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NYC is getting an outdoor show tunes festival

Written by
Dana Varinsky

Think of it as Coachella for musical theater nerds—an all-day outdoor festival, with food trucks, a beer garden and, of course, show tunes performed by some big name crooners. The first annual Elsie Fest features heavy-hitting headliners like Glee and Hedwig star Darren Criss, Aaron Tveit, who stared in Catch Me if You Can on Broadway and the film version of Les Miserables, Tony Award winner Lea Salonga and Hamilton star Leslie Odom.

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“It just sounded like a really fun idea,” says Criss, who’s organizing the festival. “The performers are used to playing concert halls and lounges, but there’s a certain decorum in those places that I want people to feel like they can let go of, and let their hair down.”

The festival will take place September 27, from 2pm to 9pm. Singers will take the stage on Pier 97 (at West 57th St and the West Side Highway) at different times during the afternoon, to perform half-hour cabaret-style sets. For this inaugural year, there’s only one stage, but Criss says he hopes to grow Elsie to full music festival proportions someday.

Beyond the shows, there will also be food trucks (thought the snack lineup hasn’t been released yet), as well as a beer garden from popular West Village piano bar Marie’s Crisis. Those itching for the chance to show off their own pipes are welcome to take a turn at the mic there.

And for those averse to musical theater, Criss promises the sets won’t be all Broadway tunes.

“It’s a cabaret festival,” he says. “I imagine some people are going to sing Taylor Swift or Jazz Standards. It’s more a festival of people who love show tunes.”

Criss also says there will be plenty of surprise duets as well as some guest singers.

“If I were a smarter man, I’d just put it on the bill, but people will be really pleased to see the rabbits we pull out of our hat,” he says.

Tickets are $50, and are on sale now.

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