Saturday, January 28, 2017

BroadwayCon 2017 - A Reflection

Last year I heard about the creation of BroadwayCon—based on the hugely successful ComicCon in San Diego, which highlights comics, science fiction and where movie studios and Hollywood and television stars come out in force to promote their upcoming events.  Even though the first BroadwayCon coincided with one of New York City’s largest snowstorms of the season, the proceedings were successful enough to produce a 2017 version with the hope of making it a yearly pilgrimage for theater aficionados and fans. 

This year, now ensconced at the immense Jacob Javits Convention Center on the far West Side of Manhattan, through Sunday, January 29, 2017, BroadwayCon is bigger and better.  Press representative Tori Bryan said they were expecting up to 5,000 people a day.  So, what exactly happens at BroadwayCon? 

BroadwayCon is a mash-up of lectures, panel presentations, Q and A sessions with Broadway actors and actresses, performances, sing-along’s, nighttime concerts, dance parties, and a marketplace with dozens of vendors and companies selling and promoting their wares.  There are even autograph sessions with such theater luminaries as Donna Murphy, Joel Grey, and Chita Rivera.  In short, BroadwayCon is a three-day smorgasbord of activities that would satiate any theater enthusiast.  In short, according to its organizers, “it is a chance to get the complete Broadway fan experience, from every angle…and to celebrate the shows they love with people who bring them to life.”

As a self-proclaimed theater geek, I arrived early Friday morning to immerse myself with the enthusiasts, some dressed as characters from such current Broadway hits as Elphaba from Wicked and the women from Waitress.  I was more interested in attending the historical and creative panel presentations then the other fan-based activities.  In the morning a diverse group of stage managers talked abut their craft.  The individuals--Matthew Aaron Stern, Marybeth Abel, Narda Alcorn, Matt DiCarlo, and Christ Ney--delivered a highly informative presentation on their behind-the-scene work.  It gave the packed audience insight into the role of stage manager and gave everyone a better appreciation for what it means to put on a show.

"In Trousers" reunion panel with Jennifer Ashley Tepper (moderator), Ira Weitzman, Alison Fraser, Mary Testa, Chip Zien and William Finn, partially viewed.

In the afternoon, members of the cast of William Finn’s ground-breaking, 1979 musical, In Trousers, reunited to present a highly informative, enjoyable and very amusing 60 minutes of stories behind the making of the show.  Mary Testa, Alison Fraser, and Chip Zien were hugely entertaining with composer and librettist William Finn proving to be an extremely engaging raconteur.  I wish there would have been more panels like this, which fused musical theater past and present.
The 1980 revival of "Damn Yankees," starring Joe Namath, Susan Elizabeth Scott and Eddie Bracken.

The Market Place is the centerpiece of BroadwayCon.   Placed squarely in the middle of the action, there are multitudes of booths selling Broadway-related paraphernalia and crafts, services for people in the field, podcasters, arts organizations, and more.  I was swept away with happy memories when I visited the Al Hirschfeld Foundation both.  During my formative years in the late 1960’s and 1970’s I always looked forward to the Arts and Leisure section of the Sunday New York Times where splashed on the front page was a beautifully drawn Hirschfeld rendering from a new Broadway show or a Broadway personality.  The joy was trying to find the number of “Ninas” hidden within the ink and pen drawing (Nina was the name of his daughter).  You always knew how many to search for by the number at the end of Hirschfeld's signature alongside the picture. 

There were other vendors I thought stood out and tickled my fancy.  A number of them are presented below in photos.

All hand-sewn historical outfits by Alyson (in photo).
More of the outfits on display at the BroadwayCon Market Place.
Whimsical designs by Rediscoverhandbags utilizing LPs and Playbill covers to create handbags, purses and more.
I was very impressed with the craftsmanship of Jane Elisa's creations on canvass--bags, jackets, hats, and more.
Artist Ray Krampf, the self-professed ArtWhore, with some of his creations.
Bawdy drawings with accompanying off-color text.

BroadwayCon 2017, an all-encompassing fanfest for Broadway enthusiasts, through January 29, 2017 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

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