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Valentine’s proposal takes center stage at Paramount

Ann Briggs Andy Hotaling celebrate with The Midtown Men Friday night after Hotaling surprised Briggs with wedding proposal stage. |

Ann Briggs and Andy Hotaling celebrate with The Midtown Men Friday night after Hotaling surprised Briggs with a wedding proposal on stage. | Courtesy of The Midtown Men

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Updated: March 18, 2014 6:20AM

The audience that packed the Paramount Theatre in Aurora Friday night to hear the Midtown Men perform the greatest hits of the 1960s got a special Valentine’s Day surprise.

No one was more taken aback, however, than 57-year-old Ann Briggs of Addison, when she was called up on stage during the second half of the performance.

With the four original cast members of the Tony Award-winning “Jersey Boys” surrounding her, Briggs’ boyfriend pulled out a diamond ring and asked her to marry him.

“You are the wind beneath my sails,” Andy Hotaling told the obviously “shocked” Briggs before making her his fiancee in front of 1,800 delighted theatergoers.

Hotaling, a 67-year-old pediatric surgeon at Loyola Medical Center, had planned the surprise weeks in advance by calling Midtown Men managers to see if the critically acclaimed quartet would be willing to play along.

And they were more than delighted to help stage the surprise.

“We have done over 300 concerts together, and this is the first time we did something like this,” said a smiling Daniel Reichard after the show. “It was really special … we all got emotional up there.”

“I got tears in my eyes … but they froze right away because it’s so cold,” quipped Michael Longoria, who hails from L.A. and starred as Frankie Valli in “Jersey Boys.”

I have to say, Hotaling was truly one cool dude before, during and after his very public proposal. Sitting just a few seats away from the couple during the show (and aware the surprise was coming), I focused my highly trained journalistic eyes on him for any signs of nerves: No sweaty palms; no nervous twitches. No frequent restroom breaks.

Turns out, Hotaling is not only an even-keeled surgeon, he flew jets in Vietnam, his new fiancee — a nurse anesthetist who also works at Loyola — informed me after the final curtain.

Besides, there was no chance she’d say no. “I’ve already asked her to marry me 10 times,” said Hotaling, who lives in Hinsdale.

But never formally, Briggs replied. “I told him, ‘You need to do it properly. It doesn’t have to cost money. It just has to be nice.’ ”

Dr. Wonderful certainly delivered.

A few songs into the second half of the concert, the Midtown Men announced they were going to do something special for a random couple in the audience in honor of Valentine’s Day. They then pretended to “draw” their seat numbers (H101 and H102) out of a basket.

The couple tentatively rose from their chairs — she more cautiously than he. Once they were standing in the middle of the stage, I could see Hotaling put his hands into his left pocket and remove what had to be the engagement ring.

After a few moments of banter, Reichard asked Hotaling if he had something he wanted to say to his Valentine. And gasps of delight rippled through the theater as the audience gradually picked up on what was about to take place.

It was all so short. So sweet.

The happy couple say they will probably marry sometime in 2015. They share four adult children between them — none of whom knew about this surprise proposal — and don’t want to interfere with some of their kids’ first-time wedding plans.

After the couple had taken their seats again, Longoria dedicated his solo, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” to Hotaling and his bride-to-be.

Many well-wishers, congratulating the couple as they filed out of the theater at the show’s conclusion, wanted to know if Briggs had any idea about the proposal up until the moment he popped the question.

Absolutely none,” she said over and over. “He did good.”

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