As Gander’s local news reporter Janice, played by Kendra Kassebaum, says at the end of Broadway’s Come From Away: “Tom Brokaw called. Tom Brokaw.”
Well, the famed anchor called again. This time, he wasn’t reporting about the 38 planes diverted to Gander, Newfoundland, Canada when the U.S. airspace was closed in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks; he was reporting for The Today Show on the new musical—about the generous people of Gander and the passengers of those planes—which opened March 12 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.
Brokaw called the events depicted in Come From Away “the emblematic story of a generous spirit of our neighbors to the north and the best that we can all be.”
“This story is a good reminder that we are all actually good and at the heart of us we do want to look out for one another,” actor Jenn Colella told The Today Show. Colella plays American Airlines Captain Beverly Bass, among other characters, in Come From Away. She told Playbill on the opening night red carpet that she and retired Captain Bass are now close friends.
Bass, Chief Constable Oz Fudge—played by Geno Carr in his Broadway debut—Mayor Claude Elliott, and more spoke to Brokaw about those days in 2001 and seeing themselves portrayed onstage today. “Limelight is not something we’re accustomed to, but making people happy is,” said Elliott. “I think the greatest need for the five days was love; they needed love and compassion.”
As for the production, Canadian writing team David Hein and Irene Sankoff knew Come From Away had to be a musical. “You have to tell this story with music,” said Hein. “Music is in the DNA of Newfoundland.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the March 15 performance with First Daughter Ivanka Trump. “One of the responsibilities of any Canadian prime minster is highlighting just how close the relationship is between Canada and the United States,” he said, “and I think this story encapsulates so much what we’ve shared through great time and also through extraordinarily tragic times.”
As Brokaw recalled of his original 2001 broadcast chronicling the events, “We ran it in Vancouver, and I never had a story, quite honestly, not one, that lit up both countries as much as that one did.”