On October 8, over 4,000 Broadway fans gathered at Central Park’s Summerstage in New York City for the third annual Elsie Fest. Darren Criss (Glee, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) created the music festival, curated for theatre fans, as an opportunity for fans to hear their favorite Broadway stars sing pop tunes and vice versa. The 2017 lineup did not disappoint.
Criss was joined by fellow headliners Lea Michele (Glee, Spring Awakening) and Alan Cumming (Cabaret), as well as a roster that included Tony nominee Jeremy Jordan and Great Comet star Ingrid Michaelson. Broadway stars Norm Lewis (Porgy & Bess) and Jenna Ushkowitz (Waitress) and Disney songstress Auli’i Cravalho (Moana) were also among the guest stars that had fans shrieking with delight. The concert featured everything from Gershwin's “The Man I Love” to Katy Perry's “Teenage Dream.”
What’s more, the fest offered a peek at Broadway’s The Band’s Visit, which just began previews October 7, plus a taste of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s upcoming movie musical The Greatest Showman.
Here are the top 5 performances of the night (in order of appearance):
Introduced by his Bonnie & Clyde co-star Laura Osnes, Jordan started with his signature songs from Smash and The Last Five Years (“Broadway Here I Come” and “Shiksa Goddess,” respectively). But the highlight of his set is a toss-up between the throwback to his high school band with Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” and a glimpse into his childhood with a Disney medley that combined The Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World” with Hercules’ “Go the Distance,” The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s “Out There,” and Newsies’ “Santa Fe.”
Though she opened with a bang singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” the highlight of Michele’s set was the more subtle duet she sang with Criss. The pair sang a touching rendition of “Falling Slowly” from the Tony-winning Once as Criss accompanied on acoustic guitar.
A force of nature, the Tony winner brought down the house with his set. Combining pop songs like Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know” with showtunes like Cabaret’s “Mein Herr,” Cumming ultimately outdid himself with two back-to-back mashups. First: Adele’s “Someone Like You” with Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory” and Katy Perry’s “Firework.” Cumming was inspired to combine the three pop-rock anthems after hearing the songs one after the other during a night out. On the dance floor, Cumming realized, “They’re all the f**king same! So we made that mashup to prove it.” But, as the singer pointed out, everybody borrows or steals or copies themselves—“even Stephen Sondheim.” That prompted Cumming’s mashup of Sweeney Todd’s “Not While I’m Around” with Into the Woods’ “No One Is Alone” and a couple tunes from Company before Cumming closed his set with a triumphant rendition of “Ladies Who Lunch.”
The Tony nominee has been playing the role of Kim in Miss Saigon for three years now, yet her portrayal is as haunting and impactful as ever. She stunned with “I’d Give My Life For You”—full vibrato, dark tones, resonant belt, and gut-wrenching emotion.
Homegrown Broadway talent Settle—from Hands on a Hardbody, Les Misérables, and Waitress— is about to make her feature film debut in this Christmas’ The Greatest Showman. The movie musical, starring Hugh Jackman and with a score by Pasek and Paul, tells the story of P.T. Barnum and his quest to create The Greatest Show on Earth. Settle plays the Bearded Lady and premiered her song “This Is Me” in full in front of a lucky audience.