The plethora of Broadway musical panels is one excellent reason to choose NYCC over the more famous con in San Diego. Over the last two years, the east coast con has leaned heavily into programming, sponsored by Playbill, related to theater and theater performers, including a Playbill booth on the exhibit floor.
It’s a smart move to lean into what’s unique about New York City, especially given how similar some of the elements of the two shows can be. (Similar guests, similar exhibit booths, similar screenings.) The focus on Broadway this year was even smarter because while SDCC struggled to replace the big-name studio programming, NYCC could pull in the Broadway performers.
Broadway Panels at NYCC
Panels this year included:
• Playbill Presents: The Broadway Bard Party. This is a one-shot Dungeons & Dragons campaign run by theater actors who are also D&D nerds. It’s fun and fascinating and my son, both a theater and D&D nerd, loves it.
• Playbill Presents: The Big Broadway Nerd Panel. Performers shared how fantasy, comic books, and science fiction have inspired and impacted their performances, personas, and personal lives.
• From Cosplay to Broadway: Theater costume designers shared how they started with cosplay and turned it into a career of making costumes, including pieces for Broadway productions.
• Playbill Presents: Back to the Future on Broadway, featuring the stars of the musical, and a behind-the-scenes look at how it was adapted from screen to stage.
• Playbill Presents: Death Note: The Musical Panel. Exactly what it says. The story behind the musical adaptation.
• Playbill Presents: Comic Con After Dark Listening Party: Death Note: The Musical/London Concept Album Panel.
• Playbill Presents: Defying Gravity: Wicked’s Enduring Legacy
• Teaching a Robot to Love: Making a Musical: About the making of this show about robots, queer friendship, and capitalism (derogatory.)
I can personally attest that the Bard Party is a great deal of fun for everyone who loves D&D, that the Death Note panel illuminated how a musical is made, and that the Wicked panel featured a performance of “Defying Gravity” by the current musical stand-in for Elphaba.
In other words, NYCC has leaned in heavily to New York’s musical theater roots, making the show almost a must-see for theater nerds.
NYCC, Broadway, and Playbill
Playbill had a prominent booth just behind the New York Comic Con merchandise booth on the exhibit floor. Official con merchandise included this Broadway-themed t-shirt.
Meanwhile, the Playbill booth featured memorabilia, most notably related to Death Note: The Musical, signings by theater stars, and theater memorabilia as well.
Conclusion: Broadway is NYCC’s UniqueWeapon
NYCC falls short in many ways to Comic-Con in San Diego.
San Diego (usually) has all the big stars, all the big studio installations, the teeming Gaslamp street party, and the constant after-hours events.
By comparison, the Javits Convention Center in New York is basically a wasteland. There are no great food options at the Javits. They do have food trucks but the lines are long and once lunch is obtained, there’s hardly any place to sit. Walk outside in San Diego and it’s sunny and lovely. To take a break from the con noise in New York, you have to walk some blocks in Midtown, and, well, that doesn’t eliminate the city noise. Plus, the weather gods dumped an all-day rain on top of attendees Saturday at NYCC.
NYCC had done installations in the past but only a few can fit into the outer courtyard. (And this year, there was only one lonely van because the studios scaled back because of the strikes.) In the past, there have also been installations on the entrance floor but there were no this year. (That wasn’t entirely bad, as it made walking from one end to the other easier.)
But NYCC does have a terrific Artist’s Alley that benefits by dedicating a large space for just creators, rather than having them compete for space on the exhibit floor with the vendors, as in San Diego. The new north wing addition to the Javits is bright, open, has spacious panel rooms, and features excellent restrooms.
But, mostly, the big difference with NYCC is Broadway. I won’t be attending Comic Con in San Diego next year, as my visit this year become overwhelming.
I don’t plan to attend NYCC in 2024 either but…well….the Broadway programming calls to me and my son.
I may well change my mind.