Members of Marblehead Little Theatre got a special treat watching the Tony Awards the other night when one of their former performers, Alex Newall, won the Best Featured Actor award for their role in the musical “Shucked.”
“We’re so happy and so thrilled to be a tiny part of their story,” MLT Board President Julie Menard told the Current.
Newall starred in four MLT predictions from 2009 to 2011. Steve Black directed Newall in every show. He was watching the Tonys with fingers crossed.
“I was so excited for a lot of reasons,” Black said. “To know someone who is a superstar in your backyard and then see them be a superstar on Broadway is amazing. And then there’s the inspiration for younger people to be who they are.”
Newall, who is 30 and grew up in Lynn, identifies as nonbinary and uses all pronouns. They are the first out nonbinary performer to win a Tony. Newall gave a shout-out to their home state in their Tony acceptance speech.
“Thank you for seeing me, Broadway. I should not be up here as a queer, nonbinary, fat, Black little baby from Massachusetts. And to anyone that thinks that they can’t do it, I’m going to look you dead in your face. That you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Newell is best known for playing the transgender teenager Unique Adams on the TV show “Glee.” They also previously starred in a Broadway revival of “Once on This Island.” Newall performed in “Once on This Island” at MLT, too, back in 2009.
Menard was cast in that local show, too, and remembers meeting Newall for the first time at auditions.
“I remember them being a little quiet and a little reserved. Then they opened their mouth to sing and it was like… I was gobsmacked. I remember thinking, ‘I won’t win a role against this kid.’ Such an absolute powerhouse. Working alongside them was always awe-inspiring.”
Newall went on to perform at MLT in the shows “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “Songs for a New World” and “Hairspray.”
“Alex played Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray. It was a sell-out show for us. We added a 10th performance and that sold out, too,” Black said.
Black is heading to New York City next month for a theater workshop and he hopes to see “Shucked” and reconnect with Newall.
He says Newall’s story is a great reminder that local performers can and do make it big. In fact, four teens who performed in “Hairspray” went on to have careers in theater and TV. They are Jack Corcoran, Ari Conte, Katy Geragnty and DJ Plunkett.
“You never know,” Black said. “Everyone is used to working with their neighbors in these community productions. You never know who is going to be a big star some day.”
Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.