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Trudeau and the Trumps – night on Broadway

21 March 20170 comments

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has hosted President Trump’s daughter Ivanka at the Broadway premiere of a musical that celebrates a spirit of generosity towards foreigners in need.

Mr Trudeau’s policies around welcoming refugees could not be more diametrically opposed to the harsh stance of the Trump administration.

But last week, he took Ivanka Trump to ‘Come From Away’, a show that tells the story of a small town in Newfoundland that fed and housed thousands of air travellers from around the world whose planes were diverted when North American airspace was closed during the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The surprise date was seen as highly symbolic as Mr Trudeau attempts to maintain his country’s traditional close relationship with the US despite significant differences in public policy.

Ms Trump sat in Row F between Mr Trudeau and Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, and directly behind a former Canadian prime minister, Jean Chrétien.

Speaking briefly from the stage before the performance, Mr Trudeau did not discuss government policy explicitly.

But he did praise the show’s story, saying: “The world gets to see what it is to lean on each other and be there for each other through the darkest times”.

Mr Trudeau, who was seeing the musical for the first time, said he also saw it as a demonstration of the importance of close relations between Canada and the United States

“There is no relationship quite like the friendship between Canada and the United States,” he said.

“This story, this amazing show, is very much about that, and it’s about friendship as well,” Mr Trudeau told the audience.

Mr Trudeau’s celebration of a show about Canadians opening their borders and homes to foreigners in need comes at a salient time in his nation’s relationship with its southern neighbour.

Currently, Trump administration is demanding a reworking of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and it’s banned migrants from six predominantly Muslim countries. This has prompted a surge in asylum seekers fleeing from the US to Canada – where they have been mostly welcomed.

Mr Trudeau, who was greeted at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre with a sustained standing ovation, led a delegation of 600 people — including more than 125 ambassadors to the United Nations — brought to the show on Wednesday by the Canadian consulate general in New York.

‘Come From Away’ was written by Canadian married couple, Irene Sankoff and David Hein, and tells a distinctly Canadian story.

The show also depicts the shame that Muslim air travellers feel at being singled out for scrutiny; cheers the welcome given to a gay couple in Newfoundland; and features a black passenger worried about being mistaken for a thief and being shot.

These are all issues that have resonance with some of the initiatives President Trump has, or is, seeking to introduce.

The show opened on March 12 to mostly positive reviews.

The New York Times critic Ben Brantley called it a “big bear hug of a musical.”

The show had several pre-Broadway productions, including one in Toronto from November 2016 through January 2017, and is scheduled to open another production in Toronto next February.

It is rare for a foreign head of government to attend a Broadway show but last year, Mr Trudeau and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel attended a production of ‘Hamilton’.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist