NEW YORK CITY — When Anthony Rapp, Broadway star best known as Mark in Rent, announced that he would be organizing a BroadwayCon with Mischief Management and Playbill last year, I confess that my nerdy little heart did a big jump. Salt Lake City has become quite a little mecca for conventions, and I have enjoyed Comic Con and FanX and other things quite a bit. However, theatre is my true love, so this seemed like a dream come true. I decided to take the plunge, and bought my tickets with the first set to go on sale last March, not having much of a clue regarding what to expect from such an event.
Having lived through the entire experience, which ran from January 22 through 24 and included the apparently largest blizzard of the century, I would say that if this is what they can do first time around, then Broadway Con has the potential to be the trip and experience of a lifetime for all of my fellow theatre nerds who spent their teenage days singing along with soundtracks in their bedrooms with their siblings mocking them.
Before I start gushing, I will say that the event was not without its issues. Being a brand new experience, timing issues, scheduling, how to run the lines, and even the vendors could improve. I am also used to bigger conventions at convention centers that offer concessions and other options that might have improved the experience. These things I anticipate to grow as the convention moves forward. The organizers all stated that the event had been a success and they have every intention of making this a yearly event.
There are so many wonderful things I could say about the experience, so I will try to limit my words to just a few. One thing that many attendees and Broadway performers mentioned was the sense of community we all felt. I was standing in the back of a room of Hamilton fans as they suddenly burst into spontaneous rap, and it really was amazing to see such a spectacle. In Utah I have had the cast album playing in my office before and had coworkers walk in with a puzzled look and a “what is THIS?” escape their mouths. At the Hilton Midtown Manhattan, I was suddenly surrounded by people who listened to the same music I did, read the same articles I read, and wanted to see the same stars I wanted to see. This shared sense of community is exactly why things like Comic Con work.
Most panels at BroadwayCon (and similar conventions) have different panels, which are usually about an hour and focus on different theatre topics. There were panels on auditioning, set design, and—very exciting for me—different panels on theatrical criticism. The most sought-after panels where the panels where stars of the stage came together, such as the cast of Hamilton, the cast of Something Rotten, and the reunion of a lot of the cast from the original production of Rent. Because it is a theatre convention, more than just talking and questions, there were also live performances, workshops where people could learn from the stars, and plenty of opportunities to meet with other people.
The highlight of the weekend, interestingly enough, was the huge snow storm that literally shut down the lights of Broadway and transportation across the city. Because the events that had been scheduled were now in flux, Anthony Rapp and the creators were left to scramble and figure out how to entertain those who were all snowed in together. The improv that commenced was perhaps the best part of the whole convention, solidifying the fact that when you are a part of Broadway, you really know how to put on a show. From calling up people like Joel Grey and Patti LuPone, to discussing the history behind setting up BroadwayCon, the audience got a rare chance to see just how much goes into a Broadway show, and the lasting friendships that can take place.
BroadwayCon is scheduled to be a yearly event. There is already talk of setting up a group of Utah theatre lovers to attend. Having a year to plan and improve will only make the experience more satisfying for the attendees. I feel that this was the ultimate Broadway fan experience for me, and would encourage anyone who might have the option to try it out next year.