If you’re a true theatre nerd, you know that over the weekend, hundreds of Broadway geeks converged at the Hilton Midtown Hotel for the first ever BroadwayCon – which is exactly what it sounds like. Like other fan-centered conventions, this one gathers fans with actors, creators, and behind-the-scenes folk who make Broadway Broadway. Co-founded by Anthony Rapp, of Rent fame, BroadwayCon featured panels from past shows such as the Rent 20th anniversary reunion, current shows like Hamilton, Spring Awakening and Fun Home, to future shows like Waitress, Tuck Everlasting and Disaster! The Musical. There were photobooth and autograph sessions, fan meetups, master classes, dance workshops and of course, plenty of singing.
Before we go any further, I’d like to make it clear that I was not actually there. I am merely a spectator from the World Wide Web. I saw rumblings of #BroadwayCon on Twitter a while ago, and just thought it was some small event in NYC, but I was wrong. After tracking it online all weekend, I’ve come to this conclusion about BroadwayCon – it seems like a mix of pure ecstasy but also the worst nightmare all in one. A whole room full of theatre geeks!!!! But also, a whole room full of theatre geeks Again, before the haters start to hate, I wasn’t there, so I obviously am not an expert on this, it’s all from what I’ve seen on social media. So in saying there, here are so of what I can tell were the pros and cons of the inaugural BroadwayCon.
Pro: The only convention with an opening number
I’ve never been to Comic-Con or any huge convention except for the ATX TV Festival, which is more of a medium sized gathering of TV fans than an exhibition hall filled with thousands of people. But none of these cons have a song and dance opening number. So was I surprised to see that BroadwayCon opened with this? No. My reaction was OF COURSE. I mean, is there any other way to kick off a weekend of Broadway than this?
We get it, all of us are Hamilton fans, you don’t have to flaunt the “secret language” around.
Pro: The Room Where It Happens
Like any other HamiltonHead (is there even an official name for Hamilton fans? I’m sure there is. Kids under 21, get at me), this panel with most of the main cast was the most anticipated one at the con. Here are some highlights during the panel:
If you could change roles with anybody in the show, who would it be?
Renee: Aaron Burr
Philippa: Hercules Mulligan
Chris: Jonathan Groff, he’s onstage for five minutes!
Lin: I think we have our next Ham4Ham.
How Leslie was approached to join the show:
“I got an email from Lin about two-and-a-half years ago, I guess. The subject was ‘Octoburrfest,’ a delicious pun.”
Lin is a rap teacher who gives pop quizzes daily
“At 15 minutes to curtain, Miranda can be seen trotting his iPod from dressing room to dressing room with his speakers blaring a beat challenging his castmates to cypher at his request.”
Freestyle Love Surpreme
During the panel, the moderator asked if anyone besides Lin, Chris Jackson and Daveed had ever rapped before, but the closed-captioning typist accidentally transcribed “have you ever raped before”. It was quickly changed, but Lin managed to incorporate it in his impromptu freestyle:
The panel ended with a singalong of The Schuyler Sisters, with the cast happily watching the fans from the stage. It was their rock star moment.
Pro: Your obscure Broadway cosplay will be appreciated
Theater nerds, especially actors, will take up any chance for dressing up and what better place to show off your Fun Home costume that you wore for Halloween that no one got than BroadwayCon? The cosplay at BroadwayCon obviously appeals to a v niche group of fans, which is kind of why I love it.
Pro: And It’s Beginning ToAnd It’s Beginning ToAnd It’s Beginning to Snow
It’s been 20 years since Rent had its debut, and Anthony Rapp gathered as many friends from the OBC and creative team as he could for the “10,514,880 Minutes: How Do You Measure 20 Years of Rent?” panel, including Daphne Rubin Vega (Mimi), Wilson Jermaine Heredia (Angel) and Fredi Walker-Browne (Joanne). I watched the first bit of this live on Periscope and teared up a bit just thinking about how much of an impact the show has made on me, but all the other RentHeads and the cast and crew themselves. One emotional moment was when Daphne FaceTimed with Jesse L. Martin (Collins) and there was even a mini reunion between him and Wilson :emoji with heart eyes:
Con: The Wrath of Jonas
As you may have heard, or seen out your window, Winter Storm Jonas hit the East Coast hard over the weekend, with all the Broadway shows even canceling their Saturday performances. This led to the actors/guests scheduled to appear at BroadwayCon to also cancel their appearances, which I imagine is a bummer for those looking forward to attending the Hamilton dance workshop or the conversation with Fiddler’s Sheldon Harnick.
On Saturday, everyone at the con was pretty much snowed in, so it turned into #BlizzardCon. It ended up being a huge blizzard party in the mainstage, complete with random phone calls with Broadway icons. Among the folks who called in but not limited to:
Literally a picture of Patti LuPone in the comfort of her (surprisingly rustic?) palace, while she talks to the hundreds of peasants at BroadwayCon:
Pro: Broadway Stars Singing Rando Songs
Unlike a ComicCon where actors show up and screen clips or previews of their upcoming films or TV shows, Broadway stars can actually perform and entertain in front of you. Live! There was a fair share of concerts throughout the weekend, including a “Jukebox” in which fans could vote on which songs the stars could sing, and there was also this mad lib situation in which you get to hear Anthony Rapp sing *a slightly different version* of What You Own.
Con: Fans Singing Rando Songs
Ok, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good singalong. I think it would be especially fun if it was from a Broadway show, something like this:
But then there’s the contingent of people, I imagine at BroadwayCon, who are getting up to sing as if it’s an audition. One of the things i dread at events like these are A) stupid comments/questions from the audience and general second hand embarrassment. If I was at this fan karaoke event, I would be anxious every time someone got on the stage, hoping they’d be good, on key and not hamming it up too much. Too stressful. This girl sounds pretty good though!
Con: Like Sutton Foster, BroadwayCon is Younger
Based on what I’ve seen, in looks like the demographic for BroadwayCon are teens in high school and musical theatre majors in college. These are the folks who are excited about seeing the people they’ve been listening to on repeat, seen from the rear mezz, met briefly at the Broadway Flea Market and made fan art for on Tumblr. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, because I was like this as a teen, but as an almost 30 year old, I just can’t. The idea of being around that much energy 24/7 seems exhausting, and I’d just feel out of place. Recapping on my blog from the comfort of my bed 3,000 miles away is just fine by me.
Pro: There’s A Place For Us
In saying that, I think that BroadwayCon itself has been an event a long time coming. I always thought that being a theatre kid meant not being popular or not in the zeitgeist. I certainly didn’t feel like a cool kid at the theatre table during lunch in high school. But when I found out Comic Con was a huge thing for comic book nerds, I saw a whole bunch of different people gather for something I wasn’t particularly interested in, but acknowledged that something portrayed as geeky kind of seemed cool. Now, seeing photos and videos of #BroadwayCon make me think it’s so crazy that people are just as (probably much more) insane about Broadway than I am. These are the nerds who I sat with in the cafeteria. And those teens and MTs need something like this event, where you can connect, learn, and grow a deeper passion for Broadway and the arts in general. So keep up the great work, I can’t wait til next year – I’ll be here trolling the Internet like an old lady.