After Hamilton pretty much killed last year’s Tony Awards, there wasn’t a clear showstopper going into this year’s. The big winner of the night was Dear Evan Hansen–a musical about a teenager with anxiety who finally gets a chance to fit in after a classmate’s suicide–but Canadians were watching their own little production win a big honour. Come From Away was written by Canadian husband/wife duo David Hein and Irene Sankoff, and was nominated for seven awards going into the night. They only took home one of those–best director for Christopher Ashley–but it’s a pretty big deal that a Canadian production about a small Newfoundland town made it to Broadway at all. As Canadians, we’re proud.
Come From Away tells the story of what happened in Gander, Newfoundland in the week following 9/11, when 38 planes were diverted there in the wake of the attacks. It’s a heartwarming story of initial culture clash and distrust turning to selfless hospitality and long-lasting friendships. With our current global climate, this is exactly the show we need right now. Hein and Sankoff spent time interviewing residents of Gander and returning passengers on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, and some of their exact stories appear in the musical.
The story idea for the production was first conceived by Sheridan College’s associate dean of visual and performing arts, Michael Rubinoff, and he enlisted the writing duo to make it a reality. The show had runs in Seattle, Washington D.C. and Toronto before making it to Broadway. There it was seen by a number of high-profile celebrities and politicians, including Tina Fey, Hugh Jackman, Ivanka Trump and Justin Trudeau (not all at the same time, obviously).
Rubinoff thinks the show’s success can be attributed to how well the story resonated with Americans. He told CTV, ‘because it’s a story about this outpouring of humanity and kindness at a very dark time in American history, I think Americans were quite moved to know that something so positive happened on that day.’
It’s not every year Canada gets to make an appearance at the Tonys, or even have a show on Broadway. We’re pretty proud of our little musical, but don’t worry about it getting too big and forgetting its roots. The show returned to Gander last fall for a benefit performance, and so the actors could meet their real-life character inspirations. The show is also set to return to Toronto at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 2018. You might want to snatch those tickets up now if you want a shot at seeing Canada’s Tony-winning musical!