BroadwayCon 2016. The MainStage crowd is buzzing with excitement. Between the extravagant BroadwayCon Opening Ceremonies and the Hamilton: History is Happening in Manhattan panel, a gentleman stepped on stage who had just as much energy as the 3,000 fans in the room. That man’s name was Ben Cameron.
Cameron introduced himself to the crowd respectively, but it wasn’t until he noted that we may recognize him from a very popular cast-recording called Wicked.
“Glinda, is it true you were her friend?” Cameron quoted in the exact dialect from the cast-recording as his line from the Original Broadway Cast Recording of the musical. What happened next, well the crowd went crazy, as 3,000 Broadway fans would do, but then the show went on.
In that small time slot which was designated to Cameron between the two big events on Friday, January 22, 2016, he became a BroadwayCon favorite. Over the Twittersphere, #BenLooksRealCute became a “thing,” and fans could not stop praising Cameron as the host who originally was just there to keep the crowd entertained for a small amount of time.
Over the course of BroadwayCon (January 22 - 24, 2016) and in the face of a blizzard, the fans saw more and more of Cameron in his element taking on the task of hosting numerous other events.
Cameron throughout the weekend was seen hosting the Broadway Jukebox, his own panel where he talked about being in the original cast of Wicked, Your Chance To Shine: Fan Karaoke on the MainStage, Avenue Q & A, and the YouTube Viewing Party Singalong.
I sat down with Cameron at the Broadway go-to spot, Schmackary’s a little under a week after the festivities concluded to talk about his experience at BroadwayCon.
How did you get involved with BroadwayCon?
I’ve known David Alpert (Artistic Director of BroadwayCon MainStage events) for many years. I had heard about BroadwayCon just last year. I was in Arizona with a friend and we were at a Tony Awards pool party. We were watching and they’re all like “yes we’re all very excited we’re going to BroadwayCon,” and that was the first I’ve heard of it. David reached out and he said to come in and that he could work some magic. I came in for Friday to host the Broadway Jukebox and they asked me last minute to fill in the time before the Hamilton panel. From there on in, they kept writing me every morning being like “Can you come back?” so it was all kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants. It was kind of wild and wacky and unexpected for the most part.
What was your experience with the fans and hosting the big events?
That people were so willing to come up and talk. I found that everyone else who was involved on our end felt the same way, like Lesli and Rob, we were all really happy that the fans felt that they were so much a part of it...that they didn’t have a problem coming to talk to us. The truth of the matter is, we’re exactly the same. You don’t get to be a Broadway performer without being a Broadway fan, it doesn’t exist. Standing in front of 3,000 people who were as geeked out about theater as I am, really puts in perspective, it’s so powerful.
Favorite moment from the weekend?
The YouTube dance party, I mean have you ever seen anything like that? It was crazy. Being on-stage with Anthony Rapp was huge for me because I just love him, and being that close to the man who created something that I responded so personally to.
Were you Star Struck to meet anyone?
I don’t really get Star Struck but if anybody, I walked past Tommy Tune a couple of times but I didn’t say anything. It was great to see Ben Vereen again. Yeah, probably Anthony (Rapp) because he just carried so much weight and his personal investment in this.
What were the challenges of creating programming in the face of a blizzard?
We were sitting in a room on the fourth floor and in the control room, the blizzard happened, you just see everyone firing off “what can we do?” and people are just spit-balling ideas. They came up with the Blizzard Party-Line which was a huge hit. We all just kind of jumped in. We all sat in corners of the Hilton and said “this is what we are going to do, this is what we are going to make happen.” David was just like “i’m just going to kind of throw you out there.”
Did you learn anything from hosting at such large convention?
The thing that strikes me the most is the energy of that many people. I host Broadway Sessions every week but there are only 120 seats if people are sitting on laps, compared to 3,000 people in a large hall geeking out at the same time. As a host, the most important part of hosting is listening and being present, not thinking about what you’re going to say but listening to what they’re saying. Having to pull the Anthony Rapp stuff out of my butt, I hadn’t planned on asking about the fan-fiction, but I was like “that is truly what I want to know right now, I wonder if anybody else does?” Trusting that.
Will you be back next year?
I think so. the stories I’m being told by the people putting it together is that I will back in a larger capacity. It’s exciting for me.
Where can people not in New York City catch you doing your thing?
We just started Periscoping for Broadway Sessions, follow @BwaySessions on Twitter and that’s every Thursday night. You can catch me acting crazy and the people I have performing. That’s the best way.
What are the Broadway Sessions?
The Broadway Sessions are live musical theatre themed variety shows. I like to say it’s like Ellen, but late at night and gayer. We’ve been doing it for 7 ½ years, which is completely insane to me. Every week we have a different group of Broadway performers come in. Because it’s late at night too, everyone lets their hair down. It’s a celebration of the community. There are performances, we play games with the audience, and sometimes give away theatre tickets. It’s a really intimate inside look it’s kind of like what the Broadway community is when we are not pretending to be cool.
Ben Cameron has been on Broadway in the original casts of Footloose and Wicked, as well as the a member of the cast of Aida, and has appeared in numerous touring productions. You can catch Ben Cameron hosting The Broadway Sessions every Thursday evening at The Laurie Beechman Theatre (42nd and 9th). Follow Ben on Twitter @BenDoesBroadway and check out more information on The Broadway Sessions here http://broadwaysessions.net/index.htm.
For full audio and details of my chat with Ben, listen below!!
A Look Back