Welcome back to Adina’s Adventures! Check out my September shows, or the rest of my theater-related escapades. This post is all about the event Broadway fans look forward to all year: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids Flea Market and Grand Auction!
Late September brought the annual event that is often known as “Broadway Christmas,” #BroadwayFlea! I prefer to think of it as “Broadway Black Friday,” as you’re shopping up a storm, snatching up all the good deals and special items before anyone else. The good thing about Broadway Flea versus your retailer of choice is that all the proceeds from this day goes to the charity Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. So you can justify all the money you spend as it’s going to a good cause! Part of 44th and 45th Streets between 7th and 8th Avenues are blocked off for the Flea Market and there are also tables in Shubert Alley.
This is one of the most fun and crazy days for Broadway fans. There are tables from companies and organizations throughout the Broadway community as well as some current shows. There are lots of Broadway performers, writers, directors, and other creative types wandering around as well as fans. Sometimes the area is so packed, you can’t move! In addition to the chance encounters, there are designated areas where you’re able to meet people. On the deck of Junior’s Restaurant in Shubert Alley, there is a schedule of performers appearing by the hour to sign autographs and taking pictures for a set donation price. For example, it might be $30 to go through the autograph line in a certain hour and you can get up to 2 autographs per person signing, and there might be 20 people at the table that hour. You can also opt to be in line for photos and hope the person or people you want photos with will be pulled from the table for the photobooth. Each picture is a separate donation, unlike the autograph line. The price varies depending on how much they think they’ll get for the performers and how many there are. For example, a photo with someone like Bernadette Peters alone might run about $85, but someone who’s a little less “Broadway Royalty” might be more in the range of $50. There’s also the “selfie stage,” which was new last year. It’s designed for anyone attending Flea to be able to stand and take a selfie (or have someone take your picture) to get a good shot of you there. This year, there were “hosts” – other Broadway performers who you could take pics with (no payment required, though there was a bucket for voluntary donations).
Fall in NY can vary widely. In 2013 and 2015, it was moderately warm and sunny – enough for capris and a t-shirt, but not overly hot. In 2016, it was cool and cloudy; I’d worn a long-sleeve shirt and then bought a hoodie at one of the tables which I needed on and off throughout the whole day. This year, it seemed summer was still clinging on desperately because it was blazing hot out – nearly 90 degrees! Sheesh. Well, dedicated Broadway fans will brave the heat for this. The Minskoff alley, which is parallel to Shubert, was much quieter and you could catch a bit of A/C from the building, so it was a good place to hang when I needed a break.
Last year, my cart was overflowing with Broadway goodies I’d purchased, and I stayed until somewhere around 6:30-7:00. This year, either the pickings were slimmer, or was able to talk myself out of a lot. I also saw some of the same things I’d purchased last year, so I didn’t need more of them. I didn’t come away with that many things this year, although I was still glad I’d brought my cart so I didn’t have to carry everything. I was able to scoop up many old Playbills (mostly from the 1940s and 1950s, which I just think is the coolest thing) and a few other things, including a poster from the Paper Mill production of The Bandstand. By the time I was ready to leave (I made the 5:15 bus), my cart was about 2/3 full. Well, I still managed to do some damage, and I accomplished the majority of the things I wanted to do, so I was satisfied.
The tables were supposed to start selling at 10, so I planned to arrive by 9:30-9:45 to scope out the situation. There were already long lines for the Great Comet and Dear Evan Hansen tables and most tables had been selling for a while – some since 9, some even earlier. I bought some old Playbills at one of the first tables I went to and started browsing a few other tables, keeping an eye on the time as I wanted to get to specific areas at specific times.
In between the madness, I was able to catch a few friends, some of whom traveled to NY just for Flea! (They traveled a little further than my 45-minute bus ride.) Among the friendly faces found in the crowd was Amber of Broadway Goes Pop! There was a meetup for the group happening later, but I opted out so I could get home early and not have to drag my cart all around town.
