Come From Away sign in lights in Toronto

The musical that stole our hearts

Newsroom authorby Christine SzustaczekJan 9, 2017
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By all accounts, the new musical Come From Away, which wrapped up its Toronto engagement on January 8, has been a smashing success.

Audiences consistently gave the show a raucous and prolonged standing ovation. Theatre critics from the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, and Now Magazine described the show using words like big-hearted, original, masterful, inspirational, sensible, cathartic, gorgeous, nuanced, and engaging.

Following the enviable reviews and powerful word of mouth recommendations, the show broke a 109-year old record at the Royal Alexandra theatre (selling $1.7 million in tickets in just one week and nearly crashing the Mirvish website). It prompted the introduction of new standing room tickets and spurred repeated lament on social media by those who realized they waited too long to try to get a ticket.

That same admiration has been felt by many in the Sheridan community. But layered through our collective awe is a deep sense of pride, gratitude, and joy that stems from having a very special connection to the show due to our mutual connection to the place where it was first developed.

sheridan night collage

“From the very beginning, I was struck by Michael’s role as a producer – how he recognized so early the potential in this story . . . and that it took him another ten years to interest the right creative team to take this on, as generative material for a musical. His love and faith in music theatre as a medium to tell the most important human stories has been very inspirational to me.” – Ronni Rosenberg, retired Dean, Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design  

“During the Sheridan night of Come From Away, I had a flashback to something which few Sheridan people would remember. In November of 1979, a CP train carrying chemicals derailed in Mississauga, leading to the week-long evacuation of that city. Sheridan opened its doors to countless evacuees. The corridors at our Trafalgar campus were littered with sleeping bags, families camping out and children of all ages. We learned to share the washrooms with generations of strangers. Unlike the residents of Gander, we couldn’t cancel classes to whip up dinners or take people moose-hunting. But we did provide refuge, running water, phone access, and diversion and conversation whenever possible.  I like to think that the people of Gander and the people of Sheridan share the same Canadian instinct:  open your hearts and your doors, help others in crisis how best you can, and remember that one day it might be you who needs help.” – Ron Cameron Lewis, Professor Emeritus, Musical Theatre

“I went to see the show with my daughter, son and spouse. We all loved the play. My son who is 16 and a bit critical said to me before the show that Canada doesn’t have anything interesting. After the show when I asked if he liked it, he said he did and has now learned something interesting and honourable about Canada, Newfoundland and Gander. I’m very proud to be part of the Sheridan community.  Michael Rubinoff – kudos to you.” – Jean Simpson, Co-operative Education Advisor

“I woke up singing ‘I am an Islander’. When I heard this morning that Beverley Bass and the real-life Nick and Diane were in the audience last night, it gave me goosebumps.  I am by no means a musical aficionado, but I think this will resonate with anyone who has the chance to see it and the fact that it was born at Sheridan is amazing.  I am already wondering when I can see it again.” – Jane Leaver, Manager, Awards & Annual Giving

“As a member of the Sheridan community, I felt so proud that Come From Away was incubated and workshopped at Sheridan through the work of Michael Rubinoff and the Canadian Music Theatre Project. In my role, I don’t have any direct contact nor any responsibility for a project such as Come From Away and yet I still feel so proud that I was a part of an academic community that embraced the challenge and produced a blockbuster show. A truly, uniquely Sheridan accomplishment!” – Sara Rumsey, Vision Transition Project Manager 

“As a parent, I am often challenged as I seek adequate and satisfying explanations for an exploitative and confusing world that seems to be mired in reverence for a lack of basic human decency. The message of Come From Away expertly captures everything I wish for my children to have as a beacon of immeasurable human kindness, and a guide for their own moral compass! Out of horrific tragedy comes a message of hope, not only because of the heroism of the people in Gander, but also to the courageous and brilliant people who found a way to bring that beacon into a theatre production that transcends entertainment . . . My son Cooper and I attended the Canadian Music Theatre Project workshop of Come From Away. The breadth of emotion that we experienced together that day was profound . . . Over the years he’d speak of the show with a passion that indicated the production had a meaning-making experience for him  . . . Come From Away has afforded me the opportunity to be proud to make a career and be associated with Sheridan, an organization that values the creativity and excellence that is the diversity of true education. ” – Cathy Coulthard, Associate Dean, Faculty of Applied Health and Community Studies

It’s evident that Come From Away has left an indelible impact on the Sheridan community. Many of us will reel in a sense of withdrawal that’s likely to emerge knowing that the show is leaving our country as it makes its way to Broadway.  To those of you I say, fret not. There’s comfort to be found in knowing that the next big Canadian musical may very well be unfolding now in our studios and on our stages.

sheridan alumni and the come from away cast

Pictured at top of page: Come From Away sign outside of the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. 

Written by: Christine Szustaczek, Vice President, External Relations at Sheridan.

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