by Melissa Griegel
Host Ben Cameron kicked off the opening celebration with founders Anthony Rapp and Melissa Anelli. The three-day conference was held January 11-13. The theme this year was “home,” which was appropriate since the 4th annual BroadwayCon returned to its original home at the New York Hilton Midtown in the heart of Broadway. For the last two years, the festivities took place at the Jacob Javits Center. They were joined on stage with standout singing by Susan Egan (Beauty and the Beast), Ethan Slater (Spongebob), and Hailey Kilgore (Once on This Island). Playwright/Director Tina Landau (Spongebob) talked about the search for home not just in a physical sense, but in having a sense of belonging and feeling comfortable in your own skin. BroadwayCon attendees tweeted live comments that were read by Ben Cameron, about how being part of the theatre makes them feel at home.
The weekend was filled with workshops, sing-a-longs, panels, autograph and photo sessions, marketplace shopping, karaoke, and of course, plenty of Cosplay. Ben Cameron hosted a Cosplay contest where 80 contestants twirled in front of the judges and showed off their elaborate and imaginative costumes. The winner was Cass Crimmen who dressed as Squip from the upcoming Broadway show Be More Chill.
There were some standout main stage panels with casts from a wide variety of current and upcoming shows. The original cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child were all in attendance. They have been together for three years, having originated the roles at the West End, and seem like a warm family who joke around and finish each other’s sentences. The main thing all cast members agreed on was the main difference between Broadway and the West End is that the Broadway audiences are louder, laugh more, clap more, and give very enthusiastic standing ovations. Gareth Reeves, who plays Ron Weasley, said, “I bloody love Broadway!” and they all agreed.
Another group that seemed like family was the cast and writers and producers from Mean Girls. Many of the female leads have gone to school together or worked together in other productions, and the some of the creative team actually are actually married. Composer Jeff Richmond was there with Mean Girls writer and comedienne Tina Fey. Director Casey Nicholaw said that each person they chose for cast brought something different to the role, and that he, Jeff, and Tina all made changes to the script and songs during workshop based on how they felt the actors enhanced the role. Ashley Park (Gretchen Weiners) got teared-up when the cast started talking about how much they will all miss each other when they leave the cast.
Casey Nicholaw was also part of the panel of their “sister show” The Prom. Caitlin Kinnunen is thrilled to be bringing this story to the stage as Broadway’s first lesbian romantic lead. This was a common theme throughout the convention as many actors on other panels discussed their coming-out stories and how being part of the Broadway community made it an easier and more welcoming process.
This was true for several stars of the much-anticipated show Be More Chill such as George Salazar and Britton Smith who talked about finally being able to be themselves. This tight-knit cast is super-excited to for the show to open in previews next month. Over half the cast will be making their Broadway premiere this February. Producer Jennifer Ashley Tepper moderated the panel and smiled proudly at the cast that she is bringing to the big stage. When she found out that they were moving to Broadway, Jennifer called the cast together for an animation meeting, and showed up in a gown surprising them all with the great news.
The cast of Come from Away will be “going away” soon to do a film adaption in Newfoundland. The cast talked extensively about the great impact the show has had on people here and in Newfoundland who have met because of the show, and have donated to people in the town of Gander where the film takes place. American have even met people from Newfoundland while standing online to get into the show, and then been invited to visit them if they travel to Canada. Apparently people have actually taken them up on the offer!
The beautiful women of Pretty Women talked about how they dislike when people disparage the storyline because some of the characters are sex workers. Allison Blackwell put it this way: “So we happen to be hookers. Love is love. It would be same story of we were lawyers. ” Orfeh has been enjoying her role as Kit immensely and likes to mix it up every night by singing the songs just slightly differently. She also added some flair to her character by giving some input into her costume design.
A one-on-one interview of Andrew Rannells by good friend Zuzanna Szadkowski covered Andrew’s long Broadway career and what it is like to be doing a TV show now (Black Monday). Rannells laughed, “I have to make sure I don’t play it ‘too big.’ Having a close-up on television, you need to have more subtle facial expressions than the over-blown expressions you can use on Broadway.” Andrew Rannells memoir Too Much Is Not Enough: A Memoir of Fumbling Toward Adulthood is set to be released March 12, 2019.
During the first year of the BroadwayCon, there was a blizzard and many of the actors couldn’t come. Anthony Rapp, Melissa Arnelli, David Alpert, and others took to the phone lines and skyped with Broadway actors around the country. It was such a hit that this has become a staple of the convention and they now have the Blizzard Party Line every year and you never know who is going to pick up the phone.
Saturday night’s Broadway Game Night ended with a marriage proposal to a BroadwayCon staffer (she said yes!). BroadwayCon has everything self-proclaimed Broadway Geeks could want. Wandering the halls you are just as likely to see Broadway star walk by as you are to see a group of full-clad Cosplay teens singing songs together in a circle. An event not to be missed, BroadwayCon 2020 will be held next January. Check out BroadwayCon.com for more information.
Photos: Melissa Griegel
Melissa Griegel Photography — griegelphoto.zenfolio.com