If the second annual convention for theater fans were to have a tagline, it would probably be: "BroadwayCon 2017: Bigger, Better and Blizzard-Free."
BroadwayCon debuted last January during one of the city’s worst snowstorms of the past century, with over two feet of snow and freezing winds. That didn't stop 5,000 attendees from making their way to the Hilton Midtown for three days of workshops, panels and performances with some of Broadway's top influencers.
Jan. 27-29Javits Center, 655 W. 34th St.$95-$600, broadwaycon.com
The event was such a success that it’s now expanding to fill the Jacob Javits Center, home of Comic Con, from Jan. 27-29. "Everything's bigger and better," says Melissa Anelli, BroadwayCon co-founder and co-owner of event planning company Mischief Management. "This year, everyone understands what we are."
Not only that, the weekend forecast doesn’t have a single snowflake in it. Here’s what to expect:
"Last year, nobody could get here because of the snow," Anelli laughs. Yet the first-ever theater convention still drew 3,500 people per day. Now that fans have seen the star-studded panels, hands-on workshops, behind-the-scenes peeks and dazzling live performances, this year organizers are expecting more like 5,000 per day and up to 15,000 overall.
To compensate for the bigger crowd and less central relocation, Mischief Management is offering shuttles to ease the commute, especially for those new to NYC. Anelli says they are anticipating about the same split as last year: 70 percent out-of-towners to 30 percent locals. The large turnout is especially meaningful in terms of charitable support, since part of the event's proceeds go toBroadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
"We have such incredible talent coming this year that it's blowing my mind!" says Anelli.
Some of the nearly 500 guests she's most excited about coming to BroadwayCon 2017are Bebe Neuwirth ("Chicago") and Patina Miller ("Pippin") — part of a "Madam Secretary" panel about going from Broadway to Hollywood — as well as Darren Criss ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch"), Joel Grey ("The Normal Heart"), Jeremy Jordan ("Newsies") and Whoopi Goldberg, who’s hosting a 20-year retrospective on “The Lion King” with director Julie Taylor.
In 2016, Anelli spent a lot of time convincing people to get involved with BroadwayCon. But "before the convention even ended, we were getting talent asking how they could be a part of it," Anelli says. "They understand the power of connecting with fans in this way."
In some ways, last year's extreme weather conditions helped BroadwayCon define its tone and find its niche. Attendees gamely played along as the convention team scrambled to adjust to cancellations. That led to some cherished memories, like the night that fans gathered in the ballroom to cold-call theater legends like Betty Buckley ("Cats") — many of whom were happy to chat. It was such a hit that the Blizzard Party Line returns this year.
There was also an impromptu fan karaoke that will now be a formal event with judging, live music and featured performances by winners of the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. Autographs, cosplaying and photo opps will once again be paramount. "Also, the [Opening Ceremony] is always very much looked forward to," Anelli adds. "We're looking at how that will play out, what cameos will fit in there, but it's very exciting."
The blizzard, of course, also entirely nixed some events that will finally come to fruition in 2017. For example, Broadway Cabaret morphed last January into a one-woman-show with Krysta Rodriguez ("Spring Awakening"); this year, it will finally get to realize its original vision as a star-studded revue. Upcoming shows that will be previewed at BroadwayCon include "Amelie," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Anastasia." There's also a panel with the current cast of "Hamilton" about what it means to become the next generation of a hit show.
"There's so much we wanna do. In some cases we're making space, and we're making the ability, because these things that we're adding are just too good," Anelli says. That explains how the event has already racked up over 200 hours of programming. But first-timers needn’t be daunted. Anelli simply says: "Wear flat shoes and have an amazing time."