Newfoundland town prepares for Broadway musical based on their 9/11 experience

The musical Come From Away is headed to Broadway, but this weekend the production is in Gander to perform a benefit concert in front of the people it’s based upon.

Members of the cast are preparing for Saturday’s big shows by meeting some of those local characters.

Kendra Kassebaum plays Janice Mosher in the production, a character based on the work of reporters Janice Goudie and Brian Mosher.

“On the list of things Brian Mosher was going to do in life, appearing in a Broadway musical as a character was probably way, way down on the list,” said Brian Mosher, who worked for the local Rogers community channel when the planes diverted to Gander.

Mosher met Kassebaum Friday morning on the CBC’s Central Morning Show ahead of the benefit concert on Saturday.

“This is the most energetic, good-vibed person I think I’ve met in a long time,” said Kassebaum, as she sat across from one of her character’s real life influences. “I can’t believe I’m here, I can’t believe I’m looking you in the eye right now.”

Kassebaum admits she didn’t hear about Newfoundlanders and Labradorians housing stranded passengers in the days following the 9/11 attacks at the time.

More than 6,500 people were diverted to Gander when North American airspace was closed. The move nearly doubled the town’s population, prompting some people to open up their homes for guests. 

“When I read the script and heard the music I was like, ‘Wow, what an opportunity to have this beautiful new memory of something that happened on a very horrific day,'” said Kassebaum, who was in Seattle at the time of the attacks. 

Full Show on Display

The play opens in Toronto November 15th, and will hit Broadway in February, but first it’ll play Gander at the Steele Community Centre.

The production brought the full cast, crew and band to town, but left the sets behind. Despite that, Kassebaum promises the audience will have the experience of a lifetime.

“You better believe we are giving you the full show,” she said. “You’re not going to miss out on anything.”

The weekend kicks off with a dinner at the Gander International Airport on Friday night that will feature Lt.-Governor Frank Fagan, Come From Away creators David Hein and Irene Sankoff, and Mayor Claude Elliott.

The production will do two shows Saturday. On Sunday, the cast and crew will tour the area, with a screech-in planned for that evening.