SevenVenues Broadway in Norfolk series is proud to bring to Chrysler Hall, in Norfolk, Virginia Come From Away, the remarkable true story of 7,000 stranded passengers and Gander, the small town in Newfoundland that welcomed them on 9/11 when all the planes were forced to land no matter where they were, due to the horrific attack of that day.
Winner of the 2019 Olivier Award in London and Best Musical all across North America, Newsweek says that this breathtaking musical, Come From Away, “Takes you to a place you never want to leave!” It is playing now at Chrysler Hall through March 5th.
For tickets dates and times, go to https://www.sevenvenues.com/events/detail/come-from-away
Yiorgo: With us today is Marika Aubrey, who is the lead as Captain Beverley Bass. Why should people come see Come From Away, what will they see, hear and experience?
Marika Aubrey: It is a story about unity, at a time when it’s much needed. The story really resonates with people and brings people together. It’s all about no matter where you come from, your beliefs, faith, ancestry, whatever part of life you are from, what unites us is much stronger than what divides us.
Y: For those not familiar with it, what is the story about?
MA: It is about a lesser known but very true story of what happened on the days right after 9/11, when a very small area at the very northern tip of North America, in Newfoundland, Canada accepted 38 planes and about seven thousand people while their population was only a few thousands. They fed them, they clothed them and more importantly, they comforted them at a time when it was very scary. They also formed incredible friendships and had a really good time. This was one of the few positive stories that came out during that time about 9/11.
Y: The real life events that led to it are so tragic, and you are portraying real people, as an actor, how do you humanize it, go about bringing the joy out in it?
MA: What’s really interesting is that most of our audience members are really surprised by the comedy in the show. It’s actually very entertaining and very funny because throughout humanity, the funniest things can happen during those moments of awkward encounters or being in unfamiliar circumstances. It’s actually good territory for comedy. The audience recognizes themselves in these people and the feelings they had themselves during those days post 9/11.
Y: What are your memories of 9/11?
MA: We went around the rehearsal room on the very first day and we had every single person working on the project tell us their story of where they were on 9/11. For some people, that was a direct connection, for me, I was in Australia and because of the time difference, it was night time and we were getting ready for bed when the planes hit the towers. We did have a bit of a “Sliding Doors” moment because my older brother worked in the financial district. He chose to come back to Australia on one of the actual flights, the same flight number and plane, two days before. So if it had been two days later we could have had a very direct connection to the tragic events.
Going around the room, hearing everyone’s stories, no matter where you were that day, we all experienced fear, shock and with the news cycle not being what they are today, we were all kind of ignorant to what was going on. We were all terrified because we did not know a lot of information and if this would continue or not. It was a scary time regardless of where you were in the world.
Y: It’s so exciting to be in the first National Tour of Come From Away. What drew you to this play?
MA: I am an original cast member of the first National Tour. That is quite an honor. I was actually a standby for the production and about 10 months in, I stepped into the role for the first time as Captain Beverley Bass and I have been with the show ever since. We had our mandatory holiday of 18 months off when the pandemic hit. We came back in October 2021 and we will be wrapping up this May. I have been with this show for six years.
Y: What drew you to this show?
MA: I got the brief and I like so many had not heard of these events. I watched it on Broadway to be better prepared for my audition and fell in love with the story and the people. The way this show is constructed is that there are 12 actors on the stage the entire time. The feeling of teamwork and comradery permeates the entire show and everything works quite well.
Also the story of Captain Bass really appealed to me. She is one of the pioneers and an innovator. She is the first female captain for American Airlines. How could you not want to represent her and tell that story every night. It’s the highlight of every show for me. I get such beautiful responses from young girls and other women who are in aviation writing to me and telling me how Captain Bass affected them and how the song inspires them. I get a special charge every night.
Y: You also play other parts in the show as well. Can you tell us about that?
MA: Everyone in the show plays multiple parts since there were thousands of people stranded there. So we change accents, clothes and characters to tell the story and then at the end when we come out to take our bows and there are only 12 of us, the people are quite surprised. I also play Annette who is one of the locals. For her, the people visiting is an eye-opening inspiring experience because she lived in this small town as the librarian and having all these new people visiting with their new stories is very exciting for her. The other characters I play do not have names but they help to tell the story.
Y: You have been blessed to meet the real Captain Beverley Bass. Can you talk about your friendship? I understand she has seen the show over 150 times.
MA: There is no other way that I can think of that we would have met or become friends without this show. Beverley was born in Florida, calls Texas her home now and had no interest in musicals. And I am from Regional Australia and don’t fly planes. The first time she saw me in the role I was really nervous and she was really surprised to hear that. I wanted to make sure, since she is the one I was portraying, that I did a great job. After the first couple of times, I was no longer nervous. She is actually like having my mom in the audience. She is very supportive and loves coming to the show. It’s been one of the greatest surprises of her life, that she has been immortalized.
Y: Do you ask her info about her to play her more realistically?
MA: I have had the opportunity to ask her about what buttons to push so she printed out the cockpit and highlighted what I needed to push.
Y: It’s so important to give back in my opinion and you do exactly that. You have a charity called “Carols by Cabaret,” for the Wayside Chapel. What prompted you to co-found it and continue with it to this day?
MA: It’s a charity in Australia. It’s basically an open house that takes care of homeless people, struggling with addiction or trying to get back on their feet. They do this tremendous event on Christmas Day where they close down the street and feed hundreds of people who are otherwise displaced. It’s so important on Christmas day, to have a seat at the table and a place to be that year. That’s why I loved co-creating that charity with some friends in Australia and giving back.
Y: Speaking of giving back, tell us about the “Pay it Forward Day” that the producers of Come From Away have created?
MA: Our producers, the “Junkyard Dogs” as they are affectionately called, give us money to go out to the community and do little acts of kindness. It could be as simple as picking up someone’s coffee bill who is having a bad day. We do this around the date of 9/11. One year, my colleague and I took a large platter of food to one of the local schools in a low income area and brought the teachers lunch.
Y: You continue to have an incredible career. Can you share a wow, pinch me moment that you can’t believe you got to experience?
MA: It was when I actually played Captain Bass on Broadway for my Broadway debut.
I had taken a few days off from the tour to be home in New York City on Christmas day with my family. Unfortunately, that was the week that the omicron strain of covid hit Broadway and really ravaged the acting community. It looked like Come From Away on Broadway may have to cancel shows because they did not have enough females to do the show. They remembered that I had taken a leave of absence and was in the city. I got a call on Christmas Day, a very, very lovely Christmas present to receive, and I was asked if I would mind doing the show the next day.
It was a very unusual debut. There was no champagne or flowers. It was very fun and very calm because I had done the show and my role hundreds of times. The best part about it was that I was working with a lot of actors that had not worked with me before. That sounds scary but it’s so fun because it’s so fresh and everyone is really focused and excited to be on stage and we had a really good time and I feel really bonded to the people in that experience on that day, because we picked up the curtain and saved that day. I really treasure that day and being part of that opportunity.
Yiorgo is an arts, entertainment and sports writer. A stage, TV and movie actor, he is also a sports entertainer, educator, motivational speaker, writer, storyteller and columnist.
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