The diverse cast — and crackerjack band — of the new musical Come From Away visited the Billboard on Broadway video series to share the incredible story, and score, of their show.
Come From Away, which was co-written by the married team of David Hein and Irene Sankoff, follows the events of 9/11 far from New York City — in the remote town of Gander, Newfoundland, where 38 planes and thousands of passengers were diverted when the U.S. airspace closed following the day’s terrorist attacks. As Hein notes, the musical unfolds against the backdrop of 9/11 but is really more of a “9/12 story,” about the lives of the people from Gander, and the so-called “come from aways” for whom the town became a temporary home. “It feels good for us to share a story that’s about the best of mankind set against the worst,” Hein adds.
The onstage band, under the direction of music supervisor Ian Eisendrath (seen in this video), collectively acts very much like a character in the show, playing a rollicking blend of folk, rock and Celtic sounds that evokes traditional Newfoundland tunes. “It’s this amazing fusion of energy,” Eisendrath says. “The music makes you want to dance; it makes you want to live.” The assemblage of unusual instruments onstage includes twenty different kinds of pipes and whistles, a button-accordion, and an “ugly stick,” among many others).
Most of those songs highlight the talents of the ensemble (a mix of Broadway newbies and veterans) more than solo performers, and proceed in a practically sung-through format, straightforwardly telling the story of what really happened in Gander. On the tenth anniversary of the events, Hein and Sankoff traveled to a reunion in Gander to interview the town’s residents, the visitors and the airline staff who were all involved. “David and Irene insisted that at all times we told their true stories,” Eisendrath recalls. “We had to work harder, I think, to figure out how to make all these real things fit together rather than just crafting something that would conveniently work. I think that’s why it does not feel sickly sweet or fake — it actually is true.”
Watch as members of the cast perform three numbers from the show: “Costume Party” (performed by Sharon Wheatley, Q. Smith, Chad Kimball and Caesar Samayoa); “Me and the Sky” (performed by Jenn Colella, who portrays pilot Beverley Bass, American Airlines’ first-ever female captain); and “Stop the World” (performed by Wheatley and Lee MacDougall).
The American Theatre Wing’s 71st Annual Tony Awards will air live from Radio City Music Hall on the CBS Television Network on Sunday, June 11, 2017 (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/delayed PT). The Tony Awards, which honors theatre professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway, has been broadcast on CBS since 1978. The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. The nominations for the 2017 Tony Awards will be announced live on May 2, 2017, from New York City. For more information, visit TonyAwards.com and Facebook.com/TheTonyAwards and follow @TheTonyAwards on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.