PASCACK VALLEY, N.J. -- Broadway dreams do come true — this time it's in Emerson.
Now, it's a Tony Award-winning show that, for Samayoa at least, has been life-changing.
The production is based on real-life stories of people in and around Gander, Newfoundland, who provided food, shelter, and comfort to thousands of stranded passengers after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Samayoa, who plays multiple parts but in particular Kevin J, part of a gay couple from Los Angeles, said this is not a 9/11 story, but rather a story about what happened the week following when a small town in the Northeast tip of Canada opened its doors to the world.
"It’s about kindness, helping others in need and it’s ultimately about how at our core we are good," explained Samayoa.
It's also emotional and an experience that so far in his career, he's never dealt with "Up until our first preview in La Jolla, we had no idea how cathartic this show can be," he said.
"The lights went out and there was a roar from our audience; the entire place jumped up. And it's been that way every single night and on Broadway even more so."
The Ithaca College grad, who's understudied for Pee Wee Herman, chased nuns in Sister Act, had cocktails with the AbFab ladies and worked with icons including Julie Andrews, Whoopi Goldberg and Earth Wind and Fire, said he wouldn't be where he is today if not for Mrs. Reynolds, his teacher at the Patrick M. Villano school in Emerson, who got him involved with The Act 2 Performing Arts Center in Glen Rock.
Samayoa said he went to his first acting class and was instantly hooked; he's been involved in the arts ever since, including participating in various arts clubs at Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell.
Once he saw his first Broadway show, he was convinced being on stage is where he had to be.
"If it weren’t for my teachers, I never would have gotten where I am now," he said. "They changed the trajectory of my life."
And while his entire family has seen the show and he loves spotting familiar faces in the audience, one of his biggest highlights so far was when his neighbors from the block he grew up on came to see "Come From Away" as a group.
"It’s overwhelming having people come to support you. Neighbors that I hadn’t seen in years, including The Peacocks, who were responsible for introducing me to my first acting class," he said.
"The friends in my neighborhood were a close-knit group; our families shaped who we are.
"I brought them all backstage and couldn’t help but think, ''Look at us! Standing on a Broadway stage! Who knew our neighborhood kickball games would lead to this?'"
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