The small Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland nearly doubled its population overnight on September 11, 2001.
Thirty-eight planes with a total of nearly 7,000 passengers on board were diverted from American airspace to Gander, which has a population of fewer than 10,000, after two planes crashed into New York’s World Trade Center.
The story of how the Ganderites – as the townspeople call them – gathered to feed and house the “Plane People” was adapted into the musical “Come From Away,” which opens on Broadway in Tucson next week Centennial Hall brings. The show runs from Tuesday, May 24th to May 29th.
“I think it feels a lot more like a piece that happens to have music in it than an original five, six, seven, eight dance number musical,” said Marika Aubrey, who plays Beverley Bass, the first female Captain of an American airliner airliner piloting one of these planes that day.
Canadian playwrights Irene Sankoff and David Hein based “Come From Away” on interviews they conducted with airplane residents and residents who put aside their political, religious, and cultural differences to help one another. The play uses real names, from Mayor Claude Elliott to Bonnie Harris, who ran the shelter. Actors play multiple characters.
“You have these 12 actors on stage and a couple of chairs and we keep jumping in and out in different outfits as different passengers and different people who were part of this story,” said Aubrey, who plays four characters, including Bass.
“That’s another unique thing about this show: you don’t often play someone who’s alive and well and comes in and talks to you and has dinner with you. That’s weird and excellent,” said the Australian actress, who has spent time with the real-life Beverly Bass.
“She’s a friend. It’s just an unusual and beautiful thing to come out of this project,” Aubrey said. “There is no other world where I would be friends with a pilot who lives in Texas. We are very different; We come from different parts of the planet. Our paths wouldn’t have crossed in any context, so it’s a really unusual, fun spin-off from this project.”
The Come From Away roadshow — the title is based on what Newfoundlanders call tourists on their remote island, which can take days by plane because there are very few direct flights from anywhere in the world — kicked off in 2018 , but was paused in 2020 due to the pandemic. The show restarted last October with most of the original street cast.
The show’s message of unity in times of crisis – “Even though we may all be different, have different politics, have different ways of looking at the world, we are all essentially the same when it comes down to it.” – resonates more now than it did in 2018, said Aubrey.
“The state of the world right now and what we’ve been through and what’s happening in Ukraine, there’s just this feeling that this story of communities coming together to help one another in times of crisis has a much deeper resonance,” Aubrey said . who spent time in the Phoenix area as a high school exchange student. “I felt like the show was doing that before COVID, but you’re coming into the theater now… there’s definitely that feeling of hey hi we’re back together. It’s incredibly profound to share that with an audience again sometimes.”
Aubrey said audiences often come with a box of tissues, expecting an emotionally draining experience given the sensitivity of the story — the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. But what they find is that “it’s much more of a story of is the joy and generosity to be found in even the (most debilitating) circumstances.”
“Broadly speaking, it’s actually about humanity’s quirks and funny moments when we come together in culture and religion and we clash in a way that’s funny and human and heartfelt,” she said. “That’s 140 minutes of a true story that will put you in a good mood.”
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at [email protected] On Twitter @Starburch