It's no secret that I love musical theatre so when I discovered BroadwayCon was a 'thing' last year, booking a flight to NYC and grabbing two friends to take along too was a no brainer.
However, as the programming for the January 27-29 weekend was released, it dawned on me that I was going to be surrounded by hordes of superfans. "I'm too old for Hamilton CosPlay or screaming fan girls waiting in line for an autograph and photo with their favourite star!", I proclaimed. After all, I am a serious 'musical theatre academic'. I wrote both my undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations on the form, I write musicals, I'm particular about rhyme and song structure, lyrics and orchestration, and…. oh, wait! I was every bit a superfan as the others in the room.
But as the three days of talks, discussions and performances went on, it dawned on me that BroadwayCon was less a musical theatre geek-out and more a life-affirming celebration of why art matters. This last fortnight has seen a dark political storm brewing not just in the USA, but across the world. Being in New York City at such a time as this was both terrifying and amazing. The climate of fear is palpable, yet through art we find a release: a chance to shine light on the darkness, to pick us up when we fall, to reflect the world and all its scars, and ignite action, education and unity.
Sometimes I look at commercial theatre as a money-hungry juggernaut, but I forget it all comes from a community of artists, fans, and creatives grateful of a large platform on which to share their stories. That community, just like ours at Starling Arts, supports and welcomes everyone, regardless of who they are. The BroadwayCon stage was filled with people reminding us that in art we have a home. Even if the government, or sometimes people closer to us, try to build walls and tear us down, we can battle back with our fight song… together.
From Lesli Margherita championing us to all rule our own kingdom, to Jeanine Tesori reminding us that democracy and theatre arrived around the same time because of each other (see this video), BroadwayCon reminded me that art will always be rooted in politics, identity and acceptance. We’re not all that different! We must all respect and love each other. For, to quote Lin-Manuel Miranda at the 2016 TONY Awards, “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love; cannot be killed or swept aside”, and right now, just as always, that’s what’s going to get us through.