Since the day I saw Come From Away (and I saw it opening night in Toronto), I have been signing the show’s praises. Not literally of course, I’m a terrible singer. But I’ve been telling everyone about the show, as often as possible. And if anyone told me they were going to Toronto, London or New York, I would always tell them: You have to go see Come From Away.
The musical, about what happens when 38 planes are grounded in Gander Newfoundland on September 11th, is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. And now Calgarians will get to experience it. The show runs in Calgary from March 19th to 24th, but tickets are non-existent. So if have a ticket, hold on to it with your life.
As the show gets ready to land in Calgary, I got the chance to talk to Nick Duckart, who plays Kevin J. and Ali (among many others) in the show, about how the show plays in the United States versus Canada, and what makes the show so special.
Mike: Can you tell me a bit about your history with Come From Away
Nick: This entire company including myself are the original company of the first North American tour of the show. There are four Come From Away companies. Every member of our cast originated our roles for the tour. They are already prepping for the fifth production of it, which is crazy. And they’re going to open up a company in Australia soon.
I think I read about a movie maybe too.
Nick: Yes from my understanding, the entire creative team from the Broadway production is involved in getting the movie put together.
Come from Away is very much a Canadian show, but you’re touring with it all across America. Do audiences respond differently when you do the show in the USA versus Canada?
Nick: The message of the show resonates equally across the board. The overall message of humanity and kindness, coming through in that type of crisis and the human capacity for kindness resonates with people whether in the United States or in Canada. Audiences have really taken to it. The one fun thing about doing the show in Canada is that there are certain things in our show that are so beautifully Canadian and that resonates so specifically with the Canadian audience. The references to things like Tim Hortons and Shoppers Drug Mart and things like that. Some of the jokes that might go over some American heads, unless they had experience in Canada. I can only imagine that being a story written by Canadians, about Canadians, as a Canadian audience member, it must just be so exciting for Canadians.
I remember when I saw Come From Away the first time, I thought there was no way the Shoppers Drug Mart joke was going to make it to Broadway, but I’m so glad that it did.
Nick: Yes it’s still on the show. The thing that makes our shows special is that it’s based on a real true story. So, no matter what the references are, because the story is based in reality and on this beautiful slice of our history and moment of kindness and love and generosity, it doesn’t really matter what the references are. They still play really well wherever we play it.
As an american, were there things when you first got your hands on the script that you needed explaining about Canada?
Nick: When we were in rehearsals the creative team made it very clear to us that although this show is based real life events that came as the result of one of the worst tragedies in the world, but specifically in the United States, the show is not about sentimentality. It’s about people being good to each other because it was the right thing to do. Although it is a very emotional piece about a very emotional time, we as actors aren’t responsible for over-pushing the emotion, but letting the audience feel their emotion while we stayed very true and just to the information, this is a story that we’re telling and this how people interacted with each other in a very natural way. As opposed to working with a musical about 9/11, which is not the case at all. It’s a 9/12 musical.
That’s good point. I never considered it as a musical about 9/12.
Nick: The musical is about showing audiences the kindness and generosity that these people were met with in Gander, as opposed to “let’s remind people how terrible 9/11 was”, you know? Once we had that discussion, then everything kind of made sense. Then there is dialect work and that was kind of more the harder part, things like Newfoundland dialect or mastering the Egyptian dialect.
IYou played two main characters right?
Nick: Yes. On paper my character is listed as Kevin J/Ali and others. So, Kevin J and Ali are the two most prominent characters I play and then I also play Dwight. Our show has 12 actors on stage telling the story of around 17,000 people over the course of five days in Gander. So, we play tons and tons of characters all throughout the show if you will. We’re representative of different types of characters.
That must be a fun challenge as an actor. I mean looking at your credentials, you’ve done lots of great shows, but to play to at least two very different characters, that must be a fun challenge.
Nick: Oh it’s a dream. For an actor who went to school, who really trained hard to be the best I can be, it’s really fun. In terms of characters changing, it’s sometimes as simple as putting on a pair of glasses, putting on a hat or taking a jacket off putting it back on. So, the audience relies on us, the actors, to tell the different story by creating these characters from within. So, whether it’s mastering the dialect or whether it’s just keeping track of the different storylines as they’re happening, it’s really a blast. I’m just on cloud nine as an actor. This is the sorts of gig you dream about.
Do you remember your first time seeing the show?
Nick: I sure do. I was so moved by it. When I saw it, my dear friend Caesar Samayoa played my role on Broadway. He said to me “Hey man, you gotta come see the show that I’m in. It’s really special.” I was so moved because at the time that I saw it, it was a very confusing time in our country.
That’s very fair.
Nick: I saw the show and was reminded, “Oh-my-gosh we are all capable of being kind to each other.” We need to remind ourselves to be kind to each other. So, I remember how I experienced it as an audience member and now having the opportunity to go across North America, to parts of the continent that maybe will never get to show on Broadway or even the West End or Toronto, and share that message with them is awesome.
Have you had a chance to get out to Gander yet?
Nick: No we haven’t. We started rehearsals in August and we’ve been touring ever since. We’ve been touring all across the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest of the United States, now we’re in Canada, but we haven’t gotten chance to go to Newfoundland. A couple of our company members did go to Gander and did get screeched in. We’re hoping that one day we’ll make away our way out there.
When your time on the show ends, that would be a good cast party. I think you all should head to Gander and get screeched in.