Heartfelt production about Newfoundlanders sheltering passengers after 9/11 won 4 Olivier awards

The cast of the Mirvish production of Come From Away at Winnipeg's Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. (Matthew Murphy/Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre)

Musicals Come From Away and Company as well as the play The Inheritance, an epic drama about gay lives in New York, were the big winners at British theatre’s Olivier Awards on Sunday, receiving four trophies apiece.

Come From Away, inspired by a small Canadian town that sheltered thousands of stranded airline passengers after the 9/11 attacks, was named best new musical at Britain’s equivalent of Broadway’s Tony Awards. The play also took trophies for sound, outstanding achievement in music and choreography.

Come from Away tells the story of Newfoundlanders who helped shelter and feed thousands of stranded passengers after the 9/11 attacks in New York. (Matthew Murphy)

Choreographer Kelly Devine dedicated the award in her category to the people of Gander, Nfld. who in real life, “effortlessly showed the world how easy it is to be kind.”

The award for best musical revival went to a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company that gender-swapped the lead role of a commitment-shy New York singleton and turned the usually male Bobby character into Bobbie.

Director Marianne Elliott attributed the show’s success partly to “a wind of change blowing in the industry, where celebrating female stories is not only possible, but absolutely vital.”

Company also delivered a supporting actress prize to Broadway diva Patti LuPone and a supporting actor trophy to Jonathan Bailey. It took another award for set design.

The Inheritance, Matthew Lopez’s drama about young gay men living in New York a generation after the AIDS crisis was declared best new play.

Kyle Soller won best actor for The Inheritance and Patsy Ferran won best actress for Summer and Smoke at the Olivier Awards ceremony. (Ian West/PA via Associated Press)

Lopez said he was “overwhelmed and overjoyed” by the trans-Atlantic success of his seven-hour epic, which had its world premiere at London’s Young Vic Theatre.

“We’ve seen a lot of Brits come over and take home Tonys,” Lopez said backstage, clutching a statuette topped with a bust of the late actor for whom the award is named, Laurence Olivier. “It’s only fair.”

Lopez said he was hopeful the show would get a Broadway run now that London has shown the play, mined from his own experience, resonates with audiences.

“You could have blown me over with a feather,” he said of the reaction his play got from theatregoers in Britain’s capital. “Even some of the New York jokes, they got.”

Tom Hiddleston was among the high-profile actors on the red carpet. (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/Associated Press)

The Inheritance also took prizes for lighting and for Stephen Daldry’s direction, while star Kyle Soller beat rivals who included Ian McKellen to be garlanded best actor in a play.

Sally Field, Kelsey Grammer, Tom Hiddleston, David Suchet and Gloria Estefan were among the stars walking the red carpet in a drizzle before the ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall.

The show saluted long-running musicals The Lion King and Mamma Mia, both celebrating 20 years of playing in London’s West End.