Q&A: ‘Come From Away’ Comes to Central Florida

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Photos by Matthew Murphy
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Central Florida presents the national tour of Come From Away, a Broadway musical that tells the true story of the small town that welcomed the world, will make its Tampa debut at the Straz Center’s Morsani Hall for a limited engagement June 4-9, and its Orlando Debut at The Dr. Phillips Center from June 11-16.

Come From Away tells the remarkable true story of 7,000 stranded passengers and the small town in Newfoundland that welcomed them. Cultures clashed and nerves ran high, but uneasiness turned into trust, music soared into the night, and gratitude grew into enduring friendships.

On Sept. 11, 2001 the world stopped. On Sept. 12, their stories moved us all.

The touring production of Come From Away will star Kevin Carolan (Disney’s Newsies), Harter Clingman (Peter and The Starcatcher), Nick Duckart (In the Heights), Chamblee Ferguson, Becky Gulsvig (School of Rock the Musical), Julie Johnson (Memphis), Christine Toy Johnson (The Music Man), James Earl Jones II (The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess), Megan McGinnis (Les Misérables), Andrew Samonsky (South Pacific), Danielle K. Thomas (Avenue Q), Emily Walton (August Osage County), Marika Aubrey, Jane Bunting, Michael Brian Dunn, Julie Garnyé, Adam Halpin and Aaron Michael Ray.

It was a pleasure to sit down with Christine Toy Johnson for this exclusive Hotspots interview:

At what age did you begin performing? What was your first paid gig and when did you know performing would be your career?

I started modeling when I was 4 years old, so jobs for products like Life Cereal and Scotchgard were some of my first paid gigs in this industry. I saved the money I made and eventually used it for my initiation dues into Actors’ Equity (the professional union for stage actors and stage managers), which I joined the summer I graduated from high school with a job playing “Liat” in a production of “South Pacific.” I grew up in the suburbs of NYC going to see tons of Broadway shows, and always knew that performing (and performing on Broadway!) was what I wanted to do! After modeling, starting in kindergarten I began doing plays and musicals in school and in community theatres — and after joining the union, I worked in between my college semesters at Sarah Lawrence College at various summer stock theatres. I made my Off-Broadway debut shortly after graduating from Sarah Lawrence. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to have done 3 Broadway shows so far, about 10 Off-Broadway shows, a 100 or so television and film appearances – and “Come From Away” is the 4th National tour I’ve been on. I always think it’s amazing that I’ve been able to make a living at this for my entire adult life! So very grateful for my life in the theatre!

Other than this role what has been your favorite?

I’ve gotten a chance to play so many favorites: “Maria” in “West Side Story” (where I met my husband Bruce Johnson, who played “Tony”), “Amalia” in “She Loves Me,” “Sarah” in Guys And Dolls,” and more recently, George’s mother in “Sunday In The Park With George” at the Guthrie in 2017.

What’s your fantasy role (a role you haven’t played but want to)?

I’d love to play “Margaret” in “The Light In The Piazza.” I’ve performed some of the music in concert and just love it!

What should our readers expect from this touring company of “Come From Away”?

I genuinely love this company of “Come From Away,” and all of the people we work for. I hope your readers will join us and experience the incredible heart and humor of this show, and be as uplifted and moved as we are by this beautiful, true story. Our writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein and director Christopher Ashley have created this gorgeous piece of theatre that reminds us all of the power of intentional kindness, compassion and generosity and we can’t wait to share it with you!

Come From Away began performances on Broadway on Feb. 18, 2017 and officially opened to critical acclaim on March 12, 2017 at Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street), and continues to play to standing-room-only audiences.

The Mark Gordon Company will produce and finance a feature film adaptation of Come From Away. Two-time Tony Award nominees, Grammy nominees and Outer Critics Circle Award and Drama Desk Award winners Irene Sankoff and David Hein, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, will adapt the screenplay for the project and Tony Award winner Christopher Ashley will direct. MGC’s Mark Gordon will produce.

A Best Musical winner all across North America, the smash hit musical has won the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical (Christopher Ashley), five Outer Critics Circle Awards (NYC) including Outstanding New Broadway Musical, three Drama Desk Awards (NYC) including Outstanding Musical, four Helen Hayes Awards (D.C.) including Outstanding Production of a Musical, four Gypsy Rose Lee Awards (Seattle) including Excellence in Production of a Musical, six San Diego Critics Circle Awards including Outstanding New Musical, three Toronto Theatre Critics Awards including Best New Musical, three Dora Awards (Toronto) including Outstanding New Musical/Opera and Outstanding Production and the 2017 Jon Kaplan Audience Choice Award (Toronto).

Come From Away will play the Straz Center’s Morsani Hall, June 4-9. Regularly priced tickets are $51-$130 and may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Sales Office or online at Strazcenter.org. Come From Away then moves to the Dr. Phillips Center from June 11-16 with very few seats left, so jump on over to DrPhillipsCenter.org to get yours!

For more information, please visit: ComeFromAway.com.

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