Top News

‘Come From Away' cast excited for tonight’s awards, but say they’re only icing on the cake

Newfoundland actress Petrina Bromley sits in her dressing room backstage at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway Saturday evening. Behind her is a framed photo of fellow local actress Janet Edmonds, who passed away last month. Bromley’s thrilled for tonight’s Tony Awards show, but says the outcome won’t change much for her, since the approval of the people of Gander is reward enough.
Newfoundland actress Petrina Bromley sits in her dressing room backstage at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway Saturday evening. Behind her is a framed photo of fellow local actress Janet Edmonds, who passed away last month. Bromley’s thrilled for tonight’s Tony Awards show, but says the outcome won’t change much for her, since the approval of the people of Gander is reward enough.

NEW YORK — Tickets to “Come From Away” on Broadway, regular price, will set you back anywhere between about US $85 and US $400 or more, depending on where you want to sit and how far in advance you book. If you’re tenacious, though, you might be able to score a ticket for around $38

In an effort to make Broadway shows more accessible to everyone, many producers hold back a limited number of “rush tickets,” released at the box office on the day of the show for a deeply discounted price. The catch: there are a whole lot of die-hard theatre fans who will almost always get up earlier than you to wait in line, some of them starting at 2:30 a.m. The “Come From Away” rush line often stretches right down the block

The good thing about waiting in line overnight for hours on Broadway is that it’s probably nothing like waiting in line outside Mile One — with 33 C weather in New York City this weekend, no one’s freezing and lots of people consider it fun.

“I like the rush line because you can get cheap tickets, therefore allowing me to see the show multiple times,” says Amanda Jurson, a New York native. “Back when (“Come From Away”) opened, you could get there are like 7:30 or 8 and get a ticket. Now that the show is a success, people have lined up as early as midnight and wait for the box office to open at 10. I usually get there at 3am.”

Set during the events of 9-11, “Come From Away” tells the story of the people of Gander and surrounding areas, and how they opened their doors to 7,000 airline passengers stranded during the days following the terrorist attacks. Newfoundlanders have naturally been excited and proud to see the show, both when it was presented in Gander for two days last year, and on Broadway: on any given night, there are Newfoundlanders in the audience at the Schoenfeld theatre, many of them waving flags.

It’s the American interest in the show that’s especially heartwarming; people like Jurson, who researched Gander because she almost couldn’t believe the stories she was seeing on stage were true. She wants to visit, and wonders how she might become an honourary Newfoundlander without having to kiss a cod.

She has seen “Come From Away” 54 times.

“I had no idea about Newfoundland at all,” she says. “But I’m glad I know about it now.
“(The show) gives me hope for humanity in a time when the world really needs hope.”

Backstage at the Schoenfeld theatre, Petrina Bromley shares a dressing room with “Come From Away” co-star Astrid Van Weiren (whose connection with Newfoundland began when she played journalist and Joey Smallwood’s nemesis Sheilagh Fielding in Artistic Fraud’s “Colony of Unrequited Dreams”). The room is tiny and filled with costumes and flowers. Next to Bromley is a black and white smiling picture of St. John’s actress Janet Edmonds, who passed away last month after a battle with cancer. She and Bromley were friends, and she’s not far from Bromley’s heart. Bromley has put Edmonds’ photo in a frame full of silver glitter and water, and when she picks it up and shakes it, the glitter disperses.

“It’s because Janet was always so sparkly,” Bromley explains.

Edmonds’ photo is the most prominent but not the only treasure in the room — people coming to the show bring the cast some unique things as gifts, from peppermint knobs to salt and pepper shakers in the shape of the Statue of Liberty.

“They bring us some amazing stuff,” Bromley says, picking up a set of pre-Confederation Newfoundland coins in a plastic display case. She opens a little mesh bag to reveal a Newfoundland beach rock covered in wirework forming the letters “CFA.” She and Van Weiren put on flowery crowns in blue, red and yellow — the “Come From Away” colours, as well as colours from the Newfoundland flag — which were given to them gift-wrapped. Whink store owner and jewelry designer Kim Paddon in St. John’s has sent a gorgeous Labradorite necklace, earrings and ring set, which Bromley intends to wear tonight for the Tony Awards.

She opens a pie box with the flavour “salty honey” written on top — it was a gift from Whoopi Goldberg after she saw the show and liked it.

“I think it’s the philosophy of the show,” Bromley says of the American interest in it. “At this point in their history, the idea of kindness and generosity and being open is something they embrace because it’s not being shown to them.”

Romano Di Nillo agrees. He’s a musician and the only other Newfoundlander in the “Come From Away” Broadway cast (though Great Big Sea’s Bob Hallett was a music consultant), joining the show in Toronto after leaving a seven-year stint with the touring musical “Wicked.”

“I think it’s the fact that it’s all real and true and iron-clad,” he says. “You can’t critique it, because it happened. None of it is make believe. (Writers David Hein and Irene Sankoff and director Christopher Ashley) tied it together beautifully, the peaks and the valleys, the serious scenes and the comedy. They made sure there was no belittling of this place or the humour at the expense of us. It wasn’t happening.”

Bromley and Di Nillo’s lives are obviously much different than back home in St. John’s. Their social media profiles are full of selfies with celebrities who’ve come to see the show — people like Uma Thurman, Kevin Spacey, Cindy Crawford, Tina Fey, Bryan Adams and others — and throngs of people wait outside the stage door after every show, hoping to get a picture and an autograph for their Playbill. Di Nillo jokes about how, as the show’s drummer, he can walk out the door unnoticed if he looks unassuming. If he wears an excited face, the crowds rush over.

Sometimes, they share their stories of 9-11, and sometimes they’re tragic.

“They’ll say, ‘My husband died in the towers,’ or ‘My wife died in the towers,’” Di Nillo says. “We hear so many stories at the stage door. I’m just happy that we’ve given them an outlet and I stick with that in my head. Fifteen years later and they’re still raw. But they enjoyed the show and they’re happy.”

The Tony Awards are happening tonight in New York City, and preparations in Manhattan started early: by Saturday afternoon, media vans lined the area around Radio City Music Hall, and blockades were being set up for the red carpet. The “Come From Away” cast is performing at the awards show, but not otherwise attending, and have rented a private space where they’ll watch the live broadcast on screen.

“Come From Away” is nominated for seven Tonys: Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (Christopher Ashley), Best Choreography (Kelly Devine), Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Jenn Colella), Best Book of a Musical (Irene Sankoff and David Hein), Best Original Score Written for the Theatre (Irene Sankoff and David Hein) and Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Howard Binkley).

Bromley and Di Nillo say they’re both thrilled for the nominations and what they mean for the attention the show gets, but they’re not as important as what the show has already achieved, especially when it comes to telling a tale that is very important and personal to many Newfoundlanders.

“We all feel that the biggest reward we’ve gotten from the show in terms of being lauded and celebrated are the two shows in Gander,” Bromley says. “When the people of Gander said, ‘Thank-you, we approve,’ we didn’t need anything else. That’s my Tony right there.”

 

tbradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

 

Recent Stories