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TUESDAY, Sept. 10 – The award-winning Broadway musical “Come from Away” will launch at Michigan State University’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts tonight, and runs until Sept. 15.
The play picks up on Sept. 12, 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Based on true events, multiple planes are forced to land in Newfoundland, Canada, leaving 7,000 Americans stranded. Cultures clash in the small town between the refugees and natives, while officials scramble to find a solution. The characters depicted are based on real people as well, such as the mayor of Gander, Claude Elliot, played by Kevin Carolan.
“Claude is a very open and cheery mayor who was dealt a very uncharacteristic hand for having all these planes come to town and he exemplifies grace under pressure,” he said. “He never loses his temper, he’s just trying to get control of everything and make sure that everything is taken care of.”
Carolan is a comedian and actor originally from Wanaque, New Jersey, about 45 minutes outside New York City. His stage life started in first grade, playing the narrator in his school’s production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The spark occurred after he did an unscripted impression of W.C. Fields.
“I remember me getting laughs from an audience after the scripted part of the show,” he said. “It was a precedent.”
Even though Carolan didn’t earn a performing arts degree, he performed in 12 productions during his undergrad. He said playing Elliott is right in his wheelhouse.
“I know where I live in terms of what I’m seen as, I’m not going to play a bad guy,” he said. “It’s certainly in there but the cheery persona is a lot more prevalent.”
Adjusting the accent was important for Carolan while he was preparing for this role.
“I have to be comfortable with the words that are coming out of my mouth in addition to wanting to have the spirit of the man I’m portraying,” he said. “That was a great deal of practice to make sure everything is all right.”
The most striking thing Carolan remembers about 9/11 was sitting down and turning on the television, thinking that he was watching a replay of the first plane hitting the tower, when he was actually watching the second tower falling under attack.
“I also remember the kindness,” he recalled. “I remember everyone was looking out for each other a little more those following weeks before things settled back down to what we know.”
Carolan learned a greater sense of sacrifice from the play.
“There is always a day of remembrance on the 11th about what happened that day, but they don’t always get that sense of charity,” according to Carolan. “We almost feel like missionaries in a way in the way of spreading this good word of selfishness.”
As the national tour will make its Michigan debut, Carolan said he hopes to “finally shake hands” with Claude Elliot during the Detroit runs.
“I want to remind people of the capacity of humanity,” he said. “It’s a very positive, healing show and every one of us is very grateful to be working, certainly, but to be telling this story at this time is very gratifying.”
"Come from Away”
Tues. Sept.10-Thurs. Sept.12 7:30- 9 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 13 8-9:30 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 14 2-3:30 p.m., 8-9:30 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 15 1-2:30 p.m., 6:30-8 p.m.
MSU’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts – Cobb Great Hall
750 E. Shaw Lane, East Lansing