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  IF the reaction of the crowd at Broadway in Chicago’s Summer Concert at Jay Pritzker Pavilion is any indication, then the play Love Never Dies: The Phantom Returns is destined to be a big hit in Chicago.
    With a booming but soothing voice, Gardar Thor Cortes, who has been cast as The Phantom in the production’s national tour, treated the audience to one of the songs from the sequel to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, giving theatergoers a hint of what they can expect when the production hits the Cadillac Palace Theatre stage from February 14 through March 4.
   That was just one of the highlights in the annual event that showcased the currently running Aladdin (at the Cadillac Palace Theatre through September 10) and eight other shows that will be featured in the Chicago area in coming weeks and months. In the 15th annual summer concert, the usual host, Janet Davies of ABC7 Chicago, got a little help from Chris De’Sean Lee, who plays the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson as part of the Chicago cast in the blockbuster show Hamilton
   After several hundred disappointed theater enthusiasts were turned away when the Pavilion reached its capacity, the show opened with a two-song performance by Paul Alexander Nolan, Andre Ward, Keely Hutton and Rema Webb, cast members of the highly anticipated and pre-Broadway engagement of Escape to Margaritaville, a musical comedy that will feature several Jimmy Buffett classics, including “Margaritaville,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Come Monday.” That set the tone for the night’s other performances that highlighted future shows such as WaitressLes MisérablesBeautiful: The Carole King MusicalMotown The MusicalThe Color PurpleSchool of Rock and a Chicago favorite, Wicked: The Untold Story of The Witches of Oz
   One of the tunes highlighted during the concert, “The Wizard and I,” was performed by Olivia Polci, an understudy in the musical’s national tour and granddaughter of the legendary Frankie Valli. The prequel to The Wizard of Oz tells the story of Elphaba (the “Wicked Witch of the West”) and Glinda (the “Good Witch of the North”) before Dorothy and Toto landed in Oz. The show will be making its fourth stop in the city––with its initial stop lasting more than three years.
   During the past 15 years (the past six at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion), the Broadway in Chicago Summer Concert has done more than whet the appetites of theatergoers––it has become one of the city’s “must attend” events. That’s why it’s easy for many observers to agree with Eileen LaCario, vice president of Broadway in Chicago, when she says the much-anticipated event “is like the ‘Lollapalooza’ of Broadway.”

Photograph by Dot Ward
Photograph by Dot Ward
Broadway In Chicago's Summer Concert 2017
A highly charged, capacity crowd gets an entertaining look at what's coming to Chicago theaters
For more information, go to
Aladdin, through September 10, Cadillac Palace Theatre
Motown The Musical, October 3 through October 8, Cadillac Palace Theatre
Les Misérables, October 11 through October 29, Cadillac Palace Theatre
School of Rock, November 1 through November 19, Cadillac Palace Theatre
Escape to Margaritaville, November 9 through December 2, Oriental Theatre
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, December 5 through January 28, Cadillac Palace Theatre
Wicked, December 6 through January 21, Oriental Theatre
Love Never Dies: The Phantom Returns, February 14 through March 4, Cadillac Palace Theatre
Waitress, July 3 through July 22, Cadillac Palace Theatre
The Color Purple, July 17 through July 29, Oriental Theatre

*Shows featured in the Broadway in Chicago Summer Concert. For additional shows and dates, go to
–– Walter Leavy
Cast members from Escape To Margaritaville––Paul Alexander Nolan (on guitar), Andre Ward, Keely Hutton and Rema Webb––perform Jimmy Buffett's classic song "Margaritaville" at the 2017 Broadway in Chicago Summer Concert.
Betsy Wolfe sings a tune from Waitress, in which she stars. At right, John Rapson is part of the cast in Les Misérables. Olivia Polci (below) thrilled the audience with a tune from Wicked. The concert was co-hosted by Janet Davies of ABC 7 Chicago and Chris De'Sean Lee, a member of the Chicago cast of Hamilton
Martina Sykes sings a tune from The Color Purple.
Singers Gardar Thor Cortes, Sarah Bockel and Jonathan Wagner highlight tunes from Love Never DiesBeautiful: The Carole King Musical and School of Rock.
J. Daughtry and Moeisha McGill highlight the return of Motown The Musical in October.