Come From Away is building up steam on its journey toward the Tony Awards – picking up nine nominations for the 2017 Drama Desk Awards on Thursday morning.
The Broadway show set in Gander, Nfld., is nominated for outstanding musical, and its Canadian co-creators Irene Sankoff and David Hein are up for three separate awards: outstanding book, outstanding score and outstanding lyrics.
The remaining nods went to director Christopher Ashley, choreographer Kelly Devine, costume designer Toni-Leslie James, orchestrator August Eriksmoen and the actress Jenn Colella, who plays the captain of one of 38 planes redirected to Canada after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Hello Dolly!, currently on Broadway in a box-office-busting revival starring Bette Midler, led the Drama Desk nomination count with 10. Come from Away tied for second-place with Anastasia, a Broadway musical starring Ontario-raised Ramin Karimloo and adapted from the 1997 animated film with songs by Ragtime's Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.
Anastasia has, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as a major force in New York's theatre awards season, having been nominated for a leading 13 awards at the Outer Critics Circle Awards earlier this week. (Come From Away is up for seven.)
Other Canadians up for Drama Desks include actor Nick Cordero, who garnered a nod for best actor in a musical for his role in the Broadway show A Bronx Tale, and Montreal-born playwright Adam Bock, who was nominated for best play for A Life off-Broadway .
Each spring, the Big Apple is deluged with theatre awards in the lead up to the Tonys – the best-known of the bunch, which will be take place on June 11 in a televised ceremony hosted by Kevin Spacey.
The Drama Desk Awards, which were formed in 1949 and are voted on by New York theatre writers and editors, are prestigious in their own right; however, they are also watched carefully as an indicator of what shows might do well at the Tony Awards. Looking at the awards over a 15-year period, producer Ken Davenport showed that two-thirds of Drama Desk winners for Best Musical went on to win the same award at the Tonys.
What complicates matters, especially this year, is that the Drama Desks consider off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway shows as well as those staged in the commercial theatre district, and so Dear Evan Hansen, a transfer from off-Broadway that is viewed by many as a serious rival to Come From Away for best new musical at the Tonys, was considered last year rather than this one.
Likewise, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy's idiosyncratic, immersive musical adaptation of War and Peace, was considered for Drama Desks in an earlier 2013 production, though staging, design and new cast members of its Broadway production were all eligible again this year. (It's up for four 2017 Drama Desks despite the handicap.)
All of which is to say that the Tony Award nominations being announced on May 2 are even more unpredictable than usual in this overcrowded Broadway season that follows the juggernaut Hamilton.
It is perhaps notable, however, that a flurry of musicals with well-known creative teams or brands that opened late in the season on Broadway – War Paint, Amelie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Groundhog Day – are not up for outstanding musical at the Drama Desk Awards.
Despite being an entirely original musical without any major stars in it, Come From Away has been doing very well at the box office, playing to capacity at the 1,046-seat Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre since opening in previews in February. It joined the so-called "million-dollar club" in recent weeks by grossing over $1-million (U.S.) a week at the box office, a figure that is a largely symbolic indicator of success these days due to inflation and the rise of "premium" seats on Broadway. (Last week, 16 shows grossed more than a million, with megahit Hamilton again grossing over $3-million.)
With a modestly sized production and relatively low running costs, however, Come From Away is likely netting more money than most shows on Broadway right now on a weekly basis. Its flurry of Drama League, Outer Critics Circle Awards and Drama Desk nominations in the past weeks will no doubt make it an even hotter ticket.
The Drama Desk Awards will take place on June 4 in a ceremony hosted by Michael Urie.