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BWW Exclusive: COME FROM AWAY Joins Band of Historical Musicals

Opening tonight on Broadway, Come From Away spotlights the town of Gander, Newfoundland, which became the temporary home of over 6,000 passengers whose planes were rerouted during the 9/11 attacks. In its dramatization of real-life figures such as Beverley Bass, a stranded pilot portrayed by Jenn Colella, and Claude Elliott, the Gander mayor brought to life by Joel Hatch, the musical provides a historical recount of the week following 9/11, heavily inspired by true stories of the compassion and camaraderie that came about in Gander.

This based-on-a-true-story theme, however, is hardly new; Come From Away is only the most recent in a long line of musicals inspired by, or based upon, real events.


PARADE (1998)

With a book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, PARADE chronicles the story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man living in Atlanta, who in 1913 was convicted of murdering his 13-year-old employee Mary Phagan.

From the discovery of Phagan's body to Frank's abduction and lynching, the musical dramatizes the false testimonies and growing anti-Semitism that prompted Frank's tragic fate.

PARADE's original Broadway production, starring Brent Carver as Frank and Carolee Carmello as his wife Lucille, ran for only 85 performances in the late '90s, but received nine Tony nominations, with wins for Uhry's book and Brown's score.

The musical has since been produced at London's Donmar Warehouse in 2008 and Los Angeles's Mark Taper Forum a year later, and received a concert production at Lincoln Center in February 2015.

Carolee Carmello, Brent Carver and Company perform at the 1999 Tony Awards:


WAR PAINT (2017)

Set to open next month, WAR PAINT's book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie dramatize the lives of makeup pioneers Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein, drawing inspiration from Lindy Woodhead's book of the same name, as well as Ann Carol Grossman and Arnie Reisman's 2007 film THE POWDER & THE GLORY.

The musical highlights the entrepreneurial triumphs of the two, played by Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone, in a business industry dominated by men, while also highlighting their relentless 50-year rivalry, despite never having met.

Following its world premiere at Chicago's Goodman Theatre last year, WAR PAINT is currently in previews at the Nederlander Theatre, and will open on Thursday, April 6.

The cast and creatives of WAR PAINT discuss their new musical:


THE KING AND I (1951)

Based on Margaret Landon's ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM, Rodgers and Hammerstein's THE KING AND I is inspired by the stories of Anna Harriette Leonowens, who served as a governess/teacher to the children of Siam's King Mongkut in the early 1860s.

Though semi-fictionalized, the musical draws from the historical widow's experiences in Siam, dramatizing her relationships with the children, and eventually the king himself.

THE KING AND I originally opened at the St. James Theatre in 1951, and, under the direction of Bartlett Sher, was most recently revived by Lincoln Center Theater in 2015 for which Kelli O'Hara received her first Tony Award.

Now, the Tony Award-winning production has launched a National Tour, starring Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna and Jose Llana as the King.

Kelli O'Hara, Ken Watanabe and Company perform at the 2015 Tony Awards:


FUN HOME (2015)

Adapted from Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir of the same name, FUN HOME narrates the life of Bechdel through three separate ages; 43-year-old "Allison," college-aged "Medium Alison," and 10-year-old "Small Allison;" as she comes to terms with her sexuality and attempts to understand her dysfunctional family, especially her complex relationship with her father.

Jeanine Tesori's music and Lisa Kron's book and lyrics dramatize Bechdel's life, from her young experiences in the family funeral home to her father's eventual suicide.

After premiering at The Public Theater in 2014, FUN HOME ran for 583 performances at the Circle in the Square Theatre, receiving critical acclaim for its portrayal of a lesbian protagonist, and earning the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical. The production can currently be seen across the country as it embarks on its First National Tour.

Sydney Lucas sings "Ring of Keys" at the 2015 Tony Awards:


CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2011)

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, featuring a book by Terrance McNally and a score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, borrows most of its plot from the 2002 film of the same name, which follows the journey of con artist Frank Abagnale Jr.

Finally arrested in 1969, and later recruited to work for the federal government, Abagnale falsely assumed the identity of an airline pilot, a physician and a lawyer, all before the age of 21.

The production ran for 170 performances at the Neil Simon Theatre, starring Aaron Tveit as Abagnale, and Norbert Leo Butz as Carl Hanratty, an FBI agent who, based on real-life figure Joseph Shea, dedicates his time to pursuing Abagnale, and eventually develops a warm relationship with the former con.

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN earned a total of four Tony nominations, as well as a Best Actor win for Butz, before launching a National Tour in 2012.

Aaron Tveit, Norbert Leo Butz and Company perform at the 2011 Tony Awards:


SIDE SHOW (1997)

SIDE SHOW, with music by Henry Krieger and book and lyrics by Bill Russell, loosely follows the lives of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, who became famous vaudeville and burlesque stars in the 1930s.

Though somewhat fictionalized, SIDE SHOW highlights the Hiltons' journeys through the vaudeville circuit, as they search for love, fame and acceptance, all while literally attached at the hip.

The musical first opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 1997, and made Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley, in the roles of Daisy and Violet, the first and only actresses to be co-nominated for the Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award.

More recently, SIDE SHOW was revived in 2014, running for 56 performances, with Emily Padgett and Erin Davie as the Hilton twins.

Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner perform "Who Will Love Me As I Am?":



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From This Author Daniella Parcell