A Canadian Broadway musical that told the story of a small town in central Newfoundland and how it was forever changed by the events of 9/11 will come to an emotional close this October.
“Come From Away” producers Junkyard Dog Productions announced Wednesday the show’s final Broadway performance would take place Oct. 2 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, ending a Tony Award-winning run of more than five years.
The show tells the story of how people in Gander, N.L., dropped everything to care for more than 6,500 passengers aboard 38 planes diverted to the town’s airport after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City. Residents threw open their doors, community halls and businesses for the stranded people, offering them food, clothes and comfort during a terrifying time that ultimately changed parts of the world.
The Broadway “Come From Away” cast includes Newfoundlander Petrina Bromley, Josh Breckenridge and Astrid Van Wieren, who plays fictional Gander resident Beulah Cooper. Beulah is a fictionalized version of Diane Davis, a real Gander resident who was in tears Thursday as she described her disappointment about the end of the Broadway show that changed her life.
She said her heart was primarily with the cast and crew, whom she described as “amazing people.”
“These people are our family,” she said. “It seems strange to say that, but you have to be a certain personality and have a certain character to tell these stories effectively.”
Though the show officially opened on Broadway on March 12, 2017, development of “Come From Away” began in 2012 at the Canadian Music Theatre Project at Ontario’s Sheridan College. It made its way to select North American locations, like California’s La Jolla Playhouse and the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto before it hit the stage in Manhattan.
The show was nominated for seven Tony Awards, including a best director nod for Christopher Ashley, which he won in 2017.
When the curtains close in October, “Come From Away” will be the 49th longest-running show in Broadway history, as well as the longest-running production in the theatre’s 105-year history, the producer’s news release said Wednesday.
Davis said it wasn’t until October of 2016 that she found out she was a character. The cast and crew were in Gander for a two-night run and Davis was talking to Van Wieren at a dinner about the planes landing in Gander. She said the actress leaned in and asked, “You know I play you, right?”
“Then I saw the show the next day and she comes out onstage wearing my green pants that I would have bought at Northern Reflections,” said Davis, describing the uniform she’d wear teaching at Gander Academy, before her retirement.
“It was a shock!”
Since then, she’s seen first-hand how the show moves people. On Monday, she led a tour of 39 American tourists at the North Atlantic Aviation Museum in Gander. One said she’d been a teacher at a New York City middle school on the day of the attacks. Many students at the school lost parents when the planes hit the World Trade Center, the woman told Davis.
“And she said, ‘I saw the musical in New York, and that’s why I came to Newfoundland,”’ an emotional Davis said. “The impact of the way the stories have been told is still very great.”
It’s disappointing but not surprising to see the show’s Broadway run coming to an end, she said; New York City was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and neither Broadway nor “Come From Away” have quite recovered, according to online ticket sales trackers.
Davis was flown out for the Broadway premiere but she’s not sure if she’ll make it to New York City before Oct. 2 to see a final performance – like many others, she’s still hesitant to travel and to gather indoors in large numbers “It’s going to be a very emotional send-off at that last show,” Davis said.
Still, she said, the story will carry on. The “Come From Away” Canadian production lands at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre beginning Dec. 27, and shows are scheduled throughout the summer and fall in several Australian cities. A filmed production of the show is also available to stream on Apple TV Plus.
“It didn’t close because people weren’t interested,” Davis said.
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