Nearly 6,000 people from around the world attended BroadwayCon, the inaugural convention for theater fans that took over the New York Hilton Midtown this weekend.
While Broadway matinee and evening performances were canceled this weekend in the wake of the historic blizzard, BroadwayCon went on, turning its mainstage ballroom into a giant slumber party.
To make up for the absence of Darren Criss, Jeremy Jordan and other high-profile celebrities who couldn’t attend the event due to travel delays, organizers set up a “Broadway Party Line.” Co-organizer Anthony Rapp, gossip columnist Michael Riedel and Playbill Editor-in-Chief Blake Ross cold-called celebrity talent, chatting -- on speakerphone and FaceTime -- with Patti LuPone, Joel Grey, Audra McDonald, Betty Buckley, Laura Benanti, Criss, Jordan and more.
“In spite of the weather and what really could have been a big mess, they covered for each other and made the best of it” said Barbara Feldman, a 69-year-old retired theater educator from Jacksonville, Fla. “It may have been a storm outside, but you really didn’t feel it in here.”
Feldman traveled to BroadwayCon from Jacksonville with fellow theater-fan Pat Gorman, 68. The duo saw two Broadway shows while in town -- “Something Rotten” and “Noises Off” -- and plan to come back next year to see more.
Feldman and Gorman weren’t the only two out-of-towners who traveled into New York City for BroadwayCon. 15-year-old Lucy Swinson, of Oakland, Calif., flew in for the convention with her father, Ian. Lucy had never seen a show on Broadway until seeing “Something Rotten” this weekend -- though the aspiring actress has been in 14 local theater productions herself.
“As a dad, the one thing I want to do is give her opportunity to fulfil her passion,” said Ian. “Seeing her enjoy it, experience it and be inspired by so many women role models involved in theater has been amazing.”
Barbara Feldman, of Woodmere, Long Island, said she also felt "inspired" about seeing the convention through the eyes of her 13-year-old son, Andrew -- who has performed in “about 65 shows” since seeing “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway.
For Andrew, BroadwayCon gave him a chance to connect with other people who have the same passion as he does. “Theater is all about community,” he said, “It’s been amazing to feel the sense of community with the people that we admire so much.”
“This is an opportunity for the walls between artists and audience members to be broken down,” Anthony Rapp said. “As much as we’re living on our screens, we learned this weekend that people want to be together in person. Watching everyone share in the celebration of that, learn about what makes Broadway tick and what makes it meaningful has made this a success.”
Rapp and organizers of BroadwayCon say they hope to restage the event next year -- possibly even moving to a larger location, like the Javits Center. Of the 30 people NBC 4 New York spoke to for this piece, all said they would return another year.