by Maryann Lopinto
The first Broadway Con Broadway convention (inspired, no doubt, on the enormous popularity of the “ComicCon” comic book conventions) this past weekend at the NY Hilton on West 54th Street, running from Friday January 22 through Sunday, January 24. It was attended by theater lovers from all over the United States and as far as Australia. Tickets per day were $95 and a weekend pass $250 to $600 for VIP tickets.
More females attended and a great majority were under the age of 30. One needs to know this convention was in the middle of a record breaking blizzard that struck on Saturday and practically paralyzed the city. Broadway Theaters and concerts were cancelled, traffic was banned, MTA cancelled all buses and subways that were above ground. Broadway Con was the only thing happening in town !!!
For any theatre lover it was a feast of feasts. Meeting others interested in the same shows were fans of Rent, Hamilton, Newsies, Andrew Lloyd Weber and Sondheim. There were seminars on dance, lighting, management, and anything and everything one wanted to know about how Broadway operates. There were master classes by Rebecca Luker, Melissa Errico, Anthony Rapp, Michael McElroy as well as karaoke sing-a-longs.
Seminars were offered by Les Miserables, Spring Awakening, Phantom of the Opera, The King and I, including “diversity in the theatre” and even “siblings in the theatre.” There was a discussion about The Palace Theatre conducted by Jennifer Ashley Tepper with Lee Roy Reams and Andrew Keenan-Bolger who worked together at the Palace in Beauty and the Beast.
For the real fans, there were photobooth sessions with Jonathan Groff, Anthony Rapp, Telly Leung, Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen and autographs booths helmed by Rebecca Luker, Melissa Errico, Natalie Weiss, Rob McClure, Lesli Margherita, and the casts of Rent, Fun Home, and Spring Awakening.
There were panels with the casts of Hamilton, many of the original cast members of Rent, Fiddler on the Roof, Fun Home, Something Rotten! and the upcoming Disaster. A conversation with 91-year-old Fiddler On the Roof lyricist Sheldon Harnick was cancelled as he was unable to get there because of the blizzard (go figure!).
There was a “BroadwayCon 2016” opening show with special material featuring Anthony Rapp, Lesli Margherita, Lena Hall, Rob McClure, Ann Harada, Avenue Q puppets and Steve Rosen, which included surprise guests Tommy Tune, Ben Vereen, Patrick Page, Alice Ripley, Stephanie D’Abruzzo and Laura Osnes; a variety show hosted by Paige Price that did Spelling Bee with Lisa Howard, Password and a fashion show of the costumes worn by many of the attendees. One interesting event was “I Was a Teenage Diva” showing an early child tape of a performer and the audience trying to identify them. In the mix, then and now, was a very young Alex Brightman, Melissa Errico, Ryann Redmond, Lesli Margherita and Rob McClure.
A very special event was “SmashTrax,” a live audio commentary with the executive producer of Smash Joshua Safran explaining some techniques showing outtakes and cut material. Jeremy Jordan was supposed to be there but was stranded in Los Angeles.
No celebration can end without a finale and this did with many of the volunteers, some Rent Heads and everyone singing “Seasons of Love.” What a way to end!
The Convention proved educational, entertaining and well organized. It was quite easy to get from one event area to another very quickly. Some suggestions I’d like to make: Bring back some legendary shows of yesteryear, i.e. My Fair Lady, Kiss Me Kate, Oklahoma, Brigadoon. Although many have been revived on the Great White Way, the under-30 crowd is not familiar with them. Many of the original cast performers are still around and performing and this would be a great opportunity for the younger generation (who came of age during Rent) to learn more about the history of these iconic Broadway productions. The many great songs from these musicals are always sung, but my bet is that the under 30 crowd doesn’t have a clue where they came from, nor the names of the matinee idols that were so popular with audiences in that era.
For more information about Broadway Con and upcoming conventions visit www.BroadwayCon.com
Photos: Maryann Lopinto