AFTER COME FROM AWAY’S CAST AND CREW LEFT THE STAGE, THEY FOUND NEW ROLES IN A PANDEMIC

“Come From Away” is the most successful show in Canadian-made musical theatre history. Three years into its run in Toronto, it was still packing houses.

“Come From Away” is the most successful show in Canadian-made musical theatre history. Three years into its run in Toronto, it was still packing houses.

Written by Canadian husband-and-wife team Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the smash-hit tells the true story of the 9/11 events in Gander, Nfld. when more than three dozen international flights were forced to land at the small, east coast city’s airport. Developed at three major American theatres, it played in Winnipeg and Toronto in 2016 — following a poignant, one-night concert showing in Gander. It then became a Broadway smash hit in 2017, picking up a Tony Award that year for Best Direction of a Musical.

It’s gone on to play in Ireland and Australia. Early this year the show was continuing to pack houses on London’s West End, on Broadway, and at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre after a hiatus at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre for most of 2019.

So when audiences started dwindling this past March, everyone knew something major was happening. Still, few suspected the coronavirus pandemic would shut down the international performing arts industry for five months — and counting.

“Come From Away” performed the final show on Friday, March 13. The Star checked in with several cast and crew members about their months being off stage, away from their show and their theatre family.

Irene Sankoff and David Hein

Book, Music and Lyrics

"We rented a car, we put our daughter and our two cats in it and as much as we could carry" to get back to Canada, said Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the writing team behind the book, music and lyrics for the Come From Away, about leaving their home in NYC after three years.

IS: A couple of weeks before everything shut, something tipped me off that things were not going to be good. I called one of our co-producers who is a doctor and who was in Toronto during SARS, Allan Detsky, and he was like, “Yeah, this is not going to be good.”

We started to hear that they were going to close our daughter’s school before March Break. We didn’t realize she is never going back to that school.

DH: It was heartbreaking on a million levels — losing our community and our lives in New York City after three years living there.

When Prime Minister Trudeau said it was time for all Canadians to come home, we rented a car, we put our daughter and our two cats in it and as much as we could carry, and got an Airbnb in Toronto.

IS: We were still ahead. People were like “the cats?” and I was like, “Give it a day or two.” We moved four or five times since we’ve been back and are in Newmarket now. My mom is in long-term care here. They had an outbreak but Mom didn’t get sick. We helped with sourcing PPE and went to her window to see her. Now once a week we are able to sit on a patio with her.

If you had said to me seven months ago that I’d buy a house in Newmarket, I’d say you were crazy.

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