By Iris Wiener
A celebration of everything theatrical, BroadwayCon has become a beloved tradition for fans of the stage. January 11th through January 13th marked the fourth annual convention, featuring discussion panels, fan meet-ups, sing-a-longs, contests, games, cosplay, performer meet-and-greets, and an extensive marketplace. Every moment of the event featured exciting experiences, not to mention quite a few surprises.
Fans lucky enough to be at the You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown reunion witnessed original stars Anthony Rapp (who is also a co-creator of BroadwayCon), Roger Bart, and Ilana Levine in discussion with director Michael Mayer and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, before being surprised with unannounced guest, Kristin Chenoweth(!). Chenoweth, who has since become a staple of the Broadway stage, won the 1999 Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as Sally.
Broadway Game Night also held a special surprise. Amidst host Ben Cameron’s fun stage antics, Frankenstein: A New Musical’s Anthony Logan Cole proposed to his girlfriend, eliciting excited cheers from Broadway’s most enthusiastic fans…including Michael Urie, whose wide-open mouth was priceless. Cameron could also be found hosting R&H Goes Pop!, where some of Broadway’s best belters (including Laura Osnes of Cinderella and Rebecca Naomi Jones of Oklahoma!) took on contemporary versions of the Rodgers & Hammerstein songbook.
Discussion panels with the stars of The Prom, Dear Evan Hansen, Mean Girls and Pretty Woman were big treats, as were the multitude of events with the cast and creative team of Be More Chill. Fans could be heard crooning “Michael in the Bathroom” from all sides of the New York Hilton Midtown. Hallways were flooded with cosplayers dressed as everyone from the trio of waitresses in Waitress to sea anemones from Spongebob the Musical. Fans were delighted to spot the devilishly adorable and comical actors David Rossmer and Steve Rosen at The Other Josh Cohen booth in the marketplace, while Jarrod Spector, Kelli Barrett and Caitlin Kinnunen could be found signing autographs and chatting with fans.
Many of the panels inspired conversation and discussion. Michael Urie, Daisy Eagan and Ray Lee took part in “Out on Broadway,” while Tyler Hardwick and Alanna Saunders spoke at “Tale of the Broadway Beauxhomme: Discovering and Dissecting #BiracialBroadway.” Moms on Broadway partook in “From Broadway to Babies and Back Again: How the Broadway Baby Mamas Juggle Life Onstage and Off.” Frozen scribe Kristen Anderson Lopez spoke of the fact that being a mother gave her something to write about, while Summer’s Jessica Rush half-joked that she hasn’t “felt prepared for an audition” since the day her now 4 year-old daughter was born. Amidst stories about how being a mother on Broadway is a special and unique experience, Natasha Yvette Williams opened up about going to a callback five days after having twins, and Ellyn Marie Marsh recalled a mishap at Enron when Norbert Leo Butz accidentally used her breast milk in his coffee. Come From Away’s Pearl Sun added to the lively discussion, remarking that “there are more mothers continuing to work and a greater demand for concessions that need to be made.”
When original My Fair Lady stars Harry Hadden-Paton and Allan Corduner converged with new stars Laura Benanti and Danny Burstein for a panel discussion, fans were clued into how the stars learned their accents and crafted them to be used in organic methods suitable to their own styles. Burstein recalled touring London early in his career, recording strangers’ accents to learn different dialects; years later, Burstein finds himself emulating the sound of a kind fellow in an airport who allowed himself to be interviewed by the actor. Benanti spoke of the importance of having a sense of humor (“It has gotten me through the most difficult times in my life!”) and how her Eliza Doolittle is a “person who wants love. Not necessarily romantic love, but to be seen and respected.” Hadden-Paton revealed that he used to sing throughout too much of “Ordinary Man,” but has since found a way of “adding dynamism to it.”
Finally, at the First Look presentation, audiences were gifted with the premiere of a new Moulin Rouge trailer before hearing some of Spring 2019’s new work. Sophia Ann Caruso expressed excitement about “setting an example for young alternative artists” before introducing “Dead Mom” from Beetlejuice. Stephanie Styles, who will be making her Broadway debut in Kiss Me, Kate, revealed that she was in her element at BroadwayCon: “I used to write fan-fiction of Phantom!” She proceeded to prove she has what it takes for the mainstage as she belted Kate’s “Always True to You (In My Fashion).” Anais Mitchell, the first woman in over a decade to write the book, music and lyrics for a show, was on hand to perform Hadestown’s “Why We Build the Wall.” Lilli Cooper demonstrated the playfully sultry aspects of Tootsie, while Sarah Stiles brought the house down with “What’s Gonna Happen,” a brilliantly funny, fast-paced number that will surely garner her praise from critics and fans alike.
Photos by: Maryann Lopinto