We all know Seattle is a cultural metropolis, even if much of the rest of the world doesn’t. So, to say it’s exciting to see a musical with its roots in Seattle hit the Broadway scene, might be a bit of an understatement.
The musical smash “Come From Away” got its start on the stage of the 5th Avenue Theater, right here in Seattle, (as The Seattle Repertory Theater’s best-selling show ever, no less) and this month, it makes its debut under the bright lights of Broadway.
While it may seem like strange subject matter for a musical production, “Come From Away” takes us back to one of the most tragically memorable periods in recent American history, September 11th, 2001. But this show is not about gloom and doom, or irreparable loss, nor is it about spinning what happened into something to sing about or a comical view of the events of that fateful day, but rather, shines a light on the true and often untold story of the airline passengers stranded away from home during that time.
After the attacks on 9/11, the FAA shutdown our airspace indefinitely. That means you were not leaving the country by plane, and if you were out of the country already, you couldn’t come back home either.
In light of their inability to come back stateside, there were approximately 7,000 airline passengers destined for the US that were instead forced to land in the quaint Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland.
The humble town of Gander had only 500 hotel rooms in total, and suddenly found itself playing host to 7,000 unexpected visitors. So, in true Canadian fashion, the residents of Gander opened their homes to these stranded strangers, and more importantly, they opened their hearts.
“Come from Away” tells the story of the beauty in humanity after such a catastrophe, with the Townspeople feeding, clothing, housing and caring for those stranded.
“They didn’t have time to organize or structure a response other than the human response of we will help them,” said Kenny Alhadeff, one of the producers of Come From Away in an interview with King5 News. “We will clothe them. We will feed them. We will shelter them.”
Alhadeff is not only a Broadway producer with such critically acclaimed productions as the Tony Award winning “Memphis” on his resume, but also a Seattle native with deep roots in the Pacific Northwest.
As soon as Alhadeff and his company secured the rights to “Come From Away” he knew he wanted to bring some more local talent onboard to really make this production “sing” (pun intended). He started by recruiting locally-grown and critically hailed Musical Director/Conductor Ian Eisendrath to arrange the music, right here at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater.
While Kassebaum may not have been born and raised in Seattle, she chose Seattle as her home many years ago, after a very successful turn in New York and on Broadway (You may recognize her as the bubbly-blonde Glenda the Good Witch in the musical phenomenon “Wicked”).
Even though she sought to escape the craziness of the NYC life, the beautiful story of “Come From Away” was powerful enough to pull her back, much to even her surprise, calling it “the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life”.
Most productions seek to add star-power when they finally hit the “Big-Time” of Broadway, but Alhadeff and Co. have chosen to keep the original cast intact for their Broadway debut. That’s a lot of Northwest sourced talent cropping up in the Entertainment Capital of the World, to tell a very powerful, and moving story.
“It’s a show that transcends an evening in the theater,” Eisendrath said. “It’s a story that causes you to leave entertained, but deeply moved, and soul revived, and you think about how you live and what you hope the world might become.”
If ever there was a story that found the light in the darkness of true calamity, the tale told in “Come From Away” is it. A beautiful, moving true story about the goodness in people, about community without borders, about love, loss and coming together as citizens of the world to help those in need with selfless acts of kindness and grace.
“Come From Away” not only tells a story that is often forgotten, but serves as a wonderfully entertaining and truly touching reminder of the healing that can be found in the most unlikely places and the triumph of good and altruism over evil and suffering.
“A great piece of theater won’t end the war; it won’t cure cancer. It won’t stop the disparity in wealth,” said Alhadeff. “It won’t bring civility back to the political arena, but it will carve a path of light in your soul so you can do those things.”
“Come From Away” began its Broadway preview on February 18th, and will officially make its debut on March 12th.
For more information about the show or how to get tickets, click here.