A musical that found its voice in Seattle debuts on Broadway this weekend. Come From Away was the Seattle Repertory Theater’s best-selling show ever.
The musical takes us back to September 11, 2001 when our country came under attack.
The FAA shut down our airspace indefinitely, and 7,000 airline passengers were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland. The modest town only had 500 hotel rooms, so the community opened their homes and their hearts. Other passengers slept in the local schools, and food was stored in the town’s ice hockey rink.
“They didn't have time to organize or structure a response other than the human response of we will help them,” said Kenny Alhadeff, one of the producers of Come From Away. “We will clothe them. We will feed them. We will shelter them.”
Alhadeff is a 6th generation Seattleite, and his company is also behind the Tony award-winning musical, Memphis.
After they won the rights to this story, Ian Eisendrath, another Northwest native, came on board to nurture the project musically, right at the 5th Avenue Theater in downtown Seattle.
“It's a show that transcends an evening in the theater,” Eisendrath said. “It’s a story that causes you to leave entertained, but deeply moved, and soul revived, and you think about how you live and what you hope the world might become.”
Unlike most shows that go to Broadway, the producers decided to stick with their original cast members. That includes Chad Kimball, a West Seattle native, and Kendra Kassebaum, known for her portrayal of Glenda the good witch in Wicked.
Kassebaum moved to Seattle several years ago to escape the hustle and bustle of New York City and never imagined she’s be back. But the story of Come From Away pulled on her.
“It's the biggest thing I've ever done in my life,” Kassebaum said, “And at the same time, I want my son to know if there’s something so important that you need to tell the story, or you think it's going to do something important, go for it. Do that.”
Kassebaum plans to return to Seattle when the show ends and sees herself teaching the arts to children.
The show begins previews February 18 and makes its official Broadway debut March 12.
Alhadeff says the show will then belong to audiences and he’s hoping they’ll leave feeling inspired.
"A great piece of theater won't end the war; it won't cure cancer. It won't stop the disparity in wealth,” Alhadeff said. “It won't bring civility back to the political arena, but it will carve a path of light in your soul so you can do those things.”