Cover photo: Nick Duckart, Kevin Carolan, Andrew Samonsky and Company in the First North American Tour of Come From Away. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
I saw Come From Away in NYC this past May. At that point, I knew the musical would be coming to Philadelphia, but I heard such amazing things about show and couldn’t wait a minute longer. This true story takes place in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland where many planes were diverted after the tragedies of September 11th, 2001. We meet real-life people who were on those planes or who live in Gander, we hear their stories. Come From Away isn’t just about the aftermath of 9/11. It’s about the importance of community, loving your neighbors, finding the common ground between strangers despite their differences. Come From Away absolutely is a must-see and you’ll get your chance this month when it comes to the Kimmel Center’s Academy of Music from October 22nd to November 3rd.
Nick Duckart, who plays “Kevin J.” and a few other characters in the show, talk to me about his role, his experiences with theatre and Come From Away, and the “Pay It Forward 9/11” foundation.
Q: You grew up in Florida. What are some of your earliest theatre memories (shows you were in, shows you saw, etc.)?
A: I did indeed grow up in Miami, Florida. The first play I ever performed in was Edward Albee’s A Zoo Story, as a high school student. Performing in the show is what inspired me to pursue it as a life goal. Before then, I had athletic and academic aspirations. But once I had the pleasure of working with Albee’s text, I knew I had found my new passion. That passion was further confirmed after watching one of my most influential experiences as an audience member. The show was RENT on Broadway. I had seen other shows before then, but it was RENT that made me fall in love with theatre. Seeing a bunch of young, cool, hip rock stars telling this incredibly moving story was a major driving force in my artistic pursuits.
Q: What has been some of your favorite roles to date?
A: Playing “Kevin J. and Others” in Come From Away is, without a doubt, the highlight of my career. Other favorites include “Usnavi” in In The Heights, “Nikos” in Zorba and “Leon Czolgosz” in Assassins.
Q: How did you end up joining the cast of Come From Away? What drew you to this show and your character, “Kevin J”?
A: My story is one that most actors can relate to. I was given an opportunity to audition for it. My agent called me with an audition, and I said “Absolutely!”. My dear friend Caesar Samayoa originated (and still plays) “Kevin J.” on Broadway. Before I was ever involved with the show, I was a superfan of the show and Caesar’s breathtaking portrayal in the show. I was just so proud of him and everyone involved in the creation of this masterpiece. Once I was offered the opportunity to play “Kevin J.” on tour, it was an absolute no-brainer. He is such a complex character with a very relatable journey, and having the opportunity to share it with audiences every night is one of the greatest privileges associated with being a part of Come From Away.
Q: In Come From Away, each actor takes on a variety of roles. Tell us a bit about the other character(s) you play. Did you find it easy or challenging to move from one character to the next throughout each scene?
A: Having the opportunity to play other roles in the show is the most exciting part for us, as an acting ensemble. We represent around 17,000 stories (10,000 Gander residents, and 7,000 stranded passengers), but we each have primary characters. Aside from “Kevin J.”, I also portray “Ali” (a stranded Muslim passenger) and “Dwight” (a resident of Gander, Newfoundland).
In regards to the difficulty of playing multiple characters, I can speak for everyone involved in the show when I say that although it was challenging, it was so exciting getting to create these different characters. Working with each other, along with our incredible creative team, we were to create different physical and vocal lives for each of these characters. And this brilliant form of storytelling is a testament to our creative team.
Q: “Kevin J.” and his boyfriend (“Kevin T.”) are based on real-life people who arrived in Gander. Did you ever get a chance to meet or speak to either of them?
A: We have indeed met our real-life counterparts. They are both absolutely lovely. We met both Kevins, along with the other real-life characters in our show, during our opening weekend in Seattle. We shared one of the most memorable moments of the tour so far, in which we were able to share our opening night bows with our our characters’ inspirations. It was such a special moment.
Q: I saw Come From Away a few months ago in NYC and met Caesar Samayoa. He told me about you! Did he- or anyone else from the Broadway cast- give you any advice for this first national tour?
A: I love Caesar! He was so helpful during my audition process. He was gracious enough to go over the material and talk to me about his own experiences in getting to know “Kevin J.” He also talked to me about the experience of being associated with this show since its infancy. The best advice he gave me, which is shared among everyone associated with Come From Away, was to understand that our show is incredibly special and enjoy the journey. He could not have been more accurate.
Q: Have you been to Gander?
A: I have not, unfortunately. It’s a work in progress!
Q: What is your favorite musical number from Come From Away?
A: I personally love “Prayer”. It is one of the show’s most moving moments, where people from different religions, different walks of life, come together to pray. Its gorgeous.
Q: In real-life, your character’s boyfriend, “Kevin T.”, launched the “Pay-It-Forward 9/11” foundation, encouraging people to do good deeds on September 11th. What are some of your favorite ways to “pay it forward”?
A: The “Pay-It-Forward 9/11” Foundation is one of the most rewarding partnerships within Come From Away. The initiative reminds us that being kind and paying it forward is something you can do on a daily basis. I personally enjoy surprising someone with an act of kindness when they least expect it. Whether it be something as simple as smiling and saying “good morning” to a stranger, or buying a cup of coffee for the person standing behind me in my favorite coffee shop, paying it forward is so rewarding. And it is something we can all do. Come From Away inspires people to be kinder. It absolutely has inspired me to be kinder, and I am sure it will inspire our audience members, as well.