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I Attended Elsie Fest & Here’s What I Thought

Over Hofstra’s Fall Break, I stayed on campus instead of flying back home. While here, I chilled with friends who also stayed but I also decided to attend Elsie Fest. Elsie Fest is a concert put on by Darren Criss, from Glee, that brings in many famous Broadway stars for an outdoor concert in Central Park. It has been happening since 2015 and has, in previous years, had performers such as Grant Gustin, Lea Michelle, Liz Calloway, Aaron Tveit, and Nick Jonas. It has slowly become a staple of the Broadway scene for people in the know, where you can see Broadway stars and samples of upcoming shows all for the price of one Broadway ticket ($80).

Leaving Hofstra at 9 am, my friend, who I convinced to join me, and I hung around 34th Street, getting coffee. Then we walked all the way to Central Park, taking a stop at Schmackery’s to pick up some cookies. When we arrived at Central Park, my friend and I walked around before finding the Summer Stage, where Elsie Fest was happening. At 1 pm, there was already a lengthy line, so we decided to hop in it, which led to us sitting for about four hours in order to get into the concert.

Once we got in, the magic started. Two people from Marie’s Crisis Cafe were there leading us in karaoke of all the famous Broadway songs in the beginning and in between sets. They were the utter life of the party. There was a split between people who were standing for the concert and those who just brought a blanket in order to sit and chill throughout the 6pm to 10pm concert. My friend and I chose to stand, packed in like sardines for the duration of the concert.

Photo by Sabrina Josephson

The first people to perform were Joshua Bassett and Olivia Rodrigo from the High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. If you haven’t been sold on the reboot of one of the best DCOM’s in existence, I fully support rethinking your standpoint. The chemistry between the new Troy and Gabriella was so adorable and they really gave Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens a run for their money, which you can watch here. After this, I’m definitely prepared to pay whatever price Disney+ wants for me so that I can watch this the second it comes out.

Photo by Sabrina Josephson

Next, Rob Rokicki, composer and lyricist of The Lighting Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical came out on stage. After cracking a joke about why the cast couldn’t be there (They’re on Broadway till January 5th!), he launched into some of the best songs from the his musical. It was a very well done glimpse into The Percy Jackson Musical. As someone who has actually seen The Lightning Thief, it was very fun to see the face behind the musical

Photo by Sabrina Josephson

After Rob Rokicki, the composer, lyricist, and writer of one of Broadway’s biggest hits, Hadestown, Anais Mitchell came out on stage. Singing songs that she hadn’t released yet along with some songs from Hadestown. Her performance was one of the most important of Elsie Fest, even pulling Darren Criss out to introduce her, his first appearance at Elsie Fest 2019.

Photo by Sabrina Josephson

Ariana Debose was the next headliner of Elsie Fest. She was my favorite performance of the whole night. Her first performance was for R&H Goes Pop, where she performed “Shall We Dance” from The King and I and “Wonderful Guy” from South Pacific. This R&H Goes Pop performance might have been my favorite of all of the ones on YouTube. This is saying a lot because Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes performed “The Next Ten Minutes Ago,” a medley of “The Next Ten Minutes” from The Last Five Years and “Ten Minutes Ago” from Cinderella.

Photo by Sabrina Josephson

After seeing Ariana Debose perform, I have decided that she is one of the Broadway stars that I would go see in any Broadway musical or performance if I could. Her energy was absolutely everything. Debose has previously been cast as Ensemble in Hamilton and as Disco Donna in The Donna Summer Musical.

Photo by Sabrina Josephson

Gavin Creel was the next performer. He has been in practically every musical in existence (that’s an exaggeration, but relatively true). You may know him from Hello, Dolly!, Thouroughly Modern Millie, The Book of Mormon, and Waitress. During his set, he sang “Let the Sun Shine In” from Hair and it was one of the best moments of Elsie Fest because he was able to get the whole crowd to sing along with him.

Photo by Sabrina Josephson

This was my second favorite moment of the whole concert mainly because I am so PUMPED for this musical. Jagged Little Pill is the one musical that I’ve told myself I will consider spending money on just so I can go see it. They start previews on Broadway in November after an incredible run at the American Repertory Theatre. Their short performance was so amazing and just enough to prove that they are going to be worth seeing when they open on Broadway. Also, for bonus points, Derek Klena is back at the Broadhurst after performing in Anastasia, which was also at the Broadhurst Theatre.

Photo by Sabrina Josephson

The amazingly talented Cynthia Erivo was one of the final performances. She is such a talented singer and she has been taking the Broadway world by storm and is also set to act as Harriet Tubman in the upcoming biographical film, Harriet. At one point, she led the whole crowd in harmonizing with her for “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” and it is one of the most relaxing moments I’ve ever experienced in life. If you spend anytime watching anything, please watch her stellar set from Elsie Fest.

Photo by Sabrina Josephson

After joining Michael Feinstein on stage, Darren Criss began his set. I have never seen a crowd go so wild. He sang songs he never sang before, such as “Waving Through A Window” from Dear Evan Hansen to “Wig in a Box” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Then he brought out everyone from A Very Potter Musical to end the whole night, and it was (dare I say) magical. I have never sung along to songs as much as I did when “Granger Danger” was performed.

Photo by Sabrina Josephson

The night ended with the cast of A Very Potter Musical singing “Goin’ Back to Hogwarts” and it was exactly everything anyone could ever want.

Photo by Sabrina Josephson

Overall, Elsie Fest was such a great experience and I recommend it to anyone who wants to get a glimpse of everything that’s going to happen in the upcoming year of Broadway as well as so many people who have starred in Broadway shows in the past.

I 100% support keeping an eye out for the next year of Elsie Fest, and who knows, you might see me there as well.

Sabrina is a senior English-Publishing major at Hofstra University. Straight from Los Angeles, California, her favorite things to do are reading YA novels, listening to Broadway soundtracks, 5SOS, or throwing it back to all of her childhood favorites. She's got her best of both worlds in a nicely curated playlist. Follow her on Instagram @josephsonsabrina
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