It could be argued that no new West End musical has had a greater impact so far this year than Come From Away. Although the marketing budget in advance may have been dwarfed by such predecessors as Hamiltonand The Book of Mormon, who previously crossed over the pond with the level of hype that most producers can only dream of, Come From Away has relied on its ever-growing and always gushing word of mouth to gather momentum at London's Phoenix Theatre. Add to that the raving 5-star reviewsas the production officially opened in February, and an impressive tally of four Olivier Awards (including the all-important "Best New Musical" nod) earlier this month, and Come From Away is flying high as one of the West End's most popular destinations.
Although there are many pilots steering this plane - from Irene Sankoff & David Hein's honest and engaging writing, which includes an Olivier Award-winning score, to Christopher Ashley's innovative and Tony Award-winning direction - and although the musical is truly an ensemble piece that embodies a community of actors, it's hard not to single out West End star Rachel Tucker and her Broadway counterpart Jenn Colella.
Taking on the dual roles of Annette, a resident of Gander, and Beverley Bass, the first female captain of an American Airlines aircraft, both Rachel and Jenn have shown great versatility as actors - reveling in the warmth of Annette and the strength and dignity of Beverley. Indeed, both actors earned the highest honour with their respective performances as Rachel received an Olivier Award nomination this year and Jenn a Tony Award nomination in 2017.
We felt it was high time to give these two cornerstones of the West End and Broadway productions of Come From Away the opportunity to ask each other five questions of their own choosing, so make sure your seat is upright, your seatbelt is fastened and get ready for take-off...
Here are the five questions from Broadway's Jenn Colella for West End star Rachel Tucker:
Jenn: Had you ever played a real person (who is still living) before? Tell me about the first time you met Captain Beverley Bass.
Rachel: No, this is the first time I’ve ever done it, so it’s a totally new thing for me. It has been pretty challenging, but I’m loving it! The first time I met Captain Beverley Bass was in Dublin, when she came to see our first press performance of the show over in Dublin. She was so sweet and so generous and she gave me such lovely advice – tiny little bits of information that the director couldn’t give me like what the weather was really like that day and what the pressures were of actually having to lead a plane filled with 200 people. I really got the nuance of what it felt like on that day. I really felt like she was holding my hand, so that was really special.
Jenn: Which was the harder accent for you to master: Annette’s Newfoundland dialect or Beverley’s Southern drawl?
Rachel: They both have their challenges, but we have a dialect coach called Joel and he gives me more notes on my Southern accent. I think that’s because the Newfoundland dialect is closer to my Irish accent. I think I get away with a lot more when I’m doing the Newfoundland accent, so I would have to say the Texan is the harder accent.
Jenn: If you could switch roles with one other member of the cast, which role would you play and why?
Rachel: I’ve already had thoughts about this. I would love to give Bonnie a go. I love the character of Bonnie. Maybe it’s because I love how much Mary Doherty in our cast plays it, but I’d love to give her a try myself.
Jenn: If you could go to Gander, what would be the one thing on your Bucket List to do there?
Rachel: Absolutely to be screeched in properly! We got screeched in here in London, but you have to be on Newfoundland soil to be really screeched in. I would genuinely love to stop off via Canada on the next time I go back to America and be screeched in for real. The Newfoundlanders were such humble and beautiful people that I genuinely think they would put us up for a week without even batting an eyelid. And for those who don’t know what being “screeched in” means, it’s when you become an honorary member of Newfoundland. You get taken to a bar and one of the mayors will have to screech you in or somebody local. You drink a local drink which is similar to a dark, Jamaican rum and then you have to kiss a freshly-caught cod. It doesn’t sound too bad, but the actual fish has got massive teeth and looks quite gruesome. But I guess we’ve all had worse kisses in our lives?!
Jenn: Congratulations on your Olivier Award nomination! What was the absolute highlight of the whole Oliviers journey for you?
Rachel: Honestly, everyone says: “I’m not going to win.” But in my heart of hearts, I knew I wasn’t. As much as I would have loved it, I didn’t feel it was the right time. Just having the recognition for the work I had done in the show – that for me was probably the biggest highlight. On the actual day of the Olivier Awards, my highlight was performing in front of 4,000 people at the Royal Albert Hall. Having all the cast on stage together and seeing everyone on such a high and being given that opportunity to sell this show was priceless! And if there was one award that we really wanted to come away with, it was of course for “Best New Musical”. That was the one that everyone really wanted. When we won it towards the end of the ceremony, the rest of the cast was up in the Upper Tier section and they honestly looked like they were going to jump off the balcony onto the stage! They were bursting with pride. It was wonderful for me to share that moment with everybody.
Check out Rachel Tucker's five questions for Jenn Colella on our New York Theatre Guide sister site here!