Having received her first Olivier award nomination for best theatre choreographer for her work on musical Come from Away, Kelly Devine tells Giverny Masso how her next goal is to create an original musical from scratch…
Tell me about Come from Away.
It’s a true story about 7,000 air passengers who were heading to the US on September 11, 2001 when the airspace had to be closed. They needed to land in a town called Gander on the island of Newfoundland in Canada and were stranded for days. All the residents took those people into their homes and gave them food and clothes.
How did you feel to receive an Olivier nomination for best theatre choreographer?
I was in bed just having got home from working on another show and my phone started going nuts. I had no idea what was going on. It was a total surprise and it’s so exciting that the show received so many nominations. I fell in love with the story because it’s so special. It feels good to be part of something that puts goodness out there in the world. There was just something about this story and these people.
How did you get into choreography?
I’m from Los Angeles and when I was a young performer I started off as a dancer. I assisted choreographers and decided I wanted to be the one that made up the steps. At the beginning, I worked a lot in film and TV, as that’s primarily what’s happening in LA. But I always loved theatre and I wanted to go to where they make the new musicals. So I moved to New York. My first job there was on Jersey Boys with Sergio Trujillo, who asked if I’d be his associate. Personally, the trickiest thing for me [in theatre choreography compared to screen] is that you constantly have to be accountable for every moment on stage. You have to let the audience know where they’re supposed to be looking.
Do you have a particular style of choreography?
My mum was great about making a point of ensuring I learned a diverse range of dance styles, including tap, swing, ballet, jazz, hip hop and modern. Learning those styles and having those influences means I can take all of them and swirl them around.
What is your future career ambition?
I want to create an original musical from the ground up with a team. Something with an idea that has enough wind to support a big musical. I would direct and choreograph it. I feel you have to get the story and music right first, that’s the bones of where you start from, and then you think about where the movement fits.
First professional role: In a commercial for the LA Times, aged five
Agent: Susan Weaving at William Morris Endeavor
Come from Away is booking at the Phoenix Theatre, London, until September 14; comefromaway.com