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Hugh who?

I would like to think that after 25 plus years in entertainment, I am pretty well versed on the “who’s who” of the biz. I would also like to think that I am hip enough to know who is hot today. After all, I could tell the difference between a Katy Perry song and a Rhianna song on the radio (at least after being educated by my 8-year-old daughter I could).

So when Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter and fellow Chicagoan Richard Marx told me he was adding a special guest to his lineup of friends performing with him at our Arcada Theatre, I was pretty pumped. He was shooting his “PBS Rocks” television special by us, something exciting in and of itself. “Man, wait ’til you hear who I’ve got coming, this guy is going to put this show over the top,” Richard said.

The television show, and subsequent two-disc DVD, “Richard Marx: A Night Out With Friends” featured Richard on stage performing with a few close industry pals, including Broadway performer (another Chicago native) Sara Niemietz, lead singer of the rock group Vertical Horizon and close Marx buddy Matt Scannell, and boy band ‘N Sync superstar J.C. Chasez.

“Ok, Ron, are you ready for this?” he asked. “Lay it on me, brother,” I responded. “I’ve got Hugh Jackman coming!” “Whoa!” I said. “That’s incredible! This’ll be huge!”

“Who’s Hugh Jackman?” I thought after I hung up. “He’s probably a one-hit-wonder pop singer from the ’80s.” I was about to do what anyone does in this situation nowadays: Google him. I got on another call and forgot about it.

As we got close to the show day, I was beginning to get calls from private security firms asking if we needed bodyguard services for this show. “I don’t think so, Richard has played here before, he’s pretty cool with the fans,” was my repeated response. “You must be going crazy with Hugh Jackman coming,” the person on the other end of the phone said. “Uh…yeah,” I would say. “I gotta Google this guy!” I said to myself again.

So the day of the show comes, it’s a sellout! The TV trucks are in place, the stage is set, and crazed fans are all over the place. As I mentioned, Richard has played here before, and his fans are usually pretty mellow. Quite a few of these fans, however, were different. Many were dressed in warrior-type costumes, toting comic books and DVD cases. “Now this is odd,” I thought.

We have a long hallway as you enter the theatre that was on lock-down on that day. It was a secure area because of the TV production stuff. I noticed this really tall guy dancing alone in the hall. He was doing “Chorus-Line” kicks. “Whatcha up to?” I asked. “I’m getting ready for a Broadway show,” he said. “Are you Hugh?” I asked. “Yes I am, pleased to meet you,” he said with an extended hand. “I am looking forward to hearing you tonight, you have always been one of my favorites,” I said. I wanted to make him feel welcome, he seemed like such a nice guy.

So I went backstage and Richard was “educating” one of the TV guys. “You’ve got to be kidding,” Richard was saying to him. “You don’t know who Hugh Jackman is? He is only a major movie star, Wolverine in the X-Men films series, the star of the movie ‘Kate & Leopold,’ Oscar nominated for ‘Les Misérables,’ a Golden Globe Award winner, Tony winning Broadway star, Grammy winner, People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, and even hosted the Academy Awards.

“You didn’t know that?” I chimed in. “Do you believe this guy, Richard?” And he’s in show business!” I said.

Man, I wished I Googled this guy.

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.