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Opelika Native Stars in 'Come From Away' February 29 at RiverCenter

It's not very often a Broadway national tour brings an actor back to their home stage, but this week marks the second time Opelika native Addison Garner has performed with a Broadway tour in Columbus. On Feburary 29, she'll appear in the national tour of Come From Away at the RiverCenter.

Read on to meet this bright and brilliant star, born and raised in the Chattahoochee Valley, whose journey has taken her all the way to the top and, at least for this week, back home again.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Addison Garner. Image courtesy of the actress.

Q: Addison, you're a hometown girl, and we can't wait to see you perform here this week! What's it like to come home while on tour?

A: I'm so excited to be in Columbus. I am from Opelika, Alabama originally, and grew up into everything arts-related that you can imagine. I didn't even know Columbus had such a strong presence in the arts until I was a little bit older, but now the River Center is one of my favorite theaters to perform in! I was here two years ago in the national tour of Hairspray as Velma Von Tussle, and am so excited to be back in town with the national tour of Come From Away.

Q: That's what I thought! I saw you in that production, and you were fabulous.

A: Thank you! It was just one of the most unforgettable experiences I think I've ever had. Because Opelika and Columbus are so close, so many people came out to see us. You see, I had just been home for awhile because of Covid. I have lived in New York for about five years, but when Covid hit I moved back home with my family to make ends meet. During that time, I started teaching voice lessons and really just like giving back to the community when I could. It was really cool for those people and students to then come and see me and support me when Hairspray came through Columbus. They'd all been a part of my audition journey, so yes, that was just something that was really, really cool to experience.

I think we had like over a hundred people there that night!

Q: How wonderful! Are you expecting a crowd again?

A: I hope so! I don't know who all is coming just yet, but I hope there will be a crowd there again. I always love bringing my road family back to my hometown family, so that will be fun as well. Several members of this cast and crew have never been down South, so I'm excited to share the culture with them. Bring on the Southern hospitality!

Q: What has been your experience playing Captain Beverly Bass in this show?

A: Well, first of all, it's been a complete shift going from playing a character like Velma von Tullse in Hairspray to playing this fierce female captain. In addition, she is not a fictional character – she's a real person. I have done endless research on her, and I was able to meet with her via Zoom when preparing for the role, and I think the fact I'm playing such a strong and inspiring female in history is what keeps every night fresh.

I'm still experiencing these same emotions as a real person. I'm not like putting them on, you know, or acting my way through it as if I would a fictional character.

Also, the more that I've researched her, I, I just have so much respect for her. She always wanted to be a pilot, but it was in a time where women were not meant to do things other than be a mom and a wife. And that was that. Beverly was the one of very few women that went into anything in the flying industry, and she became the first female American Airlines commercial pilot. Then her story just continued from there!

We think of Come From Away as the 9/11 musical, which it is. It obviously touches on those horrendous events of that day and how it affected our nation, but it also gives us such a story about the empowerment of women. I really, really have come to enjoy and love that aspect of the show. I love the women that I get to share that stage with every night, and I love the story we get to tell together.

Q: You've said that Beverly Bass is the most challenging role you've ever had. Why?

A: I think it is because I'm playing a real person. I've sung on stages for years of my life, but at the beginning of our rehearsals, I would always be so incredibly nervous when I got to my song. I couldn't figure out why! But after I really just like did some deep self-evaluating and deep diving, I realized it's because I'm having to be so vulnerable. Beverly is basically giving you her life story in four minutes of a song.

Q: Right. No pressure!

A: (laughing) Yes! But once I kind of accepted that I'm just basically telling a story, it made it so much easier! Once I kind of adapted to that mentality, it enabled me to get excited to do it every night. Now, I absolutely cannot wait to sing it every day!

Q: That's wonderful. What's something you want our local audience to know about the show?

A: Something that I think is really interesting about this show is that it's well known, but also not. It's not a big singy, dancey show or you know, Hamilton or something like that. But people come that don't know much about it, and they leave and they're just like, I have to see it again! I love when we're in places for more than a couple of days, because then we do have the people that come on Friday and then come back again on Sunday. I think that says a lot about this show.

Also, I think a lot of people hear that it's a musical about 9/11 and expect it to just be sad. But it really is very filled with hope. That's what I want always people to leave with – feeling more hopeful and more restored in their hope and view of humanity. Because this show does show you there is goodness in the world. There was goodness in the world on that terrible, terrible day. There is good in the world still today.

If You Go:

What: Come From Away

When: Feburary 29, 7:30 PM

Where: RiverCenter for the Performing Arts


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