Aug. 19--So many people showed up Monday night for Broadway in Chicago's annual promotional concert in Millennium Park that the gates to the Pritzker Pavilion were closed, with a capacity 11,000 people inside and at least another two or three thousand musical-theater fans either lined up around the edges of the venue or seated on the grass elsewhere in the park.
Unlike the actual shows, of course, the outdoor event has no admission charge, offering a chance to hear at least a number or two from, say, "Jersey Boys," without coughing up the big bucks.
The only recognizable name on the bill was Dee Snider. The former front man for Twisted Sister was shilling for his upcoming show, "Dee Snider's Rock & Roll Christmas Tale," one of the rare celebrity-penned musicals that actually features the celebrity composer, live every night. Snider's hugely enjoyable contribution was a mash-up of one of Twisted Sister's biggest hits, "We're Not Gonna Take It," and the lyrics of various carols -- a preview, apparently, of more of the same.
The show also offered one of the first public performances of some of the music to "Amazing Grace," a pre-Broadway show with a Chicago tryout slated for this fall, and to "The First Wives Club," another tryout that's part of the 2014-15 season in Chicago with a score that combines Motown-era standards with modest amounts of new material.
"Annie" showed up (not the orphan from the recent Broadway revival; the original creators declined to let that one tour, substituting their own new production) but, alas, there was just one "Newsie." His Disney pals, presumably, were busy hoofing in New York. There were love ballads from "Cinderella" (a union tour) and "Beauty and the Beast" (the returning non-Equity version) and a quirky ditty from "Evil Dead: The Musical," a parody of the infamous movie that is opening a new tour here with a Chicago cast.
The lively night, which has hosted by the broadcaster Janet Davies and featured a bigger orchestra than some of these shows will get in actual performance, ended with a "surprise": some songs from "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," although not performed by Jessie Mueller, that show's Tony Award-winning star who hails from Evanston and whose career blossomed in Chicago. With or without Mueller (likely without), "Beautiful" will play 12 weeks in Chicago in 2015, an announcement carefully timed for the start of a genial and fast-moving concert designed to get as many people as possible texting, tweeting and buying.
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