If ever there was a story that epitomised human compassion and kindness during what can only be described as the darkest hour – it is Come from Away.
The musical beautifully tells the true story of the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It depicts the extraordinary convergence on September 12, 2001, when 38 planes and 6,579 passengers were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland, almost doubling the population of the remote Canadian town.
And while cultures clashed and nerves ran high, the uneasiness turned into trust, music soared into the night, and gratitude grew into enduring friendships.
The musical has been a sell-out on Broadway and has stunned Melbourne audiences with its humility and ability to bring music, and even laughter to a story that continues to break our hearts.
I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with producer Rodney Rigby real-life reporter, who was just a rookie reporter at the time Janice Goudieand to discuss how this production came to be and what it has meant to audiences and those who were there.
Congratulations on an amazing production! How did you hear about this story and what made you want to bring it to Australia?
I heard about the project from Choreographer, Kelly Devine and was intrigued by the story and joined the producing team for the first Development production in La Jolla in 2015.
I was there at the first public performance and knew at the end of the show watching the audience respond that this would work on Broadway and in Australia, thinking of our fire fighters and our communities that come together when situations require it.
This show has been a huge success abroad, what has the audience reaction been like since it opened at the Comedy Theatre?
We didn’t know what to expect at our first preview and were wonderfully surprised that the audiences in Melbourne respond just as they do on Broadway, in the West End and elsewhere.
What is the most essential message you would like people to feel when they come away from it?
Never take it for granted that the smallest act of kindness can have an extraordinary impact on others.
Congratulations on the success of the production. Looking back could you have ever imagined that your story would be told on stage?
Not in a million years! It’s still hard to believe that we are a part of this incredible journey and that our life has somehow shaped this miraculous production.
As a young reporter – what was the greatest challenge about that time?
There were several! lol. Having just moved to the community and only starting in this new job the day before, some of the biggest challenges were just finding the right people to contact and speak with about what was going on at that time. And of course, figuring out where the school was, the Lion’s Club, the Legion, etc. Emotionally, it was difficult to understand the impact that the day’s events was about to have on the entire world and what it must have been like for those in the heart of New York City.
And professionally, I felt a huge responsibility to get the stories and provide some insight to our newspaper readers about what was happening. I have read my work from that time and wish I could go back now to rewrite some of those published stories!
What were some of the biggest lessons that came from your experience in Newfoundland?
Hmmmm….well fortunately for me I am born and raised in this wonderful province so the lessons keep on coming. I did live away for a few years and once I returned, promised myself I would stay here as long as there were opportunities. Fortunately, new doors are always opening so I guess, in some ways, so are the lessons.
What do you hope audiences will feel when they watch the production?
I hope audiences are first able to understand the accent! But more than anything, I hope they walk away with a desire to open their doors to strangers. It doesn’t have to be anything big – sometimes a friendly smile, a kind gesture, or words of encouragement can go further than we realize.
At the end of the day, we are all the same. I also hope the show continues to encourage audiences to visit Newfoundland and Labrador because it truly is a unique and amazing place.