How ‘Come From Away’ made the move from stage to screen
The ones who have come from away to see Irene Sankoff and David Hein’s musical on Broadway can now experience it from away, too. On September 10, a filmed performance of Come From Away will start streaming worldwide on Apple TV+. The original Broadway cast members reunited to film the story about the residents of Gander, Newfoundland who welcomed thousands of people displaced by 9/11.
The film does not lose any of the show’s heart, and audiences can get a closer “gander” than ever before at the actors’ performances. Cast and crew members described the experience of immortalizing Come From Away as a film, from how stage work prepared them for the filming process to the joy of offering more people newfound(land) access to the show.
On how performing onstage prepared the cast for filming
“We have all learned that the best thing we can possibly do is pay attention to each other and listen with all our hearts as if our lives depended on it because it actually does. If you stop listening, if you check out, if you’re looking somewhere else, you’re dead, because your next moment’s coming, and you don’t see it coming. So that’s a great preparation, actually, to do film, because there were a lot of people running around us doing stuff.
“And they were great; it was an amazing film crew, but there were 10 cameras at a time shooting us. And the fact that we’d all experienced years and years of really checking in with each other, really meeting each other with our eyes and really listening to each other, that was a great preparation for this film experience.” – Joel Hatch, cast member (Claude Elliott and others)
On the film viewing experience
“It was important to us to capture the essence of the live theatre performance. And I hope we did, but also, we’re making a film, so we gave ourselves the ability to put the camera all these places that a live theatre audience would never get to be: behind the action and the grid, looking down, and the sides, looking across. And the camera can be in motion, so the crane shots that come in [can] go from a wide shot right into a close-up. And so many of the close-up shots give you access to the details of what the actors are doing, the tiny nuances that you might not feel from the back of a live audience.” – Christopher Ashley, director
“[The film version] will be completely different and completely the same. As in, at the rock of it all — literally, the rock, ‘welcome to the rock’; that was unintentional — but at the base of it is this story about kindness and community, and it’s so relatable. And whether you’re in a seat in the audience and with a community watching a show, or whether you watched on Apple TV+, that beautiful story will come through to people.
“I think the biggest difference is you get a kind of secret access — you get to see different angles and you get to come in closer. I was always the person, and still am often, that gets the seat way in the back, the cheaper seat. Because of the film, you get to move to the front. You get to be really close, you get to have that access, and I think that that’s the difference, that it might hit even just a little bit more into the heart.” – Astrid Van Wieren, cast member (Beulah Davis and others)
On expanding the Come From Away audience
“I love that it’s going to be accessible to more people. I didn’t get to see a Broadway show ‘til I was in my late 20s, and even growing up in Toronto, I couldn’t easily get down to town to see a musical, and when I did it was from the rafters. So for people to be able to see this and see actors up close doing the much that they’re doing is just wonderful.” – Irene Sankoff, librettist and composer
“This is an opportunity for people who don’t routinely go to the theatre for whatever reason to have theatre come to them. And hopefully, the show is going to play as it does in the theatre, and even more because it’s an intimate setup, but I hope that it makes people realize that theatre is accessible, that theater is something that they can go see within their own community and that live arts is cool.” – Sharon Wheatley, cast member (Diane Gray and others)