Getting in the mood ... and over the hump

The holidays are in full swing at FitzGerald's and First Baptist Church

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

The big tent is up at FitzGerald's this week because there's a lot happening at the renowned Roosevelt Road night club owned by Oak Parker Bill FitzGerald, who started the club 33 years ago.

The anniversary is one of the reasons for the extended celebration. Christmas is the other.

It all starts Wednesday night with Jon Dee Graham and Jon Langford. Graham has the distinction of being inducted into the Austin (Texas) Music Hall of Fame three times — once as an individual and two more times with separate bands (The Skunks and the True Believers). Langford, meanwhile, originally from Wales, in addition to playing music, is known as a "visual and comic artist."

On Dec. 12, Bill Kirchen's "Holiday Honky-Tonk Show" shares the stage with the irresistible sounding "World Famous Potani Sisters Burlesque-a-pades' A Holiday Spectacular."

On Friday, Dec. 13, Tab Benoit, a new-generation Cajun musician, is the featured act, accompanied by Sol Driven Train, a Charleston, S.C. band, whose music is said to "weave through genres like images in a Tom Robbins paragraph." Who could turn that down?

Benoit, described as a "swamp rock master," which could be taken a number of different ways, will be performing in the big tent, which, for the occasion, has been outfitted as a "winter wonderland," with heat, of course, and with plenty of seasonal décor, plus local choirs singing carols during the breaks between sets. Long-loved Christmas films will also be shown.

Brave Combo's Annual Holiday Extravaganza is highlighted on Saturday night. The Texas-based quintet offers a world music fusion that includes, but is somehow not limited to "salsa, meringue, rock, cumbia, conjunto, polka, zydeco, classical, cha cha, and the blues." As one critic put it, "come for the party, leave with a musical education."

On Sunday, the Chicago Grandstand Big Band will present their "Umpteenth Annual Big Band Christmas Party," which also includes the OPRF High School Jazz Ensemble. And near the end of the first set, a phenomenon known as "Singing Saucy Santa" will arrive to visit with the kids, who get in free, by the way.

For more information on all of this, call 788-2118 or visit The club is located at 6615 W. Roosevelt Road on the Berwyn side, between East and Clarence avenues.


A camel for each wise man

On the other end of the holiday revelry spectrum, head to First Baptist Church of Oak Park, 820 Ontario St. (a block north of the Oak Park Avenue-Lake Street intersection) for the 22nd anniversary Journey to Bethlehem, a free live nativity presentation in five scenes — and still the only place in Oak Park all year-round where you can see a live camel!

Only this year, there will be three live camels. That's right, one for each of the magi! The pantomime runs in a continuous loop, manned by congregation members and local actors, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14 and Sunday the 15th. Lavish costumes, period music, live sheep and a donkey. Did we mention three camels?

The five scenes consist of the angel visiting Mary, Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem, Herod's throne room where he interviews the three kings (or whatever they were), the shepherds with their flocks by night, and, of course, the manger in the stable because there was no room at the inn (or the hotel, which, irony of ironies, is located right next door).

The production, which has been a holiday tradition for a generation, is directed by Mary Lee Eneberg. The sets are designed by John Hyndman. 


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