‘I am so mad.’
Chad Kimball is in tears. After years of speaking out against sexual harassment and discrimination within the music industry and in the music hall community in Regina, Saskatchewan, he was abruptly fired in March, when the musical Come From Away was coming to The Cabaret to open on Broadway.
Kimball had devoted his career to bringing people from across the world to the tiny town of Gander, New Brunswick, for a weekend of celebration and relief after 9/11. The popular musical uses a variety of actors – including Kimball, who had just finished performing after ten years of helping 400 theatre graduates from the University of Regina gather together – to bring back these stories of resilience and love to life in the first place.
But after a year-long union contract negotiations, Kimball discovered that Come From Away producer Robert Fox – who had been trying to bring the play to Broadway for six years – was attempting to cut the supporting cast and crew out of the show altogether, instead paying them $100 a day.
Kimball was in the midst of putting together a payable notice for a major national venue when he received a call in the middle of the night from his agent. It was then revealed that Kimball would be “relocated” with his family to Oklahoma City.
“I was so naïve about the process,” Kimball told the GFW in a statement, “in doing so I paid more attention to the small things than the big things. At the time, my eyes were as clear as a mirror. Why did they need to pay me more than the production team but less than the players? I had no idea what was going on. My world changed in a matter of seconds. What if they’d taken other cast members as well? What if something bad happened? My baby was struggling, and there was no going back.”
Before that day, Kimball had had the chance to speak at the Broadway opening night on 5 April. “All I remember is, all I remember is that after I finished doing my curtain call, they had the crowd in silence. I could hear all the questions from people in the back of the theatre. And everybody was asking: What does this have to do with the show? And I’m thinking to myself: What happened? And I couldn’t answer.”
Kimball is suing Come From Away producers for more than $1m (£710,000) in his lawsuit against the company and is claiming unfair dismissal, “wrongful interference with employment relationship” and “unfair business practices”.
The local paper, The Regina Leader Post, published a statement from Fox.
“We wish Chad all the best with this lawsuit and hope he can continue to pursue his true passion – building careers in live entertainment in smaller cities,” the statement said. “Come From Away is a magnificent show with great support from the theatre community and excellent press coverage. We are proud of that support.”
“I am also very grateful to Robert Fox for understanding that our production needs to be modified.”
Come From Away, whose cast and crew have contributed their time, talents and morale to the show, have also expressed sadness about Kimball’s termination, but say their involvement is strictly honourable, and that he remains their friend.
“Come From Away is a tour de force that brings an incredible range of humanity to the audience that proves that people can come together even in the midst of a tragedy and become truly better,” said Fox. “Beyond that, Come From Away represents a new medium and a new medium where works and art are documented as real life, where there are no boundaries and no borders.”
“We love the work that Chad did and are very disappointed by his dismissal,” said the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a statement. “As and of itself, Come From Away was a gift to us all.”
“Chad is an amazing person and we are always rooting for him,” said Fox. “He is not only a brilliant musician and performer but a true hero of the arts.”
Come From Away will debut on Broadway in October 2018.