Exclusive: Danielle K. Thomas Helps Us Celebrate the Joy in Life in the Exuberant Musical, ‘Come From Away’

Once in a while, a musical comes along that triggers simultaneous laughter and tears, and evokes such joyful memories that make us want to live our life to the fullest.

Such a musical is Come From Away, a rousing musical about the true story of the small town that warmly welcomed the world into its homes and community during an extremely dark time in American history.

Come From Away will play at the Academy of Music on the Kimmel Cultural Campus from Tuesday, February 7, through Sunday, February 12.

On September 11, 2001, the world stopped. On September 12, their stories moved us all. Come From Away shows the remarkable story of stranded passengers in a small town in Newfoundland, Canada.

 Cultures clashed and nerves ran high, but uneasiness turned into trust, music soared into the night, and gratitude grew into enduring friendships. Based on the true story of 38 U.S.-based planes directed to land in Newfoundland directly after the events of 9/11, Come From Away shows the tenacity of humanity in a time of need.

“After finishing its run on Broadway in early fall, Come From Away is back in Philadelphia by popular demand,” said Frances Egler, the Vice President of Theatrical Programming and Presentations on the Kimmel Cultural Campus.

“The Newfoundlanders’ kindness, grace, and hospitality in the wake of the unthinkable on 9/11,” continued Egler, “is heroically celebrated onstage, taking audiences on a refreshing and emotional journey and showing us the good in mankind.”

A “Best Musical” winner all across North America, the smash hit musical has won the Tony Award for “Best Direction of a Musical” (Christopher Ashley), 4 Olivier Awards (London) including “Best New Musical,” 5 Outer Critics Circle Awards (New York City) including “Outstanding New Broadway Musical,” 3 Drama Desk Awards (NYC) including “Outstanding Musical,” 4 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards (North American Tour) including “Best Production,” and many other accolades.

For Danielle K. Thomas, being on the road with her young son makes the current Come From Away tour extra sweet.

“I look at this little human being and I love him so much and I just want to make the world better for him,” she revealed. “I just love him so much it makes me not even think about me so I’m already preparing how I can be the best I can be so that he can be the best that he can be.

Danielle K. Thomas is starring in the North American Tour of Come From Away, coming to the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.

Read on for why Danielle K. Thomas loves performing in the North American tour of Come From Away, the joys and challenges of new motherhood, and how the touring company has become like a close-knit family who adores her and her son.

Danielle, what do you love about the musical, Come From Away?

Danielle K. Thomas: What’s not to love? It literally just makes you feel good. That’s the best way to say it. I realize it sounds cheesy but I always say to people everyone is better off hearing about it. It’s the kind of story that we need to hear today. We had a guest time who told me “I laughed and I cried, I laughed while I cried.” You just want to be a kinder, better person. You just want to smile, to open doors for people. You just want to do your best to share the feeling that this show gives you.  

Does the show make you think back to your own experience with 911?

We actually usually say this is a 9/12 story which is true because it kind of changes my view of 9/11. I was home I had just finished college and I was getting ready to head to the city for an audition. I just remember coming downstairs to my mom’s apartment and my sister was there as well. We heard about it and watched the news and we could see the plane hit the building and we just all gasped. It was crazy.

But I don’t think about it that way anymore except for the moments in the show that take you there and we gasp and we watch, you know, relive those actual moments. It changes something that was so devastating into something better. I do feel like it’s a 9/12 story. There are moments where it’s really sad but thankfully this show allows you to go to a better place. 

How does the story resonate with you?

We are better for knowing about and we need it right now. 9/11 was terrifying but to me, it feels like our world is going in a direction that’s even harder and we need to know that and be reminded that we can be like that. It pushes us forward to pay it forward and be better. Because of what this world is right now with the pandemic, and all of the grief that so many communities are going through, I think it’s so important and I’m so glad to be a part of this tour and take this message where we need it which is everywhere. I feel like lately, the world has been at a standstill and in such a weird place because of the pandemic.

How does the pandemic resonate with this show?

It’s good to be reminded, we need to know that, we need it right now. It’s not a good place most times in people’s lives and families and how their lives are changing and how their lives could have changed during the pandemic. I think it’s really good to be reminded that people can be better. We all say that we relive the story and it is true. Meeting different people in cities and telling the story every night during the show wherever we go we’re living in compassion and I hope that reaches out to every audience member when they see it.

Tell me about your experience with touring.

I don’t know that I really enjoy touring. I now have a son and it makes it even deeper for me onstage to sing about my son. He travels with me, my 16-month-old I’m actually speaking quietly when I’m in the backroom because I have a kid (laughs). I think the only thing for me that is great about touring is our company. We call it a bubble when you’re on tour because you go from city to city, place to place and the only thing that’s constant are the people. We have such a great rapport because as you’ve said, you’ve seen the show, it’s not a solo show we rely on everyone else to help us.

A girl who plays Rose in the show has a five-year-old and whenever he sees her, he literally screams with happiness and she tries to pick him up. But the best part of the show is the people and my cast. They are my family. I pass my kid around to them when we’re on the plane, and when we’re at the airport. I know people at the airport are like what is going on this random black woman giving her kid to these random white people (She laughed). We are living this show. Touring is tough, but this family closeness is what I truly enjoy.

What are you looking forward to when the show plays in Philadelphia? 

One of my best and dearest friends Bob and his wife Becky and their daughter live there we’ve already set up a play date. I’m very excited to go back to Philly it’s a wonderful city. 

Talk about your experience as a new mom.

Oh my God; you know it’s crazy to me. I know everyone has experienced motherhood in some capacity. Either you are a mother or you’ve had a mother. But for me, now know how eye-opening the world is now as a person who physically created a being in my body. I’m amazed at what I went through and all the changes.

How do you relate to other new mothers?

I see moms all the time and I stop them to talk and compare notes. One day in Canada I saw a [pregnant]woman after the show and I just went up to her and said hi I don’t want to be crazy but how far are you? I just see women and tell them you’re doing the best thing; you’re doing the best job and I just think that motherhood and being a mom it’s the hardest and best thing. He is my first kid at 44 and I wish I had done it sooner because it’s the best thing ever. In the show, I cry more I feel more just all of the emotions. Motherhood has changed me for the better even though my mother doesn’t agree. 

Why should we see Come From Away for the first time or if someone has already seen it, for a second time?

If you haven’t seen it, it’s a story we need to hear and know. It just makes you feel good so I think you should see it even if you have reservations, I can’t even explain it to you it’s the best feeling you’ll ever feel. If you have seen it before we have so many people that come and see the show many times it’s like touching back to a familiar place and it reminds you about why you loved it in the first place.

I’ve done this show a million times and I’ll see you hear something and be like wow I didn’t know you guys did that so you learn no things. There’s so much going on in this show so go ahead and get another dose of this message because you’re better for it.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 215-893-1999 or online at  http://www.kimmelculturalcampus.org. In-person ticket sales are available daily from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. at the Academy of Music Box Office, located at 240 S. Broad Street.
For Come From Away Tour info, please visit: http://www.comefromaway.com/ 


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