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8 Memorable Moments from Darren Criss’ Elsie Fest 2018

Category Broadway

|by Amy Sapp |


From celebrity cameos to all-out singalongs, nothing “Broadway” was off limits this year at Elsie Fest

Since 2015, Emmy Award-winning Darren Criss (The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Glee) has co-produced Elsie Fest with fellow producers Jordan Roth and Ricky Rollins. This festival for all things musical theater aims at celebrating the art of Broadway and all performing arts in a spectacular, one-night-only concert that stars some of the most elite talents of stage and film.

This year was no different, as stars and musicians took to the Summerstage in Central Park on October 7, joining Criss in showcasing songs from beloved musicals and musical films alike. Read on for our favorite eight moments from the festivities. 

The annual Broadway music festival took to Central Park on October 7 (Photo: Elsie Fest)

The annual Broadway music festival took to Central Park on October 7 (Photo: Elsie Fest)

Nick Jonas Surprised a Stunned Audience of Fans
In a shock that brought fans to a piercing shriek, recording artist and screen star Nick Jonas shook Central Park when he jumped onstage to sing “Brotherhood of Man” with Darren Criss, one of the titular songs from the musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. (During the 2011 revival run of the Tony Award-winning musical, both Jonas and Criss played the title role of leading man J. Pierrepont Finch.) On Twitter following the festival, Criss encouraged Jonas’ hopeful return to Broadway in the future: “Nice to hear you singin’ Broadway again. Hopefully a sign of things to come?”

Riverdale’s Corey Cott Sang a Mashup from The Greatest Showman
Better known for his breakout performance on television as Kevin in Riverdale, Casey Cott took to the stage to belt out a remarkable mashup of music from the hit motion picture, The Greatest Showman. With musical direction from veteran arranger Benjamin Rauhala, Cott wowed the crowd with his joyous mashup. The adoring fans joined in singing along with Cott as he returned to his musical theater roots.

Darren Criss, Grant Gustin, and Will Roland Took on Dear Evan Hansen
Award-winning composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, introduced the trio as the group gave their own spin to the fan favorite song from the Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Dear Evan Hansen. Known for his leading role in The Flash, Grant Gustin played Connor Murphy, while Dear Evan Hansen’s original cast member, Will Roland, reprised the role in which he made his Broadway debut. (Roland can be seen this spring as the leading man in Broadway’s Be More Chill.)

Zachary Levi Leaves Comic Con for Central Park
In New York to promote his upcoming film, DC’s Shazam!, at New York Comic Con, Zachary Levi (She Loves Me, Chuck) dropped by to sing a swoon-worthy rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” with Criss. Levi encouraged the audience to snap along with him halfway during the song, and many joined in on the fun — enough to prompt him to quip, laughing, “This is really fun!”

Be More Chill’s George Salazar
Including a performance from the entire company of Broadway’s upcoming new musical, Be More Chill, one of the show’s leading players, George Salazar, brought the now-viral song “Michael in the Bathroom” to Elsie Fest. A crowd and YouTube favorite, Salazar mesmerized the audience with his simple performance of composer Joe Iconis’ brilliant song dealing with a friendship that is seemingly ripping at the seams — performed, well, in a bathroom.

Sutton Foster Astonishing All of Us
Broadway and screen goddess Sutton Foster brought back her rendition of “Gimme Gimme” from Thoroughly Modern Millie – arguably the onstage part that placed her on the map of theatergoers’ hearts in 2002. With her spot-on vocals and flawless performance, Foster reiterated to the audience why she won the Tony Award for this role 16 years ago.

Alex Newell’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls”
Once on This Islands Alex Newell gave Elsie Fest a stripped down rendition of The Little Mermaid’s classic, villainous song, “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” We know one thing for sure; if The Little Mermaid receives a Broadway revival, our vote goes toward Newell’s casting as the sea witch herself.

Hairspray Medley Starring Matthew Morrison
Before Matthew Morrison (Glee, Finding Neverland) began his set, he explained, “I’m singing one song for you,” to a response of confused concert-goers — until the cheeky actor added, “It is a nine minute song.” Morrison performed a medley of songs from Hairspray, his breakout Broadway show in which he originated the role of teen heartthrob Link Larkin.

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