Come From Away is one of the most inspiring and heartwarming musicals to hit the West End in a long time. Telling the story of the planes diverted during 9/11 and what happened to the people on them and those in the place they landed: Gander, Newfoundland.
One amazing story is that of Nick and Diane Marson who met on a diverted plane and fell unexpectedly in love. Editor, Olivia, got to chat to Nick and Diane about the show alongside their actor counterparts, Robert Hands and Helen Hobson…
Can you sum up Come From Away in five words?
Nick Marson: A show about human kindness
Diane Marson: Love and acceptance
Robert Hands (plays Nick): Friendship
Helen Hobson (plays Diane): Human spirit, community
What’s it been like seeing yourselves brought to life on stage?
Diane: Well it was rather unnerving at first but we’re used to it by now. We’ve seen the show 88 times, in nine cities, in four countries and with four casts. But at first it was very unusual to hear your words come back to you.
Nick: When we gave our story to this nice young couple, David and Irene, they were making a musical not a documentary so they could’ve done anything with our stories, but they kept it very true and I’m very grateful and thankful to them. Our story was in the Washington Post and the reporter said: “It has to be true, nobody could’ve made all of that stuff up!”
Helen: I think that was a clincher for one of our producers, John Brandt. When he was first invited to come and see the show, to find out if he wanted to be part of it, he watched the show and wondered about the love story, he wasn’t sure because it seemed too amazing. But, Randy one of the other producers said: “Come with me, there’s a couple you need to meet” and introduced him to Nick and Diane… and John was in!
Diane: At the time it was just our life that was unfolding; it wasn’t something we had any designs on producing or writing about, we were just living it.
Nick: Neither one of us got on the airplane that day expecting a romantic occurrence.
What’s it like to bring real people’s stories to life onstage?Helen: It was good because our producer released us from the notion that we would have to do a carbon copy and do an impersonation of these two. He said you do what’s in the script and what we put out and yes, you have to learn a Texan accent but that’s really about it, so the pressure was off in that way. We were lucky enough to FaceTime them [Nick and Diane] early on in rehearsals which was great and we’ve improvised and used their real selves in the show.
Robert: They’re so natural together so we try and bring that and make it as real as possible without trying to impersonate them as such.
The show is five days condensed into one hundred minutes, are there any stories from those days that are special to you and didn’t make it into the show?Nick: There are many other things that happened. There’s the classic one where we went for a walk with another couple, and you see that in the show, but it was actually a man and his wife, the wife was a doctor and she had to turn back because she had sandals on and it was a gravel road. We carried on, and this was a checkmark in my mind because we went into a convenience store to buy a diet coke and some trail mix and normally I would buy it, cause that’s what guys do, and Diane whipped it up and paid for it!
Diane: Well I figured if I did that, he’d have to sit on the park bench with me and spend more time with me so there was method behind the madness!
Nick: Also, the show gloss’ over it but the next year we go back to our lives and for me it was an emotional rollercoaster. I was thinking “was that real?”, “is that woman really how I remember her?… I’ve got to go back and check it out” which I did and then I proposed to herDiane: On the phone in NovemberNick: and I was working in England and wondered how I was going to get to Houston but fortunately the parent company of mine was based in Houston, so the president of the company in England made it possible for me to transfer to Houston. But I was doing two weeks here, two weeks there and it was an emotional roller coaster itself. So I got to Houston properly in May and was a nobody; I didn’t exist, I couldn’t get a car or a driving licence, or anything until I had a social security number.
Diane: It was a lot of paperwork! We had to come back here in June and July of 2002 to get him a work visa because without that he couldn’t get anything in the United States. We couldn’t even get married in the United States.
Nick: It’s a huge mountain to climb to move countries and basically, I saw this lady, threw my life up in the air and went off to America! It sounds very romantic but it was also stressful and took quite a toll on us. Of course it was worth it though!
How has the show been going so far?Nick: The first time we saw the show here, there was a line of Delta Airways stewards behind us and they were a mess! When they found out who we were they were even more of a mess! And the lady behind us couldn’t stop crying, so I said “come here, I’ve got to give you a hug!”
Whether they come here excited for the show or not really bothered, people are going to leave happy!
Diane: It’s a 9/12 show, what happened on September 11th, everyone remembers that, but this is forward and it’s a feel good story.
Come From Away runs at the Phoenix Theatre and is currently booking until September 2019
photo credit: Helen Maybanks and Matthew Murphy