NEW YORK (AP) — The first-ever convention for Broadway fans was nearing the end of its first of three days in New York last January when snow began falling.
It quickly became a nasty blizzard — more than 26 inches hammered the city, triggering a travel ban.
"It was crazy. It was the only snow we got all last year. So it was like a targeted attack by God," said Melissa Anelli, the organizer. She had earlier publicly doubted snow would cripple city airports. "I said that out loud and God must have been thinking, 'Girl, I'm going to show you.'"
A more humble BroadwayCon returns this time from Jan. 27-29 with one eye on the weather and lots of changes. For one thing, there's a much larger stage, trading last year's midtown hotel meeting spaces for a portion of the cavernous Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
The three-day BroadwayCon — sort of a Comic Con for thespians — will have tap dancing workshops, places for fans of Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber to meet, huge sing-alongs, exhibits, a "Family Feud"-style game show, a talent show and a cabaret.
Stars planning to attend include Cynthia Nixon, Josh Groban, Chita Rivera, Joel Grey, Kelli O'Hara, Jonathan Groff, Jeremy Jordan, Michael Cerveris, Laura Osnes, and "Hamilton" alums Christopher Jackson and Okieriete Onaodowan.
BroadwayCon said Thursday that a session has been added on Jan. 27 in which Tony Award-winner Julie Taymor — who directed and designed costumes for "The Lion King" — and Whoopi Goldberg will discuss the creation of that regal musical, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary on Broadway.
The casts and creatives of shows like "Dear Evan Hansen," ''Anastasia," ''In Transit" and "Bandstand" will talk about their shows, as will the new cast of "Hamilton." There will be panel discussions like "The Future of Cabaret," ''Fight Choreography" and "Producing 101."
"We are intense and nerdy about theater," said Anelli. "This is not something we hired the intense, nerdy people to do. We are the intense, nerdy people. And it's what we would want the most walking into this event."
Organizers noted what was popular last year and adjusted. A 10-minute cosplay fashion show — short for costume play — last year has been turned into a full event and they've added new group sing-alongs, one featuring only 11 o'clock numbers and another with Act 1 finales.
"Last year, we threw spaghetti at the wall at times to figure out what works," said David Alpert, artistic director of BroadwayCon's main stage programming. "It's such an exciting opportunity for fans to really embrace the fandom."
At BroadwayCon, there's no charge for autographs, though fans may have to enter lotteries. Master classes in vocal technique or on things like being a stage manager are free, but require registration and fill up fast.
Tickets start at $95 for a day pass and $250 for a general, all-weekend pass with full access to everything on offer. A portion of all profits go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
As a blizzard swirled outside last year, organizers scrambled. Panelists couldn't get into the city, so new panels were born. Celebrities like Idina Menzel, Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald were trapped and so called in. Jeremy Jordan and Darren Criss both chatted via video.
"If there's one community that knows the show must go on and deals with the circumstances, this is the one," said Anelli, who partnered with Playbill and co-created the event with Stephanie Dornhelm and the original "Rent" star Anthony Rapp.
Some 5,000 people attended all three days last year and organizers expect more this year — up to 6,000 each of the three days. This year, there will be two stages and the main one has 5,000 seats, far larger than any Broadway theater.
But organizers stress that despite the celebrities and panels, the convention rises or falls on the theater fans that show up.
They were delighted last year when a young woman who was cosplaying Tracy Turnblad from the musical "Hairspray" met and hugged a girl who came dressed as the character Penny from the same musical.
"The con happens between them," said Alpert. "It's people together."
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