Last time a play Laura Little co-produced on Broadway was nominated for a Tony Award, the Coeur d’Alene resident didn’t make the trip to New York for the ceremony.
That’s not happening this year.
Little, who is among the producers of the musical “Come From Away,” will be in the audience on Sunday night as Kevin Spacey hosts the 71st annual Tony Awards. “Come From Away,” which tells the story of the small Canadian town that opened its doors to more than 7,000 airline passengers stranded in wake of the 9/11 terrorists attacks, is up for seven awards, including best musical.
“We’re going to breathe and take it all in and just savor every single moment,” Little said this week. “Because who knows if I’ll ever get back there. You always hope to, but the chances are pretty slim.”
Still, Little has a pretty good average so far. Of the three shows she’s helped produce on Broadway, two have earned multiple Tony nominations. Before “Come From Away,” there was “Peter and the Starcatcher,” which earned nine nominations in 2013, including best play. Her other show, the musical “First Date,” has been licensed and is performed in theaters across the U.S.
“Come From Away” features strong competition from “Dear Evan Hansen,” about a teenager with an anxiety disorder struggling with the death of a classmate. “Evan Hansen” was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote the Oscar-winning music for “La La Land.” Also up for best musical are “Groundhog Day” and “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.”
Little said she believes “Come From Away” has about a 50-50 chance of pulling off the win. “I want to win, of course,” she said, “but they’re (‘Evan Hansen’) a very respectable show. So if we lost to them, it’s not like we’re losing to a show that’s all fluff. Everyone loves ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ … I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love it. But it’s the same with ‘Come From Away.’ There are really very few people who don’t love it as well. It’s really anybody’s game at this point, between the two shows.”
A look at predictions online seem to bear that out. Ben Brantley, theater critic for the New York Times, picks “Come From Away” to win, although his “should win” vote is a tie between “Evan Hansen” and “The Great Comet.”
In TimeOut New York, Adam Feldman writes, “Although ‘Comet’ snagged three more Tony noms overall, look for the less divisive ‘Hansen,’ which has already built a following among young people across the country, to take the top honor. But don’t rule out an upset victory by ‘Come from Away,’ which manages to be a feel-good musical about 9/11 and which has passionate adherents.”
And writing for Variety, Gordon Cox likes the upset potential of “Come From Away.” “ ‘Come From Away,’ the spring’s surprise challenger to season-long frontrunner ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ has become a sentimental favorite that’s expected to play well on the road,” he writes. “With no truly dominant candidate this season, voters may well spread the wealth – and one way to do that is to give the top award to ‘Come From Away.’ ”
“Come From Away” has some momentum, too, having won top honors at the Drama Desk Awards, the Outer Critics Circle, and the Helen Hayes Awards.
Little, former executive director of Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, is accompanied to New York by her daughter, Jessi Little, a Seattle actress.
“We’ve decided to see the show (Sunday). There’s a performance at 2 p.m.,” Little said, noting that it will mark the 12th time she’s seen “Come From Away” on Broadway. “So all the actors and producers will be coming out of our skins at that show. It’s going to be a great experience watching them perform their last show before they actually run over to the Tonys afterward.”
Afterward, Little said, there are a couple parties to attend, including one for “Come From Away.” “That will start at 11 p.m. and go until 2 a.m. It’s one of those late-night events, so I’m going to try to stay on Idaho time, so I’ll be just fine.”
As for “Come From Away,” the future looks bright. Little said the plan is to keep it open on Broadway “as long as it’s selling tickets, and that could be years.” In February, they’ll take a second cast for a 10-month run in Toronto. And in October 2018, the show will launch a U.S. national tour at 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle.
This story has been updated to reflect that “Come From Away” is Laura Little’s third Broadway show.