Tony LePage was driving with his fiancé when he got the call from the director of Come From Away on Broadway, Christopher Ashley. He was told he scored the role of Kevin T/Garth in the Apple TV filmed production.
“I just immediately sort of burst into tears,” said LePage.
LePage looked at his fiancé and told her to pull over. They locked hands, sat in the car and cried.
LePage wasn’t always a Broadway actor living in New York – he grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick and didn’t start acting until Grade 11.
Despite having a starring role in the Apple TV proshot, LePage’s Broadway credits mostly consist of understudy roles. He appeared in Come From Away’s original Broadway cast where he understudied five of the male roles.
“I got to be a part of a show that reminded people about the hospitality and kindness of East Coast Canadians,” said LePage. “I’m an East Coast Canadian forever, for sure.”
Come From Away opened on Broadway on March 12, 2017, in the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. It tells the story of the city of Gander, Newfoundland on Sept. 11, 2001, when the “plane people” were grounded and spent days under the hospitality of the people of Gander.
Before the show’s Broadway debut in 2016, the entire company was flown to Gander to experience the landmarks mentioned in the show, meet the people and perform two concert adaptations of the show at the local hockey rink.
LePage said the company got to go to the high school which was used as a shelter during 9/11. They went to the Tim Hortons referenced multiple times in the show, explored the Dover Fault where characters Nick and Diane perform “Stop the World.” They also met the real Beulah, who cooked for and comforted the “plane people.” The cast was able to meet and perform for all of the real “plane people” who inspired the characters in Come From Away.
“I think everyone who was there, who was part of the original company, will tell you that that was one of the most special things they’ve ever been a part of; not just with Come From Away, but in their performing careers,” said LePage.
Before his Broadway debut or even his interest in acting, LePage was a high school athlete who never considered theatre. In Grade 11, a friend convinced him to join the school musical because the director at the time never turned people away as long as they could hold a tune.
LePage said he didn’t sing but decided to audition anyway. He ended up getting the role of one of the brothers in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
“When I first hit the stage, I remember getting the bug and I just thought, ‘wow, I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,’” said LePage.
In 1993, he went on the high school musical trip to New York and saw three Broadway shows. He knew at the time that he wanted to be on that stage one day. In 2011, LePage made his Broadway debut in Rock of Ages.
Although it’s been 10 years since that debut, LePage said when he walks down the busy New York street up to the theatre, he still gets an amazing feeling.
Fourteen months after the shutdown, LePage walked through NYC up to the stage door after a long time away. The first audience welcomed back to see the show on Broadway was for the filming of Come From Away to be released on Apple TV. Behind the curtains, LePage was preparing to star as one of many roles he understudied in the past, Kevin T/Garth.
In Come From Away, most actors play a Newfoundlander, a “plane person” and ensemble characters.
Kevin T’s character is from Los Angeles, dating a guy also named Kevin, and becomes an honorary Newfoundlander in the show by being “screeched in” – a process that includes taking a shot of screech and kissing a fish.
Garth’s character is a bus driver whose union is on strike. Going back and forth with the mayor, he finally decides to let his buses come off the picket lines for a few days to help with the transportation of the “plane people.”
LePage was allowed an early screening of the filmed production, which he watched with family at his parent’s house. There he saw himself transform into these two characters on the big screen.
“It was this really strange feeling,” said LePage. “It was surreal, but really special to be immortalized in that way, in a role that I love so much, in a show that I love so much, forever.”