Tony-nominated 'Come from Away' finds hope amid 9/11 tragedy

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 04:44PM
Entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon has the latest details.

NEW YORK - A new Broadway show tells a story from September 11th that finds hope amid tragedy.

"Come From Away" is a story of perseverance and kindness that almost got overlooked in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

When U.S. airspace was closed on 9/11, almost 7,000 people in nearly 40 passenger jets were all forced to land in Canada at an airport called Gander in Newfoundland. Once there, residents welcomed all the folks who'd "come from away":

Each member of the cast plays many parts in the musical, which is nominated for the Tony Award as the year's best. But among the fine ensemble, one name was selected to compete for an individual trophy.

The role Jenn Colella plays is based on a real person named Beverley Bass, who was the first female pilot to make captain at American Airlines. And Colella's big number uses Bass' own words.

"There's an authenticity to that, which feels extraordinary," Colella said.

Bass, now retired, has seen the show almost 70 times and grown close to the woman who plays her.

"This is someone I would not have otherwise have known," Colella said. "She's this beautiful, conservative Republican who lives in Texas, who was not a theatergoer at all. And, you know, I am an artist, Democrat, who identifies as mostly gay who lives in New York City."

The bridge between their two worlds mirrors the material: a story of how people from all walks of life came together for five days in 2001, a ray of hope in troubled times, then and now.

"Meanness doesn't feel good, to give or to receive, and it actually feels better to go back to our natural state, which is one of kindness and compassion," Colella said. "And this is a story that reminds us that that's accessible at all times, not just in the wake of tragedy."

Colella's first Tony nomination comes almost a quarter century after she saw a performance of "Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway and decided to become an actress. Her first hit has left the performer "overwhelmed with emotion." And that's how you'll feel watching her "come from away."
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