NYCC 2022: The Big Broadway Nerd Panel — Exploring the Human Condition

by Tom Smithyman

Apparently, being a professional stage actor and a nerd are not mutually exclusive. In fact, if the panelists of New York Comic Con’s Big Broadway Nerd Panel are to be trusted, having geek cred is practically a prerequisite.

After all, as moderator Bryan Campione of Playbill explained, both the theater and geek communities pride themselves on inclusivity while exploring the human condition in ways that don’t always involve humans.

Each of the panelists professed their love of nerdy things – from obscure movie references to the Muppets, as well as comic books, Disney Parks, Marvel movies, and nearly everything in between.

Justin Matthew Sargent lived out his own geek dream by playing Peter Parker in the infamous musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Sargent, who was seen by a much wider audience in the televised Jesus Christ Superstar Live, demonstrated his love of Star Wars by showing off the Republic credit that he was wearing on a chain around his neck. He also confessed that that he named his dog Kenobi.

Sargent and his wife recently returned from Orlando, Florida, where they dove headfirst into Star Wars geekdom by staying at Disney’s Galactic Starcruiser hotel. They made up characters for the highly immersive – and pricey – experience.

“We lived in Star Wars for two-and-a-half days,” Sargent said. “And we’re still paying it off!”

Mason Alexander Park, who has starred in Hedwig and the Angry Inch and has a key supporting roles in the new Quantum Leap reboot, told the audience about a recent meeting they had with Disney.

“They asked me the wrong question: ‘What do you want to do?’” Park said. “I blurted out Star Wars before they could finish asking the question. I’ll be anything. I’ll be a gonk droid!”

Park used the panel to remind – repeatedly – that they play Desire in the Netflix adaptation of The Sandman. Park read the comics upon which the series is based and enjoyed diving back into the material after being cast in the series – a turn of events that was triggered by a tweet to series co-creator Neil Gaiman.

“[There’s] something’s special about Neil Gaiman’s world,” Park said. “It’s very cool to be a part of something that has been a part of people’s lives for a very long time.”

Fergie Phillipe of Hamilton fame discussed his love – and extensive knowledge – of the Muppets and Disney parks. Growing up, the soon-to-be actor cast himself as Mr. Incredible in a highly unauthorized version of The Incredibles. Every day for a month, he and his neighbors acted out the entire movie for fun.

“We knew the film backwards and forward,” Phillipe said. “Those fights were very real. We were into it, man.”

Jenna Leigh Green from TV’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Broadway’s Wicked has portrayed two different kinds of witches for different media. Like real-life girls, both witches had trouble fitting in. Green said that both struggled with adolescence as they were trying to figure out what kind of humans they’d hope to become.

Playbill has several other panels lined for New York Comic Con and, for the first time, a booth set up on the show floor to hawk its wares.

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