5 Things I Took Away From BroadwayCon
Sitting at my computer back home in East Haddam, CT, far from the bright lights of New York City, I'm still trying to wrap my head around what I experienced this weekend. But as the dust (or snow in this case) settled, I was finally able to comprehend a lot of what I saw and heard over this course of the weekend. Here are five things that I took away from BroadwayCon.
1. If you're going to get snowed in anywhere, make sure it's BroadwayCon
With one of the worst blizzards in NYC history slamming midtown Manhattan, organizers had to scramble to substitute last minute programming due to performers and panelists not being able to get there. How did they do? It was near flawless. Especially on Saturday night where attendees were treated to the largest Broadway themed slumber party I've ever seen. Complete with phone calls from Patti Lupone, Harvey Fierstein, Audra McDonald and Idina Menzel among others, just to pass time.
Later that night the audience was treated to the Ana Vargas concert they always hoped for with Krysta Rodriguez taking the stage and singing most of the songs from Smash.
What the blizzard proved was how well theatre people can deal with last minute catastrophes and turn them into miracles. While Friday might have been the biggest day of the convention, Saturday night might have been the most memorable.
2. A ton of new fabulous material is on its way
On Sunday, BroadwayCon finally had an event that showed some previews of upcoming musicals making their way to New York. The most well known of course was Waitress with director Diane Paulus, writer Jessie Nelson and composer/lyricist Sara Bareilles taking the stage and playing "She Use to be Mine" which is shaping up to be the signature number from this piece. We also got snippets from other new works such as Found: A New Musical, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, Tuck Everlasting and Disaster!. All of which I found interesting and promising.
Also something that fell under the radar somewhat was an announcement from producer Daryl Roth about her plans to bring a musical based on Jodi Picoult's novel, Between the Lines, to Broadway.
3. BroadwayCon was more than a little Musical Theatre Heavy
While BroadwayCon was a mecca of Broadway fandom, if you were more a fan of plays rather than musicals, you likely were very disappointed with the event. The weekend featured panels geared towards everything from choreographers to sound designers but had very little, if any, programming geared for fans of drama. While there were some playwrights serving on panels, the topic wasn't about their work as playwrights.
Going forward, I would love to see more programming in place for fans of plays. Can you imagine the scene if they got Theresa Rebeck or Ken Ludwig to do a panel? Or what about a Christopher Durang(who was there btw) Q&A? It would make the event more inclusive not to mention increase the amount of attendees.
4. The Broadway Community truly loves you as much as you love them
On Friday night, I had the pleasure of being in the press room following the opening number. For me, looking around this small room must have been what it was like being backstage at Woodstock. In one corner you had Ben Vereen talking with Sirius/XM's Julie James, next to them was Lin Manuel Miranda, Jonathan Groff, Leslie Odom Jr and the cast of Hamilton. Standing in the doorway was Tommy Tune and Melissa Errico. Outside in the hallway were Lena Hall and Paige Davis. It was every Broadway fans dream to be there.
But what struck me was how casual, approachable and supportive everyone was. Rather than gushing over each other's work, the sentiment was "I can't believe how amazing this convention is." So for those who were in attendance, if you were overwhelmed at how special this whole weekend was, the feeling was more than mutual.
5. BroadwayCon is only going to get bigger
Down the road, many of those who came to this year's inaugural convention are going to remark upon their return, "Remember how small and intimate the first one was?"
By the time Day 1 was over, it was clear that this was a hit in the making. Thanks in large part to the social media buzz that was building around the event, thousands of people online remarked about how they are making it their life's mission to be there next year. Even better, you could see the comments from various performers wishing they were there too. Organizers for next year's event should expect probably double what they saw this year.
With more people, probably means a different venue. With all due respect to the New York Hilton, they probably can't handle much more in terms of numbers of people than what happened this weekend, so it's almost inevitable that the Javits Center will be a destination for this event in the coming years.
As I've said many times throughout the weekend: Something special happened here and will not be forgotten by anyone who was there to enjoy it. If you weren't there, go, I promise you'll never be the same.
Photos © HESherman