At long last comes an antidote for those coffee breaks spent listening to your co-worker go on and on about meeting Wil Wheaton at ComicCon. Broadway fans unite…for BroadwayCon! Held in New York City January 22-24, 2016, the first-ever BroadwayCon featured talks, panels, and performances from some of Broadway’s top talent. For another “first,” we welcome our first-ever guest blogger, Brian F.B. Reavey, official 7 1/2 Cents correspondent at BroadwayCon.
by BRIAN F.B. REAVEY
Try to imagine the most amazing pep rally, summer camp, professional conference, rock concert, family reunion, and Tony Awards party combined into one weekend. That was BroadwayCon for me. It’s impossible to fully encapsulate my entire experience, but I’ll starting by sharing some of my favorite BroadwayCon highlights.
Before the official BroadwayCon Opening Ceremonies took place, the first of three days (Friday) offered the 3,000+ attendees various fan meet-up sessions. It was difficult to choose between the Sondheim, RENT, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Smash, Newsies, and other meet-ups offered, but ultimately I chose the Hamilton fan meet-up. I entered “the room where it happens” and several hundred people were waiting patiently for the session to begin. The space quickly became Standing Room Only. While the staff was finalizing sound system tasks, two teenaged BroadwayCon attendees started an impromptu Hamilton sing-a-long a cappella, and the entire room instantly joined into synchronized song and cheers. I was home, y’all!
Each of the panels, performances, workshops, autographs, and photo booth sessions were as impressive as the next. The Opening Number on the MainStage showcased incredible production value, complete with surprise appearances by Tommy Tune and Ben Vereen. Footage from the Opening Ceremonies is available on the BroadwayCon YouTube page (as well as a number of videos from attendees).
The most memorable panels for me included the Hamilton cast panel, the RENT reunion panel, the choreography panel, and the Original Broadway Cast of Les Misérables panel. The most stand-out “only at BroadwayCon” experience happened on Saturday night during Blizzard Jonas. Many pre-scheduled performers were not able to get there due to the insane weather conditions, but that didn’t stop the stellar BroadwayCon staff. A spontaneous “Party Line” ensued where event organizers utilized their personal contact lists and called various Broadway stars to join the fun. We were graced with live phone conversations from Laura Benanti, Betty Buckley, Darren Criss, Harvey Fierstein, Joel Gray, Norm Lewis, Audra McDonald, Idina Menzel, and Patti LuPone. When Patti asked us if we needed anything, my very hungry self yelled, “PIZZA!” Immediately following my snowed-in outburst, Anthony Rapp and I started a spontaneous “Send us pizza, Patti!” chant. Only at BroadwayCon…
A particular line from the musical “Wicked” kept replaying in my mind the entire weekend: “I think we’ve found the place where we belong!” Never once did I or anyone at BroadwayCon feel left out or put down for loving Broadway so much; on the contrary, the inspiring, renewing, and transforming effect that live theatre has had on me and so many was celebrated in major, uninhibited ways. As one new friend said to me on the first day: “It’s like we’re all speaking the same language.” My grand hope as a result of this experience is for everyone in the world to feel a similar sense of belonging and unbounded joy in some small way, wherever they may find themselves on life’s journey.
Special thanks to Anthony Rapp, Melissa Anelli, Mischief Management, Playbill, and everyone else who had their hands and hearts invested in this memorable, inaugural event. My gratitude for one of the best weekends of my life, new friendships, and my renewed love for everything Broadway is immense and endless. BroadwayCon was a phenomenal, magical, and unforgettable experience, and I look forward to making new memories there again next year.
Brian F. B. Reavey is the Director & Founder of Retreat to Broadway, a national non-profit project that inspires, renews and transforms individuals and organizations via innovative programming and live theater. Brian works full-time in the Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Office for the Marianist Province of the United States; he also serves as their NGO’s Main Representative at the United Nations.