Broadway in Chicago has offered its annual free summer concert for years. Once showcased at Taste of Chicago, it is now a full-fledged solo event at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion with a massive following.
Eager musical fans camped out in the grass and filled Millennium Park to see or hear a preview of the upcoming season of shows. This year was bigger than ever with lines of people waiting to get in, and picnics spilling out of the surrounding area.
Janet Davies of ABC 7 and Chris De'Sean Lee of Chicago's Hamilton hosted the evening with light comedy, keeping things moving for an hour running time.
In the past, star power was brought in to perform, such as Cyndi Lauper and Deborah Cox. Jimmy Buffett was not around for Escape to Margaritaville and Carole King was "So Far Away," but Sara Bareilles did provide a video message to promote Waitress, and production actress Betsy Wolfe flew in from New York to sing a song that had Bareilles' signature sound attached.
Several Big Apple cast members used their one day off on Monday Aug. 14 to help out sales of the individual tours. Martina Sykes was a stand out among them for her song from The Color Purple that brought many attendees to their feet.
Other strong singers included John Rapson for the operatic Les Miserables, and Gardar Thor Cortes for the creepy sequel to The Phantom of the Opera called Love Never Dies.
Motown's Moeisha McGill and J. Daughtry, unfortunately, didn't inspire people to get up out of their seats for "Dancing in the Streets." When there's a lyric like "They're dancin' down in Chicago" and people are sitting down, that's a problem.
School of Rock had Chicago's Jonathan Wagner making face-melting faces as he rocked out to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
While Aladdin's cast members Adam Jacobs and Isabelle McCalla didn't need a magic carpet to transport thembeing so close by in a current run of the cartoon-inspired musical at the Cadillac Palaceit was a nice reminder as to why this musical is so popular in the Windy City. Their chemistry was electric and it was projected on a large video screen for everyone to see.
Speaking of "Popular," Wicked flies back into the Oriental Theatre Dec. 6 this year and Olivia Polci sang her version of "The Wizard and I." She didn't copy off of predecessors, which was refreshing, and this made a fitting end to this cabaret in the park. She must have cast a spell not allowing the rain that plagued last year's event to happen this time out.
For tickets to these shows and others, visit BroadwayInChicago.com .
Photos and text by Jerry Nunn