Highlights from Broadway In Chicago's Annual Summer Concert at Millennium Park

Highlights from Broadway In Chicago's Annual Summer Concert at Millennium Park

Broadway In Chicago's Summer Concert on Monday drew probably the largest crowd for the event I have seen in several years of attendance (and they were definitely a fired-up bunch). Musical theater fans across Chicago clamored to see Broadway In Chicago's showcase of ten upcoming touring shows (with a bonus appearance from HAMILTON's Chris De'Sean Lee, who co-hosted with usual emcee Janet Davies of ABC7). Here's my take on the highlights of the concert and which touring musicals should top your must-see list for the coming season.

The concert opened with a performance from the upcoming pre-Broadway engagement ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE. Though Jimmy Buffett's tunes seem unusual fodder for a new musical, lead actor Paul Alexander Nolan made fine work of the famous song. He was joined by fellow company members Andre Ward, Keely Hutton, and Rema Webb who began the evening with a huge burst of energy and lively presence.

In a delightful surprise, Broadway lead Betsy Wolfe made an appearance to promote the tour of WAITRESS. Wolfe plays Jenna, originated on Broadway by Jessie Mueller (and played in Adrienne Shelly's original 2007 film by Keri Russell). Her performance was easily the highlight of the entire concert. Wolfe displayed expert vocals and raw vulnerability in her take on composer Sara Bareilles's eleven o'clock ballad "She Used To Be Mine." I was fortunate enough to see this show on Broadway in the spring of 2016, and Chicago audiences are sure to enjoy this empowering, beautiful, and entertaining treat of a show next July.

This winter will see the return of BEAUTIFUL-THE Carole King MUSICAL, and local Sarah Bockel's take on "I Feel The Earth Move" was more than enough to sell those who have yet to see this gem of a jukebox musical. Douglas Carpenter and Jacob Heimer lent their vocal prowess to "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." While the performance made for pleasant listening, I would have preferred to hear two King tunes to really seal the deal.

Martina Sykes made lovely work of a ballad from John Doyle's Tony Award-winning revival of THE COLOR PURPLE, which is one of the most intriguing offerings to come from Broadway In Chicago next year. While Sykes has a splendid voice, the song selection was perhaps not the strongest choice to sell the show. Doyle is one of the most visionary directors working in the Broadway landscape today, though, and Chicago audiences should consider a visit to this one next July.

For those looking to sprinkle some Disney magic into their Chicago summers, ALADDIN'S Adam Jacobs and Isabelle McCalla reminded concertgoers that this show

Highlights from Broadway In Chicago's Annual Summer Concert at Millennium Park
Adam Jacobs and Isabelle McCalla in ALADDIN

delivers on just that with their performance of "A Whole New World." ALADDIN remains in the Cadillac Palace through September 10, and it's a great production to soak up those last few days of summer musical fun.*

Though many Chicago audiences have already seen WICKED, Olivia Polci made a strong case for a return visit with her take on Elphaba's early number "The Wizard and I." She's currently understudying the role in the national tour. Based on her performance here, she seems poised to take it over at any moment.

The Broadway In Chicago concert also showcased performances from SCHOOL OF ROCK, LES MISERABLES, MOTOWN, and LOVE NEVER DIES-THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA sequel. Chicago audiences have a wide array of touring musicals to enjoy over the next year. Based on the concert, the delectable WAITRESS should top the list, but there are plenty of other musical goodies to go around.

For more information on Broadway In Chicago's upcoming line-up and to purchase tickets, visit BroadwayInChicago.com.

*Read my review of ALADDIN here.

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From This Author Rachel Weinberg

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