Elsie Fest Portraits: A Day at the Pier

Aaron Tveit

Today’s Broadway fans have plenty of opportunities to rub shoulders with their favorite stars. From the stage door to 54 Below shows to even Twitter, actors are engaging with audiences and admirers more than ever.

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So why not create an all-day music festival centered on showtunes? That’s what Darren Criss thought when he decided to create and produce Elsie Fest, a concert series featuring Aaron Tveit, Laura Osnes, Lea Salonga, Leslie Odom Jr., Seth Rudetsky, and Team StarKid. The event took place on Sunday, September 27, and Broadway Style Guide was there to capture the action.

“This is like Marie’s Crisis right now!” Salonga exclaimed, a nod to the popular NYC piano bar, when Criss joined her onstage at the end of her set. The pair sang A Whole New World to uproarious screams, with the crowd intermittently singing along. (Salonga voiced Princess Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin.) In a comic nod to this moment, Team StarKid performed “Take Off Your Clothes,” a tune from their musical Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier, a parody of the Disney show from Jafar’s perspective.

Team StarKid began by creating viral musicals for YouTube (they now do fully-produced live musicals as well), and one of their first shows, A Very Potter Musical, launched Criss’s profile for his performance as Harry Potter. At Elsie Fest, Criss rejoined his University of Michigan pals to perform a number from the show’s sequel, A Very Potter Sequel, “I’m Harry Freakin’ Potter.” The crowd went wild.

Disney was a recurring theme at the event as Laura Osnes, who received a Tony nomination for her performance as the title role in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Broadway, performed “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, before doing a “Cinderella Medley,” which included songs from the Disney movie, the R+H version, and even Into the Woods. 

Osnes also welcomed Tveit to the stage to join her for their first-ever live duet. They sang “Falling Slowly” from Once, and when Tveit performed his set, he returned the favor. He invited Osnes back to play the Elphaba to his Fiyero for “As Long as You’re Mine” from Wicked. One of the highlights of Tveit’s set—other than his returning favorites like “I’m Alive” from Next to Normal and “Goodbye” from Catch Me If You Can”—was his rendition of “Why God Why?” from Miss Saigon. 

Odom Jr., who is currently starring as Aaron Burr in the smash hit musical Hamilton, was up next, performing his big number from the show, The Room Where It Happens, and duetting with Tveit on “What You Own” from Rent. (Both have appeared in productions of the show.)

Criss closed out the fest, going back to the Disney theme with “Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan. He also performed the song that skyrocketed him to household name status on Glee: Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” He also performed more Potter musical tunes like “Goin’ Back to Hogwarts.”

He closed out the day with a punk rock cover of “Cabaret,” which he said was based on a cover from the band “Me First and the Gimme Gimmes,” a group that marries his loves for rock and musical theater.

“Thank you so much for coming this year!,” Criss said as he left the stage. “I’ll see you next year!”

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