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The 8 Best Things I Saw At The First-Ever Broadway Fan Convention

BroadwayCon is Comic Con for Broadway lovers. It was basically musical theater nerd heaven in the middle of this past weekend's blizzard in New York.

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1. The cosplay.

Instagram: @rebeccarrain

The moment I entered the New York Hilton Midtown on Friday, Jan. 22, and saw a pitch-perfect Daisy and Violet Hilton from Side Show, I knew I was home. Cosplay is a highlight at any convention, whether you’re participating or merely people-watching. I opted for the latter, concerned that my Mother’s Younger Brother from Ragtime cosplay would be too subtle.

Never have I recognized more cosplay than I did at BroadwayCon: I saw a cavalcade of Elphabas, Sweeney Todds, and Mormons. It’s hard to describe the sheer delight of coming face-to-face with a Medium Alison from Fun Home. I know you. I knoooow you.

2. The Smash fan meetup.

Instagram: @louispeitzman

There will always be something a little surprising about the ardor of Smash fandom. The theater community has always had an odd relationship with the critically maligned TV series, which ended unceremoniously in 2013, with episodes being burned off on Saturdays. Smash got a lot right about backstage life on Broadway, and also got so very much wrong. But the meetup at BroadwayCon was filled to capacity, which is extra impressive given that it had to compete with the Hamilfans meetup, the Rentheads meetup, and the Fansies meetup. (If you cringed at those monikers, BroadwayCon is not the place for you.) And while discussions over whether we preferred Bombshell or Hit List nearly devolved into blows, everyone came together for an impromptu sing-along of “Let Me Be Your Star.” I cried?

3. The BroadwayCon opening.

Cheri Root

You know what makes me happy? When there is a deep-cut reference to the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and the auditorium erupts in cheers. That does not happen at other conventions. That has likely never happened before, anywhere. The BroadwayCon opening was a charming performance filled with song parodies and assorted other references that ranged from the obvious (lots of Hamilton) to the more obscure (Honeymoon in Vegas, anyone?). This hourlong musical was a sure sign that I was in the right place, which is, to be fair, how I feel whenever someone name-checks Carolee Carmello. But I can confidently say this was the first and last time I will ever see Tommy Tune get nailed by a confetti cannon. As the oft repeated refrain went, only at BroadwayCon!

4. The Hamilton panel.

Cheri Root

You know when you reach that point where you can’t handle any more Hamilton content? Me neither. Despite the threat of overexposure, it was impossible not to be thrilled by the Hamilton panel, because the Hamilton cast is absurdly charming, not to mention some of the most talented people on Broadway. (Special shout-outs to Schuyler sisters Phillipa Soo and Renée Elise Goldsberry, because come on.) Having never braved the Ham4Ham lottery myself — I’m not big on crowds — it was truly incredible seeing the kind of rock star response that Lin-Manuel Miranda and company get. And when the panel ended with a sing-along of “The Schuyler Sisters,” I lost all pretense of chill.


5. Patti LuPone on speakerphone.

Thanks to Jonas, I didn't actually make it to BroadwayCon Saturday, which is a bummer because I missed a ton of panels I wanted to attend. (Your Fave Is Problematic, a panel about Broadway shows with archaic ideas about gender and race, is so my scene.) But I did follow along on Twitter and Instagram, and I was delighted by how this baby convention managed to adapt to some seriously crappy conditions. Several scheduled attendees weren't able to make it in, so panels got pushed around and performances were modified. At one point, a whole host of Broadway luminaries ended up on speakerphone. And of course, Patti LuPone gave the best performance of the night, from the comfort of her Connecticut home. I'm not sure Patti would have attended BroadwayCon regardless of weather, so this was an amazing compromise.

6. The BroadwayCon Cabaret.

Cheri Root

Another event I sadly missed: the BroadwayCon cabaret. Many of its scheduled stars couldn't make it due to the storm, so Krysta Rodriguez, who was only supposed to do 20 minutes, ended up taking over the show, alongside a few other very game and adaptable talents. As Annoying Actor Friend put it, Rodriguez "single-handedly held down last night's cabaret, finally giving us the ANA VARGAS ONE WOMAN SHOW THAT WE DESERVE." Rodriguez sang several songs from Smash, including "Reach for Me" and "Broadway, Here I Come," and the audience was — by all accounts — 100% here for it. I will always regret not being at BroadwayCon Saturday night, but at least I have the photos and the video clips that my friend was spamming me with all evening.

7. Obsessed! Live: Disaster! Edition.

We're on the main stage @bwaycon this morning telling stories, singing, and chatting all about @disastermusical.

I listen to an embarrassing amount of Sirius XM's On Broadway station, which means that Seth Rudetsky's voice is in my ear more often than not. And yet, I never turn down the opportunity to see Rudetsky live, especially when he has so many incredible talents on stage with him. On Sunday morning, after I hiked through my snow-covered neighborhood, I returned to BroadwayCon and caught Obsessed! Live, in which Rudetsky chatted with the cast of his new musical Disaster!, which he co-wrote with Jack Plotnick. And it was worth the trek to see Rudetsky and Faith Prince duet on "Suddenly Seymour," a clip of Max Crumm on You're the One That I Want, and Kerry Butler stepping into the audience to sing "Magic" from Xanadu. There were so many fun little tidbits about everyone's Broadway past — not to mention wonderful unexpected performances — that the panel was easily one of the weekend's highlights.

8. Smashtrax.

Joshua Safran, showrunner of Season 2 of Smash, offered insight into the series that inadvertently dominated much of BroadwayCon. Much of what he shared can't be repeated here, which is surely frustrating to those who couldn't make it, but there's something special about being in the room where it happens. BroadwayCon offered many of these experiences — you kind of had to be there. And it's like live theater in that way: Movie musicals and bootlegs, however high the quality, will never replicate the experience of attending a Broadway show. Smashtrax was one of my favorite panels all weekend, not only because I'm a die-hard Smash fan, but also because of how special and private it was. Safran has talked about the series before, but never like this. And if you regret missing out on that, there's always — fingers crossed — next year.