’s really wonderful.”
In fact for David and his writing partner – and wife – Irene Sankoff being nominated for seven TONY awards is way beyond what they had in mind for the show.
Irene says, “When we originally wrote it we were like this is great. We’ve got like a good history story that will be performed in every Canadian high school and college forever.”
In these troubled times “Come From Away” is a feel-good musical that’s being lapped up by Broadway audiences.
One theater goer told CGTN – “To see that human spirit just brings everyone together and that’s really what this show’s about.”
Another said, “At this time in the United States it shows the goodness that people do have.”
About thirty miles from Broadway in the state of New Jersey I met Maureen Murray and Sue Riccardelli.
They were on an Air France flight from Paris when it was diverted to Gander. They fell in love with the Celtic way of life so much they’ve been back every other year since 2001.
They’re super-excited for the “Come From Away” prospects.
Sue said, “A Newfoundlander will ask you where are you from and if you say New Jersey, they say, ah, you come from away. So it’s a great title. Everybody comes from away and now with the hit of this Broadway show. The publicity they’re getting. Everybody’s going to be coming from away up to Newfoundland, right!”
Back at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater on 45th Street in Manhattan the cast members are getting ready for the big TONY show on Sunday, June 11th at Radio City Music Hall.
I asked actors Joel Hatch and Lee MacDougall where they’ll be during the awards ceremony?
Joel: “We’re in a bus!”
Lee: “We’re performing, we are performing.”
Joel: “But there’s a whole line of buses outside Radio City Music Hall in which the actors wait. We do our number. Then we get back on the bus, but then we’ll be in some lovely bar to watch the rest of the show.”
Lee: “On TV – the glamor of Broadway.”
Whatever the outcome of this year’s TONY awards “Come From Away” will likely run and run.
There are at least three touring productions planned and hopes of taking it to London’s West End too.
And when all that’s done – to borrow a line from co-writer Irene Sankoff – I expect it really will be performed in every Canadian high school and college forever.