News Column

Holiday shows in the suburbs this season are as plentiful as colorful ornaments

December 6, 2013


Holiday shows in the suburbs this season are as plentiful as colorful ornaments dangling from a Christmas tree.

Local audiences can celebrate with everyone from country superstars Martina McBride, Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd to pianist/ composer John Tesh, brother-and-sister duo Donny and Marie Osmond and rocker Chris Isaak.

For Tesh, who brings his John Tesh: Big Band Christmas to the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles on Monday, Dec. 16, celebrating the holidays means taking his audience back in time to the 1950s, to the days of big band music.

"We try to set the table for the way Christmas was back in the days when people watched Christmas specials on their black-and- white TVs, and there was mulling spice on the stove," Tesh, 61, said in a telephone interview. "We celebrate and play Christmas arrangements from the big band players -- Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman -- the music we listened to when I was growing up."

Tesh said his shows are often considered a date night, with women who "have dragged their men" to the concert.

But the entire audience usually ends up getting involved in the holiday fun, Tesh added.

"We will have people in their Christmas sweaters, dancing in the aisle," he said.

Country superstar Martina McBride is looking forward to seeing audience members of all ages for The Joy of Christmas show on Saturday, Dec. 21, at the Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont.

"I often see three generations singing along with me," McBride, 47, said. "It's really special for me to share the holidays with everyone from a 5-year-old to an 85-year-old."

McBride performs a range of tunes in her Christmas show, including her personal favorite, "O Holy Night," which she sings a cappella during the show's finale.

"It's just a big dose of Christmas from the time you walk in, to the time you leave," McBride said.

The Rosemont Theatre is the final stop for "The Joy of Christmas" show this year, as it was last year, McBride said.

"We choose very carefully where we want to end our tour. We want to end on an up-note, in a great city," McBride said. "We ended our tour last year in Chicago, and it was a magical night."

Celebrities with holiday shows have become more visible in recent years, said Ron Onesti, president and CEO of the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, the site of a number of Christmas concerts this season.

"Just like in every other business, stars are having to redefine their shows," Onesti said. "They start offering holiday shows, as they look for different opportunities to entertain."

And many celebrities like bringing holiday shows to smaller theaters, such as the 950-seat Arcada, Onesti said.

"When does someone like Wynonna get to play in such an intimate setting?" Onesti said.

As a theater owner, Onesti said he is happy to book shows at his venue that help make holiday memories.

"I will see an 8-year-old with parents and grandparents, and they are all singing and dancing and sharing the holiday together," Onesti said. "And that's what it's about -- making memories."

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