Elsie Fest to Rock Coney Island on Labor Day

Elsie Fest to Rock Coney Island on Labor Day

Last year, fans of musical theater got to experience an outdoor music festival dedicated to songs of the stage and screen—Elsie Fest. This passion project from Emmy nominated musician and actor Darren Criss, talent manager Ricky Rollins and Broadway producer/Jujamcyn Theaters President Jordan Roth is back for Round Two—this time in Brooklyn—and looks to be bigger than before.

Elsie Fest co-founders Darren Criss (left) and Ricky Rollins on stage with festival-goers behind them at the inaugural show in 2015. (©Justin Kahnuse: FirstLook)

The Second Annual Elsie Fest has amassed quite a lineup with each performer/performers presenting a full set of songs. Slated to perform are:

Megan Hilty – A Tony nominee for the recent “Noise’s Off” revival, Hilty also starred as Glinda in “Wicked” and in Doralee Rhodes in “9 to 5: The Musical,” as well as played Ivy Lynn on the NBC series “Smash.”

Tituss Burgess – This star of stage and screen is a two-time Emmy nominee for his role as Titus Andromedon on “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” He has been in four Broadway musicals, including “The Little Mermaid”—he played Sebastian.

Darren Criss – He played Blaine Anderson on the television series “Glee” and has starred on Broadway twice as J. Pierpont Finch in a revival of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and the title role in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

Rebel and a Basketcase – This duo of actress/musician Evan Rachel Wood (“Thirteen,” “Across the Universe”) and musician Zach Villa have an electronic pop/alternative sound and cite David Bowie, The Cure and Radiohead and more among those who influence their glam style and 80s pop/rock sound.

Jason Robert Brown – This two-time Tony winning composer, lyricist and playwright is responsible for making our hearts break with “The Last Five Years” and the musical adaptation of  “The Bridges of Madison County,” among other works.

Lena Hall – Hall won a Tony Award for her role as Yitzak in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and was in the original ensemble of the musical adaptation of “Tarzan,” as well as was a featured actress in the Tony Award-winning “Kinky Boots.” She is the lead singer of the band The Deafening.

Corey Cott – Star of the upcoming Broadway musical “The Bandstand,” Cott was in the recent revival of “Gigi,” as well as starred as Jack Kelly in the acclaimed stage version of “Newsies.” 

Pasek and Paul – This Tony-nominated duo (Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) wrote the music for “A Christmas Story, The Musical,” as well as the Off-Broadway smash “Dogfight,” among other shows. Their recent collaboration “Dear Evan Hansen” premiered in Washington D.C. in 2015, was Off-Broadway earlier this year and will transfer to Broadway this fall.

Julie James – James is a Sirius XM Radio “On Broadway” host, as well as the Program Director for “On Broadway” and “Met Opera Radio.” Listen to her for your daily dish about all-things theater with “Broadway Buzz.”


There will be a special guest performance by Cynthia Erivo—this year’s Tony Award winner for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in “The Color Purple.” (In my honest opinion, hearing her sing in person is a life-changing experience. Just saying.) 


Leslie Odom, Jr. owning the stage during Elsie Fest 2015. (©Vladislav Grach: Live Nation)

I attended Elie Fest last year at Pier 97 with a large group of my friends and though we weren’t quite sure what to expect—seeing as it was a brand new festival—we had the best time ever. It was so special to be together, singing along (and maybe dancing a little… or a lot) to our favorite showtunes, surrounded by hundreds of people doing the same thing.

Actual Disney Princess, Lea Salonga (©Vladislav Grach: Live Nation)

During Elsie Fest 2015, we got to see Lea Salonga, Aaron Tveit, Laura Osnes, Leslie Odom Jr., Seth Rudetsky, StarKid and Darren Criss. They sang solos. There were duets. (For example, Lea Salonga—the singing voice of Princess Jasmine from the animated Disney "Aladdin" movie—sang "A Whole New World" with Darren Criss.) Criss even had Tyler Glenn from Neon Trees help him out with “Animal” and the guys from A Great Big World accompany him on “Beauty and the Beast.” It was a fantastic few hours of songs and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what this year’s festival has in store.

Elsie Fest—named after Sally Bowles’ former roommate as mentioned in the the song “Cabaret” from the musical of the same name—will take place Monday, Sept. 5 (Labor Day) at the Ford Ampitheater at the Coney Island Boardwalk. The festival begins at 1 pm and will last into the evening. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDs. Food, drinks and merchandise will be available for purchase and there will also be a beer garden sponsored by Marie's Crisis.

Aaron Tveit serenading the masses at Elsie Fest 2015 (©Jenny Anderson for Broadway Style Guide)

Tickets for Elsie Fest are on sale now at Ticketmaster—click here.

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