Citizen Wausau

A Site About Life in Wausau, Wisconsin

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The Altenburgh Christmas Shows

by on December 4th, 2007

My lack of enthusiasm for the Christmas music is pretty well documented. I am fan of this night though, not for the music really, but because some of the cats on stage are people I call friend, and watching them play together makes me laugh with a joy of watching someone you care for, do something they love.

Plus, watching Greiner scowl, that’s fun.

(One last show, Friday December 14th)

The John Altenburgh Christmas Show, sometimes known as The Christmas Jazz & Blues Show, will end after this year. The show has become a Wisconsin Tradition and has had a 12 year run. The show was originally scheduled to run 10 years but Altenburgh just couldn’t let it stop. “It was such a fun thing to do that I couldn’t let it go after our ten year anniversary and ended up going two more years.; Said Altenburgh. Tickets still available at The Performing Arts Foundation, 715 842-0988.

The show is a veritable All-Star Wisconsin Line-up. Veteran performers, Janet Planet (Oshkosh) Otis McLennon (Steven Point) Randy Sabien (Hayward) Tom Washatka, (Oshkosh) Tom Theabo (Oshkosh) Chris O’Keefe, John Greiner & Mitch Viegut (Wausau) Ryan Korb (Appleton) David Story (Stevens Point) Bob Kase (Madison) and the shows producer and founder, John Altenburgh (Mosinee) round out the show.

Christmas Show FACTS:

  • The show has run 12 straight years at The Grand Theater.
  • The last ten shows have been sell outs.
  • The show has also been performed at The Oshkosh Opera House (twice) and at The Wisconsin Rapids Performing Arts Center (twice)
  • Over 20,000 tickets have been sold over the shows history.
  • The show features artists who have combined to record over 70 albums as leaders, (estimates) Janet Planet,(15) Otis McLennon, (6), John Altenburgh, (18) Randy Sabien (7) Ryan Korb (2) John Greiner (3) Chris O’Keefe/Peterified Alien Brain (4) Johnny & The Mo-Tones (2) Bob Kase (4) Tom Washatka (4) Tom Theabo, (4) Mitch Viegut/AirKraft (5)
  • The show has produced two albums. A Wisconsin Christmas,” In Concert” and the 3 cd Box Set follow up, A Wisconsin Christmas, “Live At The Grand”
  • The show is recorded and has been re-broadcast on The Big Cheese 107.9 on
    Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for the last 10 years.
  • John Altenburgh & Janet Planet have also recorded solo Christmas albums,
    John Altenburgh “Christmas at Buzz’s Restaurant” and Janet Planet’s “All I
    Want For Christmas”
  • Past guest artists & performers include: Jazz Trumpeter, Mike Metheny, Singers, Dan Daugherty & Luke West and singer/guitar players Tuck Pense and Keras Rubka-Nimz, percussionists, Andy Algire & Mark Mattioli, Bassist, Catalin Rotaru, Scott Pingle & Doug Hayes Saxophonist, Erin McLennon and many others.
  • Has been voted top show of the year several times in The City Pages Readers Poll and has always placed in the top three. Last year being beat out by B. B. King for first place.
  • The Christmas Concert line-up has also been asked several times to perform at The Big Bull Falls Blues Festival and has had to turn down an offer to perform at The Grand Stand during The Wisconsin Valley Fair because of scheduling conflicts.
  • Altenburgh’s Christmas concert is largely considered the first professional contemporary Christmas Concert at The Grand Theater that was locally produced.
  • Janet Planet, Chris O’Keefe & John Altenburgh are the only three that have performed in each of the 12 years.
  • Randy Sabien, Bob Kase & Mitch Viegut were brought in as guest artists and all were retained to remain with the show.
  • Wausau artist Carol Mularchy painted the back drops for the show with help from Lee Will.

Better Fun Facts:

  • The show actually started at The Scott St. Pub, Wausau, WI as a Christmas Jam session in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s.
  • Altenburgh’s Christmas Show has historically created the largest bar night of the year for The PAF.
  • Chris O’Keefe predicted Martha Stewart’s prison time in his song “Martha Stewart’s Christmas in Prison.” performed at the show a full year before any public knowledge of her troubles.
  • 57 different local people have been mentioned or lampooned in Altenburgh’s opening monologue, including two Wausau Mayors (Wausau Shows.)
  • Some people have actually taken it personally that Altenburgh has not roasted them in his opening monologue.
  • Mitch Viegut not only performs in the show, but also runs the sound.
  • Co-owner of City Bike Works, Ricky Walters, donates a bike to give away every year and also runs the spotlights during the show.
  • During a Bike give away routine, where a dart had to be thrown to a seating chart to pick the winner, Otis McLennon missed the board four straight times from six feet away. Otis was quarterback of his high school football team.
  • During another bike give away, when Altenburgh asked the winner to stand up, someone in the back yelled what Altenburgh thought sounded like….”She’s in a wheelchair” Completely flustered, he gave the recipient her choice of any product at City Bike Works. What they were really saying was….”She’s an usher!!
  • The first show almost didn’t happen because of a huge Winter Blizzard.
  • Because most performers live outside of the Wausau area, only one rehearsal is
    available with an average of 3 hours of rehearsal time per year.
  • Because of a manufacturer’s defect, the flying toy chicken “give-away” during the 2004 show, all landed in the audience without heads. The heads came off in mid flight.
  • During a performance at The Oshkosh Grand Opera House, Altenburgh, during his opening number, was trying to describe a place he used to go to in his college days. Not being able to remember the street name he said…”I can’t remember the name of the street but you know what I’m talking about, the main drag or the main passage, the main thoroughfare or whatever that runs through town…” Someone from the audience finally yelled out….”It’s called MAIN STREET!”

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