September 11 and musical don’t seem like two concepts that should go together.
In the 20 years since that terrible day changed the world, many stories have emerged and now one of them has been made into a musical.
“What we tell people is that it’s not actually a September 11 story,” actor Zoe Gertz explained.
“We say it’s a September 12 story, because it actually focuses on the wonderful things that came out of that tragic event – the very best of humanity that was highlighted after that terrible event, how people looked after each other and gave each other hope.”
When the terrorist attack occurred, 38 flights were diverted out of US airspace into Canada, leaving 7000 passengers stranded in a small town called Gander in Newfoundland.
The Broadway hit Come From Away is the true story of how this small town’s kindness impacted on the outsiders, who found themselves welcomed by this generous community.
This new show has won a stack of awards including a Tony Award and four Olivier Awards.
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Actor Zoe Gertz plays Beverly Bass, the first female American Airlines captain, and one of the pilots who was diverted to Gander on September 11.
“Her [story] is a very inspiring story. She has some wonderful poignant moments throughout the show reflecting on her career and her family and her entire life really.”
Zoe said it was the generosity of the Gander locals that left a “lasting impression” on the “Come From Aways”.
“Being diverted to a place that they’d never been, with people they didn’t know, when you think about the scale of it – 7000 people turned up in the area with a population of only 9000. So the population suddenly doubled within hours.
“And these people they opened their homes, they got clothes and food, they didn’t sleep, pretty much, for that five days. Their number one priority was making sure that these people were fine and looked after and cared for. And that sort of generosity, that has to leave a lasting impression on you.”
One of the show’s strengths is the way it celebrates a melting-pot of cultures, bringing together people from all around the world.
“There’s such a cultural shift in musical theatre at the moment in wanting diversity because it reflects the world as we know it,” Zoe said.
“It really is a perfect snapshot of the world at that time and you even see it in the way this show is cast. We have people from all over the world, different ages, shapes, sizes.
“We look like real people as opposed to just being a stage full of leggy blonde showgirls. We’re all shapes and sizes and ages and we are telling the story of these real people.”
One of the distinctive features of Come From Away is there are only 12 actors on stage, all playing multiple characters.
“I’ve probably worked harder on this show than anything else I’ve ever done because we never leave the stage. We all have to play multiple characters. A lot of the scene changes involve using our bodies and just 14 chairs that we move around the stage. It’s a very physical way of telling a story,” Zoe said.
“It’s probably the thing that I’m proudest to have been a part of in my entire career.”
Come from Away opens at the Capitol Theatre on Thursday, June 3. Listen to Zoe Gertz chatting to Katrina Roe about the generosity and compassion on show in the player above.