Come From Away star discusses preparing for 9/11 anniversary show

A star of the West End musical Come From Away has said the cast’s role is to remind the audience “that there was light when there was dark” after the September 11 tragedy.

The hit show is set in the week following the 9/11 attacks and tells the true story of what happened when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in a small town in Canada – with 7,000 stranded travellers in need of food and a place to stay.

The West End musical, which will perform two shows on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack, aims to convey the “simple acts of kindness” carried out by the townspeople of Gandera in the aftermath of the atrocity.

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Alice Fearn, who plays flight captain Beverley Bass and other characters within the musical, discussed how she was preparing for the 20th-anniversary shows.

She told the PA news agency: “You can’t help but feel an and added weight of representing the day in the right way.

“For me, I don’t particularly want to let it in too much because what we have to do as storytellers is just tell the stories, it’s the same every night, we have to make sure that the story is told well.

“And the predominant factor in the story is to remember that there was light when there was dark, and Newfoundland had that light.”

In the show’s final musical number, one character sings “tonight we honour what was lost, but we also commemorate what we found” and Fearn explained this is the balance which the production aims to strike.

The production was closed for nearly 500 days due to the covid-19 pandemic (Craig Sugden)
The production was closed for nearly 500 days due to the covid-19 pandemic (Craig Sugden)

She added: “Our job is to go, ‘that event was horrendous, but look what it caused, look what it made the human race do’, which was amazing, wonderful, simple things, simple acts of kindness that meant the world to these people that arrived on these planes.

“It meant that they could deal with that tragedy much easier and, in a way, those acts of kindness have stayed with them as much as the tragedy itself.”

The West End production was closed for nearly 500 days due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the London show’s producer, Joseph Smith, said their relaunch after the Covid-19 lockdowns has changed the atmosphere of the audience.

The show aims to convey the “acts of kindness” in the aftermath of 9/11 (Craig Sugden)
The show aims to convey the “acts of kindness” in the aftermath of 9/11 (Craig Sugden)

Smith told PA: “I think Covid has put another layer on top of it, because you can’t help but make comparisons, we’ve lost 100,00s of people in a tragedy that may or may not have been preventable, and to some extent, we’re all still living in that moment.

“And what we have to do in this theatre every night is also honour those people that were lost because stories are universal.

“We’re not just telling the story of the aftermath of 9/11 here, we’re talking about the story of human kindness, and that has many different stories that spin-off.”

Smith, who lived in New York in the years following 9/11, added: “A story like this allows you to access some of the emotions and the stories you have and your experiences because what you’re seeing up on stage is some of those similar things but not through the lens of, to be frank, death and destruction but through the lens of hope and community and trust and thinking there can be a better way forward.”

The show also runs a ‘pay it forward’ initiative where they give £100 to the cast and crew for them to do a good deed of their choosing.

Many Come From Away productions across the globe have adopted this idea after Kevin Tuerff, an American businessman who was caught in Gander after 9/11, began the initiative with his employees to honour the anniversary.

Come From Away is running at the Phoenix Theatre London.