In a little while, I found myself at a table with a handful of items from Newsies, along with Stuart Zagnit, who’d played Warden Snyder in the Broadway company, selling them! I’d brought my Newsies book along, although I didn’t have any specific plans for autographs, you never know who you’re going to find at Flea! I quickly flipped through the book to find Stuart’s name or picture and had him sign it. He told us that “some of the guys” were coming by at noon, so be sure to come back. Newsies appearing? You better believe I would come back. I wandered around and came back around noon, to see Andrew Wilson and Anthony Zas waiting for fans with a sign that said “Take your picture with the Newsies for $10!” Don’t have to ask me twice. I gladly paid (I think I might have been the first person there!) and got a good picture with them.
Appearing at the selfie stage at 12:30 were Ben Cook & DeMarius Copes, now of Mean Girls, but previously of the Newsies National Tour. Later on, David Guzman, now a swing in Hamilton, but previously of Newsies Broadway and Tour companies, was appearing with Karla Garcia, a fellow Hamilton swing. Ben especially is quite popular for his portrayal of Race, and there was a long line to see him and DeMarius. Luckily, “teamwork makes the dream work,” as they say, and Ally had someone (who turned out to be a friend of mine, though she didn’t know that at the time) holding a spot for us in line at the selfie stage while we hit up a few other tables. We each got pictures with the guys, dropped a few dollars in the donation bucket, and moved on. I came back when David and Karla were there, and luckily there was no line so I got to take a pic with them as well. I thanked them, and then turned to David and told him, “You know me; I can’t resist a newsie!” He chuckled, then recognized me from when I’d met him at the 54 Below reunion concert a few weeks earlier, and gave me a hug.
After the selfie stage pic with Ben and DeMarius, I checked out the lines in Shubert Alley for the Junior’s photobooth, and they weren’t even close to lining up for the hour I wanted yet. I wandered back to the table with the Newsies, and found they’d multiplied, so I did another picture. Among the new arrivals was Josh Burrage, one of the “Toursies,” who’d just booked his first Broadway show (Cats)! I was glad to see him so I could congratulate him in person. In addition to Andrew, Anthony, and Josh, there were four other Newsies there! I found out later after I went home, there was an ongoing rotation of Newsies there, and later stopping by was Danny Quadrino (closing Broadway cast, and Crutchie in Pittsburgh CLO’s Newsies), Kara Lindsay (OBC and Newsies Live Katherine), and Ben Fankhauser (OBC and Newsies Live Davey)! Oh, well. I definitely “caught” enough Newsies that day even without those other three.
I chose to stick with the photobooth line this year, instead of the autograph line, and got to see almost everyone I wanted. I got a duo picture with Christy Altomare and Derek Klena (Anya and Dimitry of Anastasia). The following hour, I was able to get a picture with Andrew Keenan-Bolger, who I’d last seen at BroadwayCon (and gotten a duo pic with him and his sister Celia, recently seen in the play A Parallelogram). He seemed to recognize me when I walked up (which was cool!) I gave him a hug (and congratulated him on his recent engagement!) before we posed for the picture. He appreciated my Newsies earrings and phone case! Also appearing that hour was Beth Leavel and Laura Osnes, recently of my other fave: Bandstand. I was especially excited for a chance to meet Beth, as she never came out to sign after the shows. I’d started lobbying for a “mother/daughter” duo photo as soon as the team running the event would let me (technically before they were ready to hear it, even) and it paid off. I got my picture with Beth and Laura and even though I was red and sweaty, it was worth it. Beth was delightful – I told her I was a big fan of the show and how many times I’d seen it and she told me I had good taste. Laura recognized me when I walked up and I got to give her a hug hello as well.
I browsed a few more tables and bartered for some deals, and decided to call it a day around 5:00. Another successful Broadway Flea Market! Until next year.
Join me in October for more Newsies, 54 Below, a visit to Paper Mill, and a few different plays. See you then!