Nfld. & Labrador

Come From Away cast wraps emotional visit to Newfoundland with screech-in

It was a scene of tears, laughter and Newfoundland screech for the cast and crew of Come From Away, as they finished their visit to Gander for a pair of benefit performances.

Musical heads to Toronto and Broadway — but first the locations that inspired the show

Actor Kendra Kassebaum becomes a honourary Newfoundlander during a screech-in for the cast of Come From Away. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

It was a day of tears, laughter and Newfoundland Screech for the cast and crew of Come From Away, as they finished their visit to Gander for a pair of performances.

Their day started at Tim Horton's — just like the musical, which is based on the compassionate response of Newfoundlanders to passengers stranded in September 2001. 

Gander municipal police officer Oz Fudge gave actor Geno Carr, who plays Oz in the show, a ride in the cruiser and made him an honourary fellow officer. 

"We figured we had to give you something," said Fudge, who was part of the emergency response team dealing with more than 6,000 stranded passengers in Gander hours after the 9/11 attacks.

Fudge framed one of his first badges and the town crest and gifted them to Carr.

"Oh my gosh," said Carr, posing in front of the vehicle. "Isn't this amazing?"

Carr and the rest of the Come From Away cast spent the weekend meeting the real life counterparts who inspired their characters in the musical. 

A school that housed hundreds

Diane Davis led a tour of cast and crew through Gander Academy, where she was working as a teacher the morning of the attacks in the United States. 

"Our first passengers arrived around midnight or one o'clock," Davis told the group, explaining how the school managed to house nearly 800 people over the course of several days. 

Former teacher, Diane Davis, gets emotional as she gives the Come From Away show a tour of Gander Academy, a school that housed hundreds of stranded passengers after 9/11. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The tour went through the school's gymnasium where people slept on cots, the library that was used as a communications hub and finished in the staff room, where meals were prepared by volunteers. 

"It's emotional," said Davis, as the group exchanged tear-filled hugs

"It was so important to have a part of this, to be able to help these people, and that you guys are able to tell this story and that everybody's come together in a way to do it.'

Davis watched the sold-out show on Saturday night in Gander, along with 2,500 others. She already has tickets booked to see the show on Broadway in February. 

A lovely diversion

Nick and Diane Marson traveled with the cast to Dover, where they relived their experience as passengers who fell in love after being stranded in Gander. 

"[Newfoundland] represents a complete change in my life," said Nick. "As a result of the events of 9/11, I moved to Texas, married this lady here and changed my job. It's a complete life change."

Diane and Nick Marson stand at the top of the Dover Fault lookout, the spot where they realized they were falling in love. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Nick was traveling for work from England and Diane was headed home to Texas when their flight diverted to Gander. Their love story is told on stage in Come From Away, a musical they've seen 32 times. 

Nick and Diane spent the days following Sept. 11 in Gambo. It was a trip to the Dover Fault lookout that confirmed the romantic spark.

"Nick started to take a picture of the scenery and I started to get out of the way," said Diane. "And he said 'no, no! Stay there.'

"That's when I knew he wanted a picture of me."

"That's very, very true!" said Nick, who had known Diane for two days when they went off to Dover.

"I needed something to remind me that this really happened. So I was pretending to take the photograph of Dover Fault, but really I was taking a picture of her."

Taste of Newfoundland

At the end of the tour, the cast hit the Royal Canadian Legion in Gander for an unforgettable experience — a screech-in.

Kendra Kassebaum, who plays a nervous reporter in Come From Away, wore a brave face as she settled in for the ceremony to become a honourary Newfoundlander. 

First she ate the dried capelin — quickly washed down with ginger ale — then a piece of Vienna sausage, and then the rum. 

"Here it comes," said Kassebaum as she shot back the ounce of Screech, shouting and clapping her hands.

With a quick kiss on the cod's lips, Kassebaum and the rest of the Come From Away team, most who have spent the better part of three years working for a show textured with Newfoundland culture, were asked if they're ready to be Newfoundlanders. 

"'Deed I is, me old cock," they shouted. "And long may your big jib draw." 

The party continued into the evening with a surprise visit from Newfoundland mummers. 

Most of the actors were scheduled to head back to Toronto on Monday to prepare for opening night there on Nov. 23. 

The Come From Away cast pose at the Gander International Airport ahead of a day spent touring the locations that the Broadway musical is based on. (Chris Ensing/CBC)


Chris Ensing

CBC News

Chris Ensing is a reporter who has worked as a videojounalist and host for CBC News since 2011.