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Review: MUSICAL CON, Excel Centre

Review: MUSICAL CON, Excel Centre

The West End’s first ever musical theatre fan convention kicked off with a bang.

Musical Con is the "West End's first ever musical theatre fan convention", an event designed to connect audiences with their favourite performers, showcase new work and simply have a lot of stagey fun.

The event, which took place over two days at the Excel Centre, is modeled upon Comic Con - a convention that draws in thousands of guests annually. Musical Con was no different, with approximately 5,000 attendees present.

To begin with, there were many things that Musical Con did right. It hosted a series of illuminating panels that allowed attendees to better understand the work that goes into bringing production from page to stage. This also opened the door for interesting and vital conversations about inclusivity and diversity within the industry, particularly during the panel entitled, "Why Representation Matters in All Areas of Theatre".

While the main stage was largely dominated by well-established productions, such as Wicked and Heathers, they also platformed newer productions, such as Super You and But I'm A Cheerleader. The But I'm A Cheerleader cast, in particular, was excellent - as the audience lapped up every moment of their time on stage.

Every performer that stepped onto the stage gave their all - and a highlight of the day was a performance of "Defying Gravity" sung by four former Elphabas; Alice Fearn, Louise Dearman, Laura Pick and Nikki Bentley.

The main stage was also home to the "Star of Musical Con" competition, where eight finalists sang before judges to see who would be crowned the star. With some performers as young as fifteen, audiences were blown away and it's clear that many have promising careers in front of them.

However, as a new event, Musical Con did experience teething problems. Throughout the day, there were issues with sound quality - mainly as the main stage often drowned out whatever was happening in the panels. While headphones were provided for the former, they picked up a lot of the noise from the microphones being used on the main stage and within the workshops. This made it difficult to follow - which is a shame as the conversations were so interesting.

While there were lots of performances running throughout the day, attendees who were not participating in workshops or spending extra money on 'meet & greets' were also not given much to do. When this event runs in the future, it would benefit from hosting more panels, Q&A opportunities, or perhaps a wider selection of stagey vendors (who were fantastic).

The former also brings into question the pricing for the event - £45 for a day pass, or £79 for a weekend pass (with VIP packages starting at £89). This is considerably more expensive than similar events, such as Comic Con, which usually averages around £25 for an adult day pass - despite the fact that Comic Con is a bigger event with more things going on. As an event that was geared towards giving back to the fans and accessibility, the cost likely priced out many fans who would have liked to attend.

However, overall, there was a lot of heart behind Musical Con - and much fun to be had. This is born from the fact that organisers were keen to help audiences connect with their favourite stars, and celebrate all that the West End has to offer. With plans for next year's convention already in the works, there's also a lot of promise for a bigger, better event that builds upon this early success.

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From This Author - Abbie Grundy

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