Elsie Fest celebrates its third consecutive year this fall, and co-creator Darren Criss wants you to be something you should never be in a Broadway theatre: “rowdy.”
The outdoor celebration gives Broadway fans the opportunity to experience their favorite stars in an environment where they can be themselves; audiences aren't tied to their seats here.
This year, the musical theatre-centric festival will take place October 8 at SummerStage in Central Park.
“There’s an enthusiasm with the fan community of musical theatre that we’re so blessed with that lends itself to being rowdy and enthusiastic,” Criss tells Playbill. “I wanted to give them the venue to do that.”
This applies to the performers as well: “The Lea Salongas and Aaron Tveits of the world, they play Carnegie hall and 54 Below and these very lush joints. It was really fun for me to see them onstage [last year] in a rock-and-roll setting, which is something they’re not used to either… Everybody kind of wins.”
Criss is set to headline the event alongside his Glee co-star and fellow Broadway alum Lea Michele and Tony Award winner Alan Cumming. To Criss, these collaborations and reunions are what make Elsie Fest so special. Glee fans can expect a collection of songs Criss and Michele never got to sing together on the show.
Elsie Fest 2017 will also feature special appearances by recording artist Ingrid Michaelson (currently making her Broadway debut in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) and Tony nominees Norm Lewis and Jeremy Jordan. Additional performers and special guests will be announced at a later date.
“I always get these delusions of grandeur of putting people with other people,” Criss says of the starry lineup. “I want Ingrid to sing with everybody; I want to sing with Ingrid because I’m a huge fan of hers. It’s so cool when artists join the lineup and they get really excited. Like, ‘Would so-and-so be interested in doing a song together?’ 99 percent of the time, people are like, ‘Oh, hell yeah.’ In what other world would they be able to that?”
Over the past two years, Elsie Fest has featured composers such as Jason Robert Brown and the Tony- and Oscar-winning duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul—writers fans don’t typically have the chance to see sing their own scores.
Criss has dreamed up a few composers he’d like to see take the stage: “Stephen Sondheim, I’d love it if you played a couple songs.” He also mentions the late Howard Ashman, who collaborated with Alan Menken on Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Little Shop of Horrors.
“If Howard was still with us, I think he’d be the kind of guy that would not only dig this kind of festival, but he’d be a person that I’d love to have up there. The stories he could tell alone in between numbers would just be amazing.”
Flip through photos from last years festival: