BY JENNIFER KOHLHEPP
Burtnik, a lifelong North Brunswick resident who has written hit songs for Randy Travis, Patty Smyth and Don Henley, will throw his annual benefit concert at the State Theatre in New Brunswick on Friday.
For the past 16 years, the guitarist most noted for his portrayal of Paul McCartney in Broadway’s “Beatlemania” and his membership in the rock band Styx, has presented a holiday benefit show called Xmas Xtravaganza.
“It’s a concert, which features holiday music performed by an eclectic group of artists,” Burtnik said.
Although he never announces the artist lineup before the show, Burtnik said past appearances included Idina Menzel, who is the star of Broadway’s “Wicked,” The Patti Smith Group, Chris Barron of the Spin Doctors, Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, Billy Squier, Jeffrey Gaines, Blue Oyster Cult, the Max Weinberg 7, Styx and John McEnroe.
“Everyone on stage performs seasonal material to get the audience to feel the holiday spirit,” Burtnik said. “And giving to those less fortunate is the right spirit to grab.”
All artist proceeds from the event will go to the community Food Bank of New Jersey and Elijah’s Promise soup kitchen in New Brunswick, Burtnik said.
Concertgoers are also encouraged to donate warm clothes, new toys, and canned food for the needy at the show.
“I want to give back to the community I’ve always lived in,” Burtnik said. “My roots grow deep here. My parents live here. I married my high school sweetheart and now we’re raising three kids here.”
It’s now family tradition for his wife Rosie and his three children, Beau, 23, Darla, 19, and Sally, 13, to attend the event, Burtnik said.
“It’s obvious that we’re very happy here,” Burtnik said. “I’ve traveled all over the world, but this is home.”
The extravaganza began as a small show at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, Burtnik said.
“One year, I received a call from the Bottom Line in New York City, so we put the show on there and then later moved it to B.B. King’s in Times Square,” Burtnik said.
After 10 years of holding the concert before sellout crowds in New York, Burtnik said he was ready for a homecoming.
“This year it’ll take place at the newly renovated State Theatre, where I used to go as a kid to watch rock ’n’ roll films like ‘Woodstock’ and ‘Let It Be.’ ”
The State Theatre, at 15 Livingston Ave. in New Brunswick, recently underwent a $3 million renovation and restoration project, Burtnik said.
“They put a lot of effort into keeping its character,” Burtnik said. “It’s gorgeous and big, and has a great new sound system and lighting.”
The New Brunswick Cultural Center restored the state-of-the-art facility back to its original 1921 decorum, Burtnik said.
Glen Burtnik’s Xmas Xtravanganza 2004 will take place in the 1,800-seat theater Friday night at 8 p.m. Details: www.statetheatrenj.org or (732) 246-7649.