Wednesday, February 01, 2017

BroadwayCon 2017 Was A Huge Success - Offering Hope And Healing for Such A Time As This

The initial BroadwayCon event in January of 2016 will always be remembered by those of us who attended as the event that forced us to huddle together to survive the blizzard that shut down all of NYC for several days. That natural disaster created an even deeper sense of community and togetherness than could have been possible had things gone according to plan. This year, there was no natural disaster to bring us together, but rather a man-made disaster emanating from Washington. And the need to huddle together to encourage, support, and challenge one another in the face of the POTUS 45 chilling blizzard of bigotry and oppression was the theme that underscored every aspect of BroadwayCon 2017. No one spoke his name; no one needed to. His shadow lurked over every panel, performance, and personal conversation. Given the besetting darkness, we encouraged one another to shine lights of affirmation, hope, inclusion, resistance and creativity into the universe.

The Opening Ceremony set the tone for the weekend. An original musical offered up a parable as a tyrannical Mayoress decreed that all of Broadway must go dark. In the sketch, artists converged, convened and connived to figure out how to respond to the all-out attack on art and creativity. A rousing rendition of "Run, Freedom, Run" from "Urinetown" showed just how "pissed off" we all are. Late in the program, Carolee Carmello brought down the house with a soul-stirring interpretation of "Don't Rain On My Parade." We all knew who she was really addressing herself to.

Saturday's Lesli Margherita Variety Hour proved to be a huge hit as the star of "Matilda" and "Zorro" raised the roof. The Queen was in rare form, and her rendition of "Don't Poop On My Pathway" was a nice way to reinforce the theme of not giving in to bullying and oppression.

The weekend offered something for every flavor of Theater Geek. There were plenary sessions featuring panels with Broadway casts - present and past. The current casts of "In Transit," "Hamilton," "A Bronx Tale," and "Dear Evan Hansen" proved to be particularly popular.

Ben Platt as Evan Hansen
"Dear Evan Hansen"
Music Box Theatre

There were preview performances from upcoming shows, including "The Bandstand," "Amelie," "Anastasia," "Miss Saigon," "Significant Other," "Come From Away," "Indecent," and others. There were break-out sessions that spoke to every aspect of the world of Broadway - from the business side, producers, critics, creatives, and performers. All generations were well represented - from a four year-old tap dancer to octogenarians sporting Hamilton T-shirts. Fans of Cosplay displayed creativity and courage as they paraded in full regalia, and had a chance to strut their stuff in a fashion show. Young performers were able to get tips from professionals and also to have their moment in the spotlight on the Main Stage. Those who hankered for autographs and photos with their favorite Broadway stars were able to sign up via lotteries.

The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center proved to be a wise choice by the BroadwayCon organizers. There was plenty of room for all events, and ease of mobility throughout the space. There was very little waiting in long lines, and the opportunity to move quickly from one event to another was unhindered. For those who wanted to take home merchandise and memorabilia, there were lots of vendors hawking their wares.

BroadwayCon did a nice job of celebrating Broadway's past, highlighting the current shows running on the Great White Way, and inflaming the passions of future generations of Broadway fans and performers. This was a knowledgeable crowd. No matter how obscure a song may have been that was being aired, I always saw dozens of people mouthing the words or singing along. If the attendees at this event are any indication, the future of Broadway is bright.

As things wound down, the messages that resonated most effectively with the departing throng were "Stay strong," and "See you next year." It was clear that we were not just celebrating Broadway as a form of entertainment. We were embracing it as a necessary force in keeping our nation civilized and sane in the face of strong countervailing forces.

I can't wait until BroadwayCon 2018!


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