A Dream Role on Broadway

June 2017

Life couldn’t be sweeter for Thunder Bay born actress Susan Dunstan.

The former Westgate graduate is on top of the world enjoying the role of a lifetime in the Broadway musical Come From Away.

Written by Canadian writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the show is based on actual events that took place on September 11, 2001 in Gander, Newfoundland. The play has garnered critical acclaim, becoming one of the hottest tickets on Broadway and the recipient of 7 Tony Award nominations.

“Being part of a new original musical opening on Broadway is a very special experience. We’re pleased to be so well received in New York City. Working here is very exciting, and being a part of a show about inclusion, humanity, friendship, and acceptance is a great story to tell” says Dunstan.

She describes the play as a 9/12 story, about what happened in the 5 days following 9/11 in Gander when 38 planes were grounded when the U.S. airspace was closed, and 7,000 people from around the world got dropped in a town of 8,000. The people of Newfoundland, clothed, fed, and cared for all the lost, stranded, distraught people and made lifelong friendships along the way.

“I’ve met almost all of the people who are characters in the show. The Come from Aways, like Captain Beverly Bass, the first US Captain of a commercial airliner. And all of the locals, who looked after them. Beulah, Oz, Claude…the mayor. They’ve all been to many shows.

We even met Hannah, the woman who lost her son, a fireman in the towers. She was on a plane and landed in Gander and spent 5 days by the phone in the Gander Legion waiting to hear any news about her son. Beulah, who runs the legion, never left her side. Cooking for her, taking care of her, walking her to church. And they’re all friends to this day”, says Dunstan.

She reveals that people love the show because it is all heart, and about all that is good in the world, and in people. And in this day and age, people are hopeful to be reminded of what can be.

If you google the show, it’s remarkable the amount of press the show has generated and how much it has touched those who have attended.
Opening night was a big highlight for Dunstan as the theatre was full of celebrities and political dignitaries including Ivanka Trump and Justin Trudeau.

“Meeting Justin Trudeau, was AWESOME! One of the most exciting days for me, and I got to meet a lot of people who came to see the show. To celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday the Canadian Consulate purchased 500 tickets”, Dunstan recalls.

She doesn’t get back to Thunder Bay very much these days, but still keeps in contact with her friends and family, many of whom flew to New York to attend the opening night performance.

If you’re planning a trip to New York this summer, Dunstan encourages you to see the show. She suggested purchasing tickets directly from the website www.comefromaway.com where you buy in advance, or try for rush or standing room tickets the day of the show.

If you can’t make it to New York - there is a Canadian Company set to open the show in the new year starting in Winnipeg in January and then moving to Toronto’s Mirvish Theatre in February.

Dunstan encourages any local youth interested in getting started in the business of acting to contact her through her website susandunstan.com. “I always try and help young actors and actresses on their way”, says Dunstan.

Bill Wrightsell is a marketing consultant and regular contributor to Bayview Magazine. Email him at wrightselladto@rogers.com

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