Broadway's "Come From Away" is commemorating the 20 years since 9/11 with the release of a filmed adaption of the Tony award-winning musical on Apple TV+ and a live concert version of the show at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Friday.
"Come From Away" tells the true story of 7,000 people who were taken in after being stranded in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, on Sept. 11, 2001.
Prior to its Broadway run, "Come From Away" had a sold-out, record-breaking East Coast premiere at D.C.'s Ford’s Theatre in September 2016. The show went on to play 1,250 performances at New York City's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre before closing on the eve of its third anniversary on Broadway due to the COVID-19 pandemic, raking in more than $174 million since its first preview on Feb. 18, 2017, according to figures from the Broadway League.
The production for Apple TV+, which was filmed in May in front of an audience that included 9/11 survivors and front-line workers, employed over 200 people, including members of the Broadway crew, staff and creative teams.
The free, 100-minute concert, which features modified staging with minimal props and costumes, will take place at 6 p.m. Friday at the Lincoln Memorial. The event marks the return of live performances for Ford's Theatre.
Josh Breckenridge, who serves as the show's dance captain and has covered five out of the six male roles as a standby on Broadway, will be one of the many actors featured in the Lincoln Memorial concert.
"It's an honor and a responsibility to tell the story," Breckenridge told FOX Business. "I think the cherry on top is that we often get to perform for the people that we are portraying on stage, which is rare in theater."
Kevin Tuerff, one of the real passengers featured in "Come From Away," told FOX Business he was traveling on an Air France flight headed from Paris to Austin, Texas, with a connection in New York City when he heard a startling announcement.
"The captain said something in French but I understood he said the word terrorism in English. And shortly thereafter, he spoke in broken English, saying due to a terrorist attack in the United States, we will be landing in Gander," Tuerff explained.
He recalled being greeted by armed guards with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after being on one of 38 transatlantic flights that landed at Gander airport.
"We essentially sat on the plane on the tarmac for 15 hours," Tuerff continued. "The airport couldn't possibly hold more than a single plane load of a jumbo jet of people. We had about 270 on our flight from all over the world."
The town, which had a population of approximately 9,000 people, had nearly doubled in size overnight.
The locals proceeded to spring into action, recruiting bus drivers to shuttle the 7,000 passengers back and forth from the airport and using any available supplies and space they had to provide food, clothing and shelter.
"What was amazing to me was just how they did it and how everybody stepped up with compassion," Tuerff said.
Tuerff was housed at Gander's College of the North Atlantic for four days before being sent sent back to Paris and later returning home to Texas.
Ten years later, Tuerff returned to Gander's College of the North Atlantic to speak to local students about his experience on 9/11. Following the event, he was approached for an interview with "Come From Away" writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein.
Tuerff's story, along with video footage he shared from his experience, went on to become one of multiple accounts from passengers and Ganderites that laid the foundation for the musical.
"I think that was very helpful to them in piecing together the full story because they interviewed lots and lots of people in Gander for the locals who were the heroes, but they were able to use my story quite a bit throughout the musical," Tuerff said. "And so I did that interview in 2011 and then forgot about it. And then fast forward two years later, I get a phone call: 'Hey, remember that interview? Well, we wrote a musical and you're in it.' And it's just crazy. It's surreal…I never expected to be on Broadway. I never expected it to be a TV film. I was completely off on that."
In addition to his contributions to "Come From Away," Tuerff launched a charity in 2002 called Pay It Forward 9/11, which encourages Americans to perform three good deeds for strangers as a way to honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks. In honor of the 20th year since 9/11, the nonprofit has launched the "11 Days of Kindness and Unity" campaign, which aims to perform 20,000 good deeds by Sept. 11.
Ultimately, Breckenridge says the overall message of "Come From Away" is what happens when kindness comes first.
"It is a literary piece of honor of paying tribute to these people and of reminding the world what really matters And kindness is what matters, love is what matters. And I think that that is something that we can never hear enough of," Breckenridge said. "And I do think that what the show will serve as for everyone is that much-needed, joyous, inclusive dose of medicine that we all kind of need right at this moment."
"Come From Away" will return to Broadway on Sept. 21 and resume performances of its North American tour in Memphis, Tenn., on Oct. 5, visiting 36 cities, including a return to Washington, D.C., at the National Theatre in April 2022.