Well folks, we’ve arrived at our last piece in Dance Network’s Spotlight On The Nominees: Best Choreography blog series. In our last feature article we turn the spotlight on the choreographer of the Broadway smash hit Come From Away — Ms. Kelly Devine.
Kelly Devine/Walter McBride
Kelly Devine, originally from the west coast, is now nominated for her second TONY® award for Best Choreography for her work on Come From Away. She was previously nominated for choreographing the stage version of the hit film Rocky in 2014. She has also been represented on Broadway as choreographer with 2015’s Doctor Zhivago, and the long running smash hit Rock Of Ages.
Devine began her career as an associate to TONY® nominated choreographer Sergio Trujillo, having helped him develop the movement for both Broadway’s Jersey Boys and Memphis.
Off of The Great White Way, Kelly Devine has choreographed extensively in collaboration with director Christopher Ashley and the La Jolla Playhouse. Ashley, who is nominated for the Best Direction of a Musical TONY® Award for Come From Away, is the current artistic director of the San Diego, California based theatre company. (La Jolla Playhouse, it should be noted, helmed world premieres of the Des McAnuff directed Broadway transfers of Jersey Boys— on which Devine assisted— and Doctor Zhivago.) Together, Devine and Ashley have worked together to develop Memphis — in collaboration with Sergio Trujillo—, Come From Away, and their current work, the Broadway bound musical featuring Jimmy Buffett’s classic hits, Escape To Margaritaville, which is set to open at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre next spring.
Come From Away/Playbill
Richard J. Hinds, Kelly Devine’s associate choreographer on Come From Away, spoke with Dance Network about his experience.
“Kelly is a true collaborator— in every sense of the word. Getting to be involved in her creative process was a complete honor. Working with our incredible Ensemble of 12, we were able to find such specific and nuanced movement that propelled their characters to another level. She was always open to their insight which let her build a vocabulary that felt so organic to everything that was happening in our story.”
Hinds, when asked about his role of “associate” on the production, added, “As an associate choreographer, you’re not always sure how involved in the process you will be. Kelly, having done associate work, is very aware of this and involved me throughout the entire creation of Come From Away, which I found incredibly respectable. We created a team, and with her captaining the ‘dance department’ ship, I couldn’t be more proud than what is on stage at the Schoenfeld Theatre!”
Now, a full disclosure: I, myself, was fortunate to work on one of Devine’s projects during my time in the Las Vegas production of Rock Of Ages. My experience with Kelly — while brief, as I was a replacement cast member well into the run— was wonderful. In my rehearsals, I experienced a choreographer who, while specific and direct, allowed for her dancers to make the movement make sense for themselves. In living in the choreography of Rock Of Ages, that so precisely enveloped the grittiness of the 1980’s Sunset Strip, there was a certain amount of personal interpretation apportioned to us, which, in turn, gave us an acknowledged artistic responsibility for our characters. I always loved and appreciated that trust.
Rock Of Ages/Broadway.com
Marjorie Failoni, the Dance Captain on Devine’s current project, Escape To Margaritaville, was also Kelly’s associate on George Street Playhouse’s Gettin’ The Band Back Together. Marjorie spoke with Dance Network about her time working with choreographer.
“I loved getting to assist Kelly on Gettin’ the Band Back Together. It was fun to work with her on a brand new musical that had never been done before. Getting to work through changes and creating something brand new was really exciting! Kelly is so great with working all levels [of dancers because] she really tailors the movement to each individual and the characters they are playing. I feel like it was the first time I saw ‘choreography’ as more than just ‘dance steps’…[and] I felt like i really got to understand her process and style while working with her.”
When asked what she, as a performer, respects most about Devine, Failoni continued, “As a dancer I love being in the room with Kelly. She makes any room fun and productive. Whether it's in the audition room or the rehearsal room, there is always an ease to her and how she makes the room feel. She brings out the best in her cast members and is someone you always want to work hard for. I love that she always has a point of view when creating a piece and really pays attention to the details that create specific movements to fit the story.”
Escape To Margaritaville/Matthew Murphy
*Another full disclosure, my wife, actress and dancer Sara Andreas, is also currently working with Devine on the Broadway-bound production of Escape To Margaritaville.
Dance Network asked Sara, who has also worked with Devine on Rock Of Ages and the pilot episode of Amazon’s Mozart In The Jungle, about her experience with Kelly during the creative process.
“It's been an amazing experience working with Kelly. Being in the room with such a strong intelligent woman is inspiring. She has this amazing ability to command a room, but still keep the environment light and fun.”
Sara mentioned, with respect to Margaritaville, what she’s enjoyed most about working with Devine on this project.
“Her choreography is so smart, she can take a number like Cheeseburger in Paradise, and not only find the humor in it, but actually further the story with informed movement. Also her choreography is just down right fun to dance.”
Come From Away/New York Times