Elsie Fest: The Coachella for Broadway Fans

This past Sunday, the JBL Live at Pier 97 hosted the first ever Elsie Fest, referred to by some as the "Coachella for Broadway tunes". The festival featured a number of loved performers in theater community, singing songs from their favorite shows, and even by some covers by their favorite mainstream artists! With tons of people fresh from their trip to the Broadway Flea Market, the pier was loaded with people donning merchandise from their favorite Broadway shows, singing along to their favorite show tunes, and enjoying the camaraderie of a community that loves to celebrate theater. Food trucks, karaoke, and a Marie’s Crisis beer garden enhanced the fabulous setting for a long day of music.

First up on the Elsie Fest stage was Lea Salonga, best known for her roles in Miss Saigon and Les Misérables. However, what some people may not know is that she was also the singing voice of multiple Disney princesses, such as Princess Jasmine and Mulan. True to her roots, Salonga performed many songs from her most famous roles. I may or may not have cried listening to my favorite Disney princess singing one of my favorite Disney songs… I’ll leave it up to you to guess which one that was.

Lea’s set list:- I Dreamed a Dream/On My Own, Les Misérables - Reflection, Mulan- Still Hurting, The Last Five Years- I’d Give My Life For You, Miss Saigon- A Whole New World (with Darren Criss), Aladdin- Higher, Allegiance

Second to take the stage was Team Starkid. Most famous for their show A Very Potter Musical, this theater group writes a number of parody musicals that are then uploaded to YouTube and enjoyed by thousands. Starkid started as a group of friends at the University of Michigan who liked to make up silly songs about Star Wars and superheroes, and eventually became an Internet sensation. Other Starkid shows include Starship, Twisted, Holy Musical Batman, The Trail to Oregon, and "Ani". For those of you who don’t know Starkid, make sure to check out these awesome musicals. For those of you who do know Starkid… stop lying about it.

Starkid’s set list:- Ani, Ani- Harry Freakin’ Potter, A Very Potter Sequel- Take Off Your Clothes, Twisted- The Way I Do, Starship- Rogues Medley (‘Not Over Yet’, ‘Kick It Up a Notch’, ‘Rogues Are We’), A Very Potter Sequel/Starship/Holy Musical Batman- Naked in a Lake, The Trail to Oregon- Super Friends, Holy Musical Batman

Third was Seth Rudetsky – I went to get food, oops! But check out his stuff – he is a fabulous, funny, and an all-knowing Broadway dude.

Fourth was absolute Broadway queen (or princess, I should say) Laura Osnes. Osnes is best known for her Tony winning performance in Bonnie & Clyde, winning the role of Sandy on the television show Grease: You’re the One That I Want!, as well as starring as the leading princess herself in Roger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Even though she played Cinderella, listening to her sing as Rapunzel made me think that she could be just about any princess she sets her mind to…

Laura’s set list:- How ‘Bout a Dance, Bonnie and Clyde- When Will My Life Begin, Tangled- Part of Your World, The Little Mermaid- Hopelessly Devoted To You, Grease- On the Steps of the Palace, Into the Woods- Falling Slowly (with Aaron Tveit), Once

The fifth guest to grace the stage at Elsie Fest was Aaron Tveit (*heart eyes emoji*). Tveit has been a big presence in the Broadway world for many years, taking on popular roles such as Gabe in Next to Normal, Fiyero in Wicked, Frank in Catch Me If You Can, and Roger in Rent. In addition to his incredible Broadway selections, Tveit covered a number of pop hits from whom he referred to as some of the greatest American songwriters -- specifically, my girl Taylor Swift.

Aaron's set list:- I’m Alive, Next to Normal- Young Girls, Bruno Mars- I've Been, Next to Normal- Billie Jean, Michael Jackson- Why God Why?, Miss Saigon- As Long As You’re Mine (with Laura Osnes), Wicked- We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, Taylor Swift- Fix You, Coldplay- Goodbye, Catch Me If You Can

Straight from his Sunday matinee in Hamilton, the sixth guest at Elsie Fest was Leslie Odom Jr. Odom takes on the role of Aaron Burr in Hamilton, and was also featured on the television show Smash as Sam Strickland. Even though he’s fairly new to the Broadway scene, there’s a lot of Tony buzz around him, so make sure to keep an eye out! Also, hearing him sing Selena Gomez’s newest jam made me fall even deeper in love with him.


Leslie's set list:- The Room Where It Happens, Hamilton- Jersey Boys medley- The Guilty Ones, Spring Awakening- Good For You, Selena Gomez- Cheer Up Charlie, Willy Wonka- What You Own (with Aaron Tveit), Rent

Elsie Fest’s seventh guest was Darren Criss… whoever that guy is. He was in Glee, I think? And that weird show about a punk rock chick from Berlin? Someone can fact check that… ;)

Okay, just kidding. After finishing up Glee and starring in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Criss decided it was time to set forth his dream of putting together a music festival for Broadway fans. Criss’s set featured a number of popular Broadway favorites, as well as some of the pop songs he covered on Glee. However, at Elsie Fest, these popular hits were performed with special guests Tyler Gleen from Neon Trees and the Grammy award-winning group A Great Big World. And of course, what would a Darren Criss set be without a nine-minute tribute to the greatest fictional school of all time. As an old school Starkid fan, I will never get tired of seeing these fools perform Going Back To Hogwarts.

Darren's set list:- I’ll Make a Man Out of You, Mulan- One Fine Day, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical- Animal (with Tyler Glenn), Neon Trees- This Time, Glee- The Long Grift, Hedwig and the Angry Inch- Brotherhood of Man, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying- I Dreamed a Dream, Les Misérables- Beauty and the Beast (with A Great Big World), Beauty and the Beast- Not Alone- Teenage Dream, Katy Perry- Going Back to Hogwarts (with Team Starkid), A Very Potter Musical- Cabaret, Cabaret

Because this was the first ever Elsie Fest, no one really knew what to expect. In my opinion, it was a great experience. The only problem that stood out to me was the food. There were a select number of food trucks, but because of the small number of options and the high population of people there, lines were impossible. I heard a lot of people waiting on line for an hour to an hour and a half for food! This was why I missed Seth Rudetsky’s set. But other than that, it was a great first go – I really enjoyed the community feeling, the fun, comfortable atmosphere, and thankfully, great weather. Due to the overwhelmingly satisfied response I’ve been hearing about Elsie Fest, it is very likely it will become a yearly event here in NYC.

Check out the videos, and I will definitely be seeing you at Elsie Fest 2016.