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'Come From Away' director dedicates Tony Award to people of Newfoundland


NEW YORK — There’s no other way to say it: cast and crew members of “Come From Away” put the joint up when their show won the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical.

Petrina Bromley and Romano Di Nillo, the two Newfoundlanders in the cast of “Come From Away,” couldn’t contain their excitement when the musical won its first Tony Award.

Gathered in a private room at a Manhattan bar to watch the televised broadcast of the awards show after their own performance, they cheered and clapped and raised glasses to the TV as their director, Christopher Ashley, accepted the award and dedicated it to the people of Newfoundland.

“I’m accepting this on behalf of the people of Newfoundland, who extended their hearts and their homes and were very kind at the worst moments,” Ashley told the audience at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

“Come From Away,” which tells the story of Gander’s response on 9/11 when planeloads of passengers were diverted to the town, had been nominated for seven awards. That included Best Musical, which was won by “Dear Evan Hansen,” which was largely viewed as  the biggest competition for “Come From Away.”

“Dear Evan Hansen” cleaned up Sunday night, taking six Tonys — including three categories in which “Come From Away” had nominations.

Irene Sankoff and David Hein had been nominated for Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre for the score to “Come From Away,” but that award was taken by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for their work on “Dear Evan Hansen.” Sankoff and Hein’s work still got its moment onstage when the cast performed "Welcome to The Rock.”

The Best Book of a Musical Award, for which Sankoff and Hein were also nominated, was awarded to Steven Levenson for “Dear Evan Hansen.”

“Come From Away” was also bested by “Dear Evan Hansen” in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role category, for which Jenn Colella was nominated. Rachel Bay Jones won the award for her role as Heidi Hansen.

Kelly Devine earned “Come From Away” a nomination for Best Choreography; that award was given to Andy Blankenbuehler for “Bandstand.”

Best Lighting Design of a Musical went to Bradley King for “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.” Howell Binkley had been nominated for “Come From Away.”

 

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Petrina Bromley, one of two Newfoundlanders in the cast of “Come From Away,” described the cast performance at the awards show as amazing.

“It all went well for me personally, she said, laughing. “And it was fun!”

Romano Di Nillo, the other Newfoundland actor in the musical, said it was “like an out-of-body experience.”

The majority of the cast didn’t stick around for the show following their performance – they met at a private location in Manhattan to watch the televised broadcast together.

The cast said they were excited for the Tonys, but not really fussed over them, since they consider the real accolade to be the town of Gander’s acceptance and pride in the show.

“It’s the Newfoundlanders who show so much pride when they see it, and the survivor families and the first respnders and the people who have lost someone in 9/11 who come and talk to us and say it’s healing,” said Bromley.

N.L. in NYC

It seemed there were a lot of fans in the audience, as there was loud clapping and cheering whenever “Come From Away” was named.

Mark and Erin Smallwood of Corner Brook, all dressed up, pose outside Radio City Music Hall before heading inside to take in The Tonys.
Erin Smallwood inside Radio City Music Hall where the Tony Awards are about to start.
Erin and Mark Smallwood cheering on Come From Away in the audience at the Tony Awards in New York City.

At least one Newfoundland couple was at The Tonys Sunday night. Erin and Mark Smallwood of Corner Brook are doctors by day and theatre fans in their spare time, and made the trip to New York to take in as many Broadway shows as they could. They discovered after they booked their trip that they’d be in town for the Tonys, and bought tickets online as soon as they were released to the public, setting their phones to alert them the moment tickets went on sale.

“It was just this amazing, fortuitouts opportunity,” Erin said.

The Smallwoods attracted a lot of attention with a Newfoundland flag they proudly waved in the audience.

“A lot of people have talked about how much they loved the show and thanked us for the kindness Newfoundlanders showed during (the events of 9/11),” Erin said, adding strangers asked them for a photo upon learning they were from Newfoundland.

Premier Dwight Ball was in New York and took in “Come From Away” for the second time, having seen it in Gander last fall.

Ball had just wrapped up a visit to Washington with six other Canadian premiers for a panel discussion with American officials on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and even there, the talk turned to “Come From Away.”

“In every single meeting it came up, and not always was it initiated by me,” Ball told The Telegram. “There’s certainly a buzz. The Tonys are just building on what’s already a success.

Security is tight (but friendly) outside Radio City Music Hall, where the Tonys are getting underway.

“I just wish every single person in Newfoundland and Labrador could have this experience and see ‘Come From Away.’”

The show was hosted by Kevin Spacey, who saw “Come From Away” a couple of weeks ago at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

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