‘Magic’ of Come From Away arrives at the NAC

LOUIS B. HOBSON

David Hein and Irene Sankoff’s extended family is growing by leaps and bounds.

Hein and Sankoff are the husband and wife team who created Come From Away, the award-winning musical inspired by events that occurred following the 9/11 attacks that saw 38 planes rerouted to the small town of Gander in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Broadway Across Canada is touring Come From Away to four Canadian cities in 2019. The Canadian leg of this North American tour began in Vancouver in March, followed by Edmonton and Calgary. The show is touring cities in the United States before returning to Canada for an Ottawa engagement Aug. 20-Sept. 8 at the National Arts Centre.

Come From Away celebrated its one year Broadway anniversary on March 12 with Hein and Sankoff in attendance along with people they interviewed in Gander in 2011 on the 10th anniversary of the attacks — many of whom became characters in the musical.

“We consider all those people we interviewed in Gander, as well as the cast and crew members of the original production, our family,” says Sankoff.

The version of Come From Away that eventually opened on Broadway was a collaboration between the La Jolla Playhouse and the Seattle Repertory Theatre where it played to turn-away crowds in both cities. After touring in Washington, D.C., it opened at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto on Nov. 15, 2016.

Though it was playing to capacity crowds, it had to leave Toronto on Jan. 8, 2017, to begin previews in New York.

The cast of Broadway Across Canada’s Come From Away. CALGARY

This past January, a new Canadian company of Come From Away opened a sold-out, four-week run in Winnipeg’s Manitoba Theatre Centre. It transferred to Toronto where it opened on Feb. 13 and has been playing to sold-out houses ever since.

“It was important for us to have Come From Away return to Toronto. We received such an incredible reception … the first time it played the Royal Alexandra,” says Hein, who was even more excited about the prospect of Broadway Across Canada’s Canadian tour.

“I was a Prairie kid growing up in Regina and Saskatchewan and my father still lives in Medicine Hat,” says Hein, explaining that he “used to tour the Prairies, Vancouver and Ottawa as a singer and songwriter, so it’s important to me that Come From Away gets to play where I used to tour.

“Those touring days are reflected in the storytelling we use in Come From Away. It’s the way I used to talk to my audiences.”

Sankoff adds “this is a Canadian musical about a Canadian story that got international attention, so it’s important to David and me that people from all over the country get to see it.”

He says the production that premiered in Seattle had both Canadian and American artists in the cast. “That’s important, too, because that getting together of people from around the world is what happened in Gander to inspire this story.”

Sankoff says there has even been interest in having a production for London’s West End.

“David and I still can’t believe how well it’s been received critically wherever it plays and how much people love it, so we’re pretty confident it can travel beyond North America.”

Hein says that even though they’ve seen the show hundreds of times, “there is a magic that happens at every performance. The show never gets old for us.”

Come From Away is part of Broadway Across Canada’s 2018/2019 season which included Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and The Illusionists.

Tickets start at $65.25. More information can be found at nac-cna.ca.

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