Broadway favorite Jenn Colella is back in the captain’s seat over at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. The Tony-nominated star recently returned to the musical Come From Away, taking on roles she originally created — including Captain Beverley Bass. The show is based on the true story of a community in Gander, Newfoundland, that came together in the days following 9/11 to help thousands of airline passengers who were stranded due to the closure of American airspace. NY1 entertainment journalist Frank DiLella recently caught up with Colella to talk about revisiting The Rock as Come From Away enters its final months on Broadway.
How does it feel to be back home at The Rock?
It feels extraordinary. I just feel like I’ve come back home. And there’s so much love around me on stage, backstage — it’s an incredible feeling.
What was your first night back like?
I was nervous, for sure, but I also felt grounded. Everywhere I looked on stage there was love shooting out of the faces of my colleagues.
There’s no denying that Come From Away marked a major moment in your career when you opened on Broadway back in 2017. You also received a Tony nomination for your work in this show.
It was a game-changer for me and my career. I think it’s because it’s such an extraordinary show — and it’s a show about kindness, and I believe in kindness. It just feels like it’s a perfect fit. And it’s a fit not just for my talent, but it’s a fit of who I want to be and the artist I want to be. And this show naturally lifted me up in that regard.
When Broadway was shut down, you and the Come From Away company went back into the theatre to film the musical for Apple TV+. What was that moment like for you?
It was extraordinary. We were all housed in one hotel, so we had to be in our rooms. We couldn’t hang out. The only time we could be together was when we were rehearsing. And we were laughing and crying like it was the first time we read the script. We knew how special it was to tell this story during this difficult time.
You play Captain Beverley Bass, among others in the show. You and the real-life Captain Bass are friends.
Yes. It’s so interesting: In any other world I don’t know if we would have known each other or even have connected on such a deep level. She is a Southern conservative woman who lives in the South, and I’m this liberal lesbian artist living in New York City. And the fact that we had the opportunity with this show to learn about one another… She’s been just as curious to learn about me as I have been about her. It’s a beautiful bonus gift from this process.
And you both visit each other often.
And we’ve kept it up for the last seven years. I’ve gone to visit her. I’ve gotten to ride with her while she was captaining her boat — and she was driving with her feet like a badass!
When you’re playing Captain Bass on stage, you sing a song called “Me and the Sky.” It’s your song — you were the first to debut it on Broadway — and now it’s sung all over the world. What does that feel like, to have a signature Broadway song, à la Idina Menzel having “Defying Gravity” or Barbra Streisand owning “Don’t Rain on My Parade”?
Hearing you say it, I still can’t quite believe it even though I know that it’s true. It feels incredible. If I’m teaching a master class and somebody wants to sing that song and work on it with me, it feels like a gift that they’re giving to me. It’s a beautiful thread into this tapestry of kindness that is this show. And if this song is helping women burst through glass ceilings and to do things that have ordinarily been male-dominated, that’s another bonus!
I feel like the beauty of Come From Away is that kindness is the universal language and being kind can do so much in terms of human connection.
It’s a movement and a practice. And the more we practice it, the more the movement gains momentum. And the fact that Come From Away is still happening, and that I get the opportunity to join the movement again in this way, is humbling, and I do not take that responsibility lightly.
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