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La Jolla Playhouse’s ‘Come From Away’ to get the film treatment

"Come From Away," seen here in La Jolla Playhouse's 2015 production
“Come From Away,” which first hit the stage at the La Jolla Playhouse, is set to be filmed in the empty Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway.
(Jim Carmody)

The 9/11-themed musical will be the second Christopher Ashley-directed Broadway show filmed onstage since last fall, following in the footsteps of ‘Diana.’

“Come From Away,” the La Jolla Playhouse-born musical that has been a Broadway hit since 2017, will be filmed onstage in May for either streaming or cinematic release.

It’s the second of two Playhouse-sprung musicals that are taking the stage-to-film route since the coronavirus pandemic shut down Broadway in March. “Diana,” the Princess Diana-themed musical that was 19 days from its Broadway opening when it closed last spring, was filmed in September. Its release date has not been announced.

Details on when and where the “Come From Away” film will be available also are unavailable, according to Christopher Ashley, La Jolla Playhouse’s artistic director who is directing both films.

Ashley stage-directed both “Diana” and “Come From Away,” for which he won the 2017 Tony Award for Direction of a Musical. He already has three previous movie credits for transferring to film some of his past stage shows: “Jeffrey,” “Blown Sideways Through Life” and “Lucky Stiff.” In 2017, there were plans to turn “Come From Away” into a full-scale feature filmed on location, but the pandemic derailed those plans.

Ashley said “Come From Away” will be filmed onstage in the empty Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in a “live capture” performance with members of the Broadway cast and an orchestra led by conductor, arranger and music supervisor Ian Eisendrath, who also worked on the “Diana” film.

Jeanna de Waal plays Princess Diana in "Diana" the musical.
Jeanna de Waal plays Princess Diana in the La Jolla Playhouse-born Broadway musical “Diana,” which will be released this year as a film on Netflix.
(Courtesy)

Ashley said producing a film during the pandemic is no easy task.

For the filming of “Diana,” the creators had 20 Zoom sessions doing final rewrites and a Zoom workshop with the cast. Then they all quarantined together at a hotel in New Jersey where they rehearsed in the ballroom for two weeks. Next they recorded the Broadway soundtrack and then shot the movie in four days at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway.

Ashley is now editing the “Diana” film in La Jolla, working remotely with New York film editor Kate Sanford for 12 to 15 hours a day. Like the “Hamilton” film released in July on Disney+, “Diana” and “Come From Away” will be true stage musicals captured on film, but they will benefit from the close-ups and camera angles that live theater audiences can never experience, Ashley said.

Ashley said he’s excited to get to work on the “Come From Away” film in the spring because it’s a passion project for him and he feels it’s the perfect show for this time in history.

Co-written by the Canadian team of Irene Sankoff and David Hein, it’s based on the true story of how residents in a small town in Newfoundland cared for and sheltered more than 7,000 stranded airline passengers whose planes were grounded there for days in the aftermath of the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I feel like the story of ‘Come From Away’ is very much a story about generosity, taking care of each other, hospitality and kindness, and it will be a good moment as we try to put our society back together again,” Ashley said. “I know 9/11 and the pandemic are different events, but both of them really stressed how we deal with each other and talk to each other. I think a story about generosity is going to be very suited to the moment.” ◆