No Newfoundlanders in Toronto ‘Come From Away’ cast
‘We really tried to give people an extra bunch of bonus points if they came from Newfoundland,’ creators say
The creators of Broadway sensation “Come From Away” say they gave extra points to Newfoundlanders when selecting performers for the Toronto production of the show, but none made it to the cast list.
Mirvish Productions announced an all-Canadian cast for the Toronto version of “Come From Away” on Wednesday, with some accomplished and well-known names.
“Degrassi” actress Eliza-Jane Scott will play pilot Beverley Bass, a role played on Broadway by Tony-nominated actress Jen Colella.
George Masswohl will play Gander Mayor Claude Elliott and a series of other mayors in the show, while Lisa Horner will play Gander resident Beulah Cooper.
Former “Canadian Idol” finalist Steffi DiDomenicantonio will take the role of TV reporter Janice, while Kristen Peace will play the role of SPCA worker Bonnie Harris.
Other performers include Jack Noseworthy, Ali Momen, Barbara Fulton, James Kall, Saccha Dennis, Kevin Vidal and Cory O’Brien.
A number of Newfoundland performers auditioned for the Toronto cast and some of those received callbacks, but they weren’t ultimately selected.
Kate Etienne, who lived in Corner Brook (her father, Jerry, is founder of the Gros Morne Theatre Festival and teaches theatre at MUN’s Grenfell Campus), has been hired as an alternate for the Toronto production, to sub in as needed.
“It’s so hard, sometimes people come in and they just fit a role. We really tried to give people an extra bunch of bonus points if they came from Newfoundland,” Irene Sankoff, who created “Come From Away” with her husband, David Hein, told The Telegram in New York last month after the Tony Awards.
The awards show saw “Come From Away” director Christopher Ashley — who is also directing the Toronto version — win the Tony for best direction of a musical.
“We saw so much talent from out there, but it’s such a puzzle piece,” added Hein. “It can’t just be one aspect. We saw so many good people, and there are some interesting announcements to come. People want to be in this show and to represent.”
Without giving names, Sankoff said a couple of Newfoundlanders turned down spots in the Toronto production.
“We reached out to them and asked them to be in the show, and they wanted to either stay in Stratford or had relocated to the States and didn’t want to come home,” she said, adding there are a couple of Newfoundlanders in the Toronto “Come From Away” band.
“We made that step, that extra reach, but at the end of the day you’ve got to think of the production as a whole.”
Set in Gander, N.L., in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, “Come From Away” tells the story of how the town and nearby communities embraced close to 7,000 passengers and crew from 38 planes diverted to the area when American air space was closed.
The musical has won almost every “best musical” award in North America over the past year, including the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Helen Hayes, Gypsy Rose Lee, San Diego Critics Circle and Dora awards. It was nominated for best musical (and six other awards) at the Tonys.
There are two Newfoundlanders in the Broadway cast: actress Petrina Bromley and percussionist Romano Di Nillo.
The Toronto production of “Come From Away” will preview for a short engagement in Winnipeg in January 2018, before opening at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre Feb. 13.
In October 2018, a touring production of the show will launch at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre and travel the continent. Stops announced so far include Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa, though none in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Last fall, the Broadway cast performed two concert performances in Gander, N.L. before the show opened in New York, with all money raised from ticket sales donated to local charities.
“If it was up to us, we’d be (in Newfoundland) in a heartbeat, our entire team, living there,” Hein said.
“It’s not our money,” Sankoff added. “But we’d love to come back to Newfoundland.”
Husband and wife duo David Hein and Irene Sankoff are the creators of “Come From Away.” A Toronto production of the show is set to open in February.
Actress Petrina Bromley is part of the Broadway cast of the acclaimed musical “Come From Away.”
Romano Di Nillo, a percussionist in the production of the popular Broadway play “Come From Away,” stands outside the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in New York City.