TORONTO — Prepare the cod: Mirvish Productions plans to attempt the world’s largest screech-in at a performance of the hit Newfoundland-set musical “Come From Away” in Toronto next month.
A screech-in is a traditional Newfoundland welcoming ceremony involving downing a type of rum, kissing a codfish and reciting a short speech full of local expressions.
Mirvish says it will attempt the screech-in milestone with the entire audience following the evening performance of “Come From Away” on July 6 at the Elgin Theatre.
The theatre production company hopes to make a Guinness World Record by having all of the patrons in the 1,000-seat theatre perform the initiation.
Mirvish says every audience member will receive a small fake plastic cod to kiss and a shot to drink at the end of the show.
The shot options will be real screech or ginger ale for those who are not of drinking age or don’t wish to have alcohol.
“Come From Away,” written and created by Canadian couple Irene Sankoff and David Hein, tells the true story of how the tiny town of Gander, N.L., welcomed more than 7,000 stranded airline passengers after 9/11.
Brian Mosher, a former Gander teacher/broadcaster who inspired the character of Janice Mosher in the musical, will officiate the Mirvish screech-in onstage.
Typically a screech-in is done in Newfoundland and Labrador, so Mosher will have a bag of soil from the province with him during the ceremony to make it legitimate, says Mirvish.
He’ll also bring a few audience members onstage to kiss the big fake cod used in the show.
After the ceremony, the band will play lively music and participants will get certificates saying they’re honorary Newfoundlanders.
Mirvish says it hopes to have a Guinness official on site to witness the mass screech-in.
“But I have to say, Guinness doesn’t know what the record is,” John Karastamatis, director of sales and marketing at Mirvish Productions, said in a phone interview.
“In St. John’s on George Street, which is the main street where all the pubs are, they often have group screech-ins in good weather but they can’t fit 1,000 people. So we think we will have the record, if we’re successful at this.”
“Come From Away” has won scores of awards, including a Tony, and is currently playing in London, on Broadway and on tour across North America.
It’s now in its second year in Toronto and Mirvish hopes it will stay in the city for good.
“Our goal is for it to go on forever,” said Karastamatis.
“It’s still selling out and it’s still attracting a very non-traditional group of people to the show…. The reason they’re coming is because it’s Canadian. That is, I believe, its main selling feature — that it celebrates a Canadian story albeit with people from other places.”