BWW Interview: Tony Award winning director Christopher Ashley shines a light on humanity in COME FROM AWAY
Written by Tony Nominees Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the show tells the story of the events in Newfoundland the week after 9/11, when America shut down its airspace and Canada offered to house inbound planes flying from Europe.
The small town of Gander, with a population of only 10,000, suddenly saw the arrival of 7,000 passengers, people from around the world (the 'Come From Aways'). They were from different backgrounds and cultures, speaking different languages and were welcomed into the homes and lives of the people of Newfoundland.
"It's a story about people behaving beautifully on the worst day of their life"
The show premiered in 2015 at La Jolla Playhouse, in San Diego, California, where Christopher is the Artistic Director, and is now is playing to audiences on Broadway and across America, Toronto and London (where it won four Olivier Awards including Best New Musical).
Having been in Melbourne for one day, Christopher is already excited for local audiences to see this show and is quick to acknowledge the range and depth of talent of the Australian acting pool.
"Performers here are at the top of their game in musical theatre. There are so many great training programs here between NIDA and WAAPA. There's a deep understanding of how to act and sing and how these skills work together and so I appreciate the discipline and joy that they bring to the rehearsal process."
"COME FROM AWAY is an epic story told by 12 incredibly hard working actors playing hundreds of different characters and their ability to talk to you, tell a story in song, movement and words is truly bravura. The music is authentic, very propulsive, what you would hear in a bar band from Newfoundland. It has a Celtic music sound, the drum is the heartbeat of the score with the addition of the fiddle and pipes."
"This is a fiendishly difficult dialect show. The cast manages to turn from being a New Yorker, British or African to a person from Newfoundland. The entire world is represented in how people need to speak, and the ear for dialect that the Australians have is the best I've ever heard"
In writing the show, Irene Sankoff and David Hein found that people from Newfoundland were good storytellers. "Many of the characters in our show are based on real people. All the characters are vibrant, funny, truthful story tellers. They have a directness and an unapologetic emotionality and they know when to dry it out and tell a joke. They call it their 9/12 story - it's about what comes after all the drama of 9/11"
Christopher won the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical for COME FROM AWAY. "Winning the Tony was an amazing experience. I was convinced I was not going to win so didn't write a speech ahead of time. To stand on stage and look back at Radio City Music Hall and the audience is so immense you cannot believe. To win for a show that is very much based on true people and true stories, I felt like I represented all the stories, all of these real people and artists that made it possible, a top life experience."
There is a movie version of the show in the works, but shooting dates have not been confirmed yet. "After the success of Glee on TV and now the movies Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, it's a good time for the movie musical."
This show in particular is a story about friendship. "The US has a lot in common with Australia. While we are different in culture, we have that frontier spirit. It's a time in the world where everything is so prickly and this is a story about people taking care of each other and I think this universal message will translate well to audiences."
Further details and tickets available at https://comefromaway.com.au/