The latest Broadway musical to come to theaters in Ohio tells a true story meant to inspire all, from near and far.
The touring production of “Come From Away,” which opens Tuesday and will run through Feb. 13, takes place directly after 9/11. It follows 7,000 airline passengers who were stranded in a small town in Newfoundland, Canada, after US airspace was closed, said Lisa Minken, director of Broadway marketing for the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts.
Minken said the musical follows passengers’ interactions with locals and serves as a celebration of the community they have formed.
“The kindness this community has shown to all these strangers from such different backgrounds and beliefs is incredible,” Minken said. “They welcomed them and treated them as their own. I think it’s something we can all appreciate and the world could use a little more of today.
“Come From Away” not only follows real events, but also features characters based on real people, Minken said, making it a unique experience for audience members. The show uses a cast of 12 actors to portray about 100 characters, said Julia Knitel, who plays Janice and others in the musical.
Knitel said “Come From Away” is also unique in that its musical score was influenced by its location in the small Canadian town of Gander.
“Many years ago – when there were a lot of Irish people immigrating to North America – the people who settled in Newfoundland really brought their sense of music, and it sort of crossed with other Canadian folk songs and styles,” Knitel said. “So there are some really cool instruments that you don’t hear every day in the average musical.”
“Come From Away” is the fourth show to come to Columbus during Broadway’s 2021-22 season in Columbus, according to its website. Minken said the association is excited to bring the theater back to the city after a series of postponements due to the pandemic.
“Bringing the theater back has been pretty amazing,” Minken said. “When we opened our season with ‘Hadestown,’ you could feel the excitement in the theater. The energy was palpable.”
The theater’s return to Columbus did not come without the implementation of COVID-19 safety precautions, Minken said. Members of the public are required to provide proof of a negative test taken within 24 hours or proof of vaccination for guests aged 12 and over, and all guests are asked to wear a face covering over their noses unless they are actively eating or drinking, she said.
“While COVID has definitely added a few layers of steps needed for theater to happen, I think people are more than happy to oblige with these regulations we’ve put in place to make sure that not only actors and the team are safe, but also the public,” said Minken.
Knitel said she was thrilled to bring “Come From Away” to Columbus because she thinks the theater has tremendous value.
“Theatre has the same effect on you as travel does, you know, you go to a new place, you meet different customs, you try different foods and you come home changed,” Knitel said. “And I think theater has a way of doing that, no matter where you see it. You just need to walk into a room not too far from where you live and experience something that you can only experience for those 100 minutes in that room.
She said she hopes audiences will leave the theater with a desire to spread kindness around them.
“I think it’s a difficult time that we live in when it comes to human kindness and caring for your fellow man, woman, man or person, you know, caring for your fellow man,” Knitel said. “And I think what ‘Come From Away’ reminds us of is that it doesn’t take much to change someone’s life.”
Tickets for “Come From Away” are still available for purchase starting at $39 on the Broadway in Columbus website.