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Tonight, on Showtime …

The Arcada has made some great strides over the past seven years. From hosting big-name entertainment to becoming a venue the community can truly enjoy, the place has made a whole lotta people happy. But I believe what really underscores the theater’s move to the next level are its excursions into the land of television.

After bringing together five of the country’s funniest stand-up comics, I co-produced a show called “The Godfathers of Comedy.” It was a seven-camera, high-definition shoot with all the bells and whistles of a big-time television production. We built out the stage and added amazing lighting … the placed looked like the best stage in Las Vegas. Production trailers, big-time cameras, make up people … the buzz was definitely in the air.

After a long time in editing, and an even longer time being shopped to the networks, it was eventually bought by Showtime and aired January 2011 for the first time. I cannot accurately describe the thrill I experiencedhen I first saw the Arcada on television. I co-produced a PBS television special entitled “The Happiness Club.” It was a show about a large group of inner-city kids who wrote and performed their own songs and choreography about their battle against drugs and violence. It was extremely popular and eventually won us three Emmy Awards. But this time, it was different.

When I first got the Arcada, the inside was destined for the wrecking ball, an inevitable home for medical and legal offices. After several years of painstaking renovation, the theatre became a venue to actually be proud of again. And seeing it on a Showtime special, well, what was it like when you saw your child perform on stage for the first time, hit that game-winning base hit or wear that cap and gown?

The show was so good, it has aired over 40 times! It caught the eye of the producers of the legendary PBS show “Soundstage.” They wanted to bring two more shows to the Arcada, both for PBS. Due to the efforts of our production team and a major commitment by the City of St. Charles, we filmed the legendary classic rock band “Foreigner,” and a few months later ’80s heartthrob Richard Marx. These two productions for PBS were nothing short of spectacular. The Foreigner concerts (we shot two) utilized the full stage production they were to use for the summer as they toured huge arenas with “Journey.” And Richard brought with him several special guests, including X-Men superstar and former Academy Awards host … yes, THAT Hugh Jackman! He was with us for two days, rehearsing for a Broadway show in between shooting his segment where he joined Marx on stage in song.

Did this really happen in St. Charles?

The TV buzz and production trailers return this week as Showtime comes back to The Arcada to film two shows with Joan Rivers. She will be filming a new Showtime special reprising her stand-up comedy act. Once again, we built out the stage, added incredible lighting, blocked off the street behind the Theatre and “TV’d up.” The transformation is really something to see, and being privy to the behind-the-scenes element of a live television taping is an exciting experience. There is an electricity in the air that is a character in and of itself within the show. Whether you are a fan of Joan or not, the “cool factor” of being a part of it all is not something we folks in the Midwest are a part of very often.

Cuz this kind of stuff only happens in big city theaters, right? Welcome to The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles … A big-city theatre with small-town character! Have your people call our people … we’ll do lunch!

Ron Onesti is the President/CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corporation and The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Send comments or celebrity questions to ron@oshows.com.

About Ron Onesti

Ron Onesti is the CEO and president of Onesti Entertainment Corp. For the past three decades, he has produced Chicago's most popular Italian festivals, and also owns the historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Producing more than 200 live concerts each year, Ron has worked with some of music's most loved entertainers. Frankie Valli, Mickey Rooney, Connie Francis, and Jersey Boys, as well as stars Joan Rivers, Bret Michaels, and Don Rickles, have all graced the stage of the Arcada Theatre. He is a gourmet cook and journalist, writing a weekly column for the Daily Herald and hosting his own show on WGN. Ron lives in Wood Dale with his wife, Elena, and their daughter, Giuliana.

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