You’ve likely heard how on 9/11 planes destined for the US were rerouted to other locations. The town of Gander, Newfoundland took in the most planes, which were grounded there for several days until the skies were deemed safe enough to continue air travel. This community had such a big heart and welcomed those strangers in such a remarkable way that they made a Tony award winning musical out of the situation. Next Thursday, that broadway sensation: Come From Away hits Calgary’s Jubilee Auditorium for a five day stint. Read on if you’re interested in behind the scenes deets on that musical. Yours truly met a few of the real life peeps those characters are based on, and let me tell you, they are truly something special.
Come From Away
Come From Away tells the true story of how a small Canadian town welcomed the world. It’s based on this excellent book, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading:
It’s won Best Musical, a Tony award for best direction and was a New York Times Critics’ Pick. The story begins back in 2001 on that fateful September day when the Twin Towers were reduced to rubble and nobody knew just what the bleep was happening.
Approximately 60 planes were rerouted to Gander, a costal town with a population 10,000. Now if you were a resident and heard you were about to be inundated by thousands of hangry people from from 98 countries, you might start to panic. Or, you might begin making sandwiches. Oz Fudge, the local RCMP officer (who I met last year), went to the airport when he heard the news and watched those first few planes touch down. “I’m thinking to myself, well we’ve got 7,000 people coming in for a cuppa tea and a bickie,” says Oz. A bickie is a biscuit, which is a cookie BTW….
Oz is one of the characters in the musical and there are others just as quirky and delightful. Local pharmacist Kevin O’ Brien, stayed up all night calling pharmacies overseas to get prescriptions refilled for passengers. Volunteers went into the underbelly of the planes to rescue dehydrated pets (including a pregnant monkey!). The owners and managers of stores like Shoppers Drug Mart and Canadian Tire opened up their doors, allowing passengers to take whatever they wanted.
There was no crime during that period from Tuesday until Sunday. And shockingly, the “come from aways,” (what you’d call someone not from the island), didn’t drink the town dry; even though the Aer Lingus flight was put up in the local Legion.
Everyone stepped up. Being Newfoundlanders, they made sure everyone was well fed – so much so, one pilot had to have his pants let out before he flew again. After Brian Moser went on the Community TV station to request donations of toilet paper, he had to go back on air three hours later putting a halt to that. They had enough toilet paper to supply the local schools until the end of the year!
Broadway Across Canada in Calgary
I can’t wait to take in this Broadway Across Canada production to see which of the real life characters I met made it onto the show. (In addition to meeting Fudge, I went to a community hall dinner on Fogo Island and met others….) Fudge has seen Come From Away, and he heartily recommends it, despite initially being worried about how he and the other locals would be portrayed by a bunch of mainlanders. “We Newfoundlanders are a weird bunch and I don’t mind saying it! But this play hit it dead on.”
There’s still tickets available to see Come From Away in Calgary when it runs March 19-24. And now is the time to get a subscription for the upcoming 2019-2020 Season. This upcoming season is all aces with Rent, Waitress, Dear Evan Hansen and Wicked (season option) all coming to town.
Have you heard of Come From Away? Is this the kind of production you’d be interested in seeing?
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