Holiday performances and celebrations are once again a bountiful centerpiece for this weekend in and around Madison, with the Madison Area Concert Handbells, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, A Wonderful Life by CTM, Perfect Harmony Men's Chorus, The Santaland Diaries, Festival Choir of Madison, All Is Calm by Cantus, and Second City's Dysfunctional Holiday Revue. The calendar also includes: the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery grand opening finale and the Inside Story Symposium at the UW; the opening of Shirin Neshat's Rapture at MmoCA; performances by Ella Rosewood Dance; a revue by Chez Bouche; a production of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf; Naked Girls Reading; the Last Day of Class Mustache Bash; and, more live music from The Hue, The Queers, Whitney Mann, Cloud Cult, Patrick Breiner's Colloquial Quartet, Madison County, Reverend Raven & the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, and Mustard Plug.
Friday 12.10 NOTEWORTHY: Lake Monona plane crash kills Otis Redding & four members of the Bar-Kays, 1967.
Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, through Dec. 11
The UW's gleaming new public-private research facility concludes its opening festivities with a program about environmentalist Aldo Leopold (Friday, 5 pm) and Dr. Bassam Shakhashiri's Science Is Fun Extravaganza (Saturday, 10 am-5 pm).
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, through March 6
This video installation by Iranian artist Neshat combines projected images of women in traditional Iranian dress and men in Western dress. "Sad yet exhilaratingly mythic," said The New York Times. The 6:30 pm reception, a MMoCA Nights event, features a talk by UW art prof Michael Jay McClure, followed by a screening of Neshat's film Women Without Men (see Movies).
Middleton-Cross Plains Area Performing Arts Center, Middleton High School, 7 pm. Also Saturday, Dec. 11, 1 & 7 pm
The ensemble turns bells into an expressive instrument, jingling an amazing array of handbells and chimes. This holiday-themed concert is called "Jingle Bell Jazz."
Blackhawk Evangelical Church, Verona, 7 pm
When you're thinking evangelical Christianity, you don't necessarily think Baroque music. Just the same, Blackhawk is the site for the WCO's rendition of Handel's Messiah, the iconic, ecstatic Christmas favorite.
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 7 pm. Also Saturday & Sunday, Dec. 11 & 12, 2:30 pm
Breaking from a 34-year Christmas Carol tradition, Children's Theater of Madison presents a musical version of the cinematic holiday favorite It's a Wonderful Life, with book and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and music by Jo Raposo. Starring as good-hearted George and Mary Bailey are husband and wife Scott Haden and Clare Arena Haden.
Middleton Community United Church of Christ, 7:30 pm. Also St. Stephen's Lutheran Church, Sunday, Dec. 12, 3 pm
The gay men's choral ensemble performs a concert called "Winter's Glow," featuring sacred and secular music of the season.
UW Music Hall, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday (7:30 pm) & Sunday (2 pm), Dec. 11 & 12
In this solo show, choreographers including Li Chiao-Ping, Tim Glenn and Janet Lilly set work on ambitious UW dancer Rosewood.
Barrymore Theatre, 8 pm. Also Thursday (7:30 pm), Saturday, (8 pm) & Sunday (5 pm), Dec. 9, 11 & 12
The Bricks Theatre presents a stage adaptation of David Sedaris' hilarious essay about his stint as a department-store elf. The one-man show offers shrewd commentary on parenting, race, celebrity obsessions, hygiene and the commercialism of the holidays.
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
WSUM is celebrating UW-Madison's last day of class for the semester with a menu of tasty musical treats: the creepfunk canapes of Steez, the jam-rock salad of Elf Lettuce and Wook's groovy gravy of melody (see Music). Bring a nonperishable food item to the show and get a $2 discount at the door.
UW Memorial Union Rathskeller, 9:30 pm
A band doesn't need a singer to create captivating and colorful music. This Chicago group's instrumental rock ranges from jazzy, Miles Davis-inspired breakdowns to cerebral, Tortoise-style soundscapes. With Lubriphonic.
Frequency, 9 pm
Thanks in part to local resident Ben Weasel (of Screeching Weasel fame), who's helped the Queers write and produce many of their albums, Madison gets a visit from the crass and comical pop-punk torchbearers nearly every year. Get up close and personal with the band -- and its new album, Back to the Basement -- by seeing it in a small venue. With the Riptides, Kepi Ghoulie and the Transgressions.
Bartell Theatre, 10:30 pm
StageQ hosts this provocative revue of naughty costumes and laughs. Don't bring the kids.
NOTEWORTHY: Jerry Lee Lewis marries 13-year-old cousin Myra Gale Brown, 1957.
First Baptist Church, 3 & 7:30 pm
The local ensemble salutes the holidays with a concert called "Olde Friends & New Adventures." True to its name, it features holiday selections old and new, from Gustav Holst's "Christmas Day" to Matthew McConnell's "A Mouseful of Trouble."
Project Lodge, 4 pm
Bring your own barbecue sauce. Two local groups are hosting an all-ages show they've dubbed "An Afternoon of Chicken Fried Music." Mann and her band, winners of the New Artist of the Year prize at the 2010 Madison Area Music Awards, will make ProLo sizzle, along with Winn Dixie, a recently formed trio of Kentucky natives who are adding a little bit of country to the Madison music scene.
All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 Wisconsin Union Theater, 7:30 pm
Minneapolis' acclaimed male vocal ensemble Cantus performs the choral and dramatic work about events in France during Christmas 1914, when British and German soldiers marked a brief yuletide truce (see Music).
Overture Hall, 8 pm
The Chicago troupe -- farm team to Saturday Night Live and other comedy behemoths -- is always good for big laughs with its skits and songs. And is there any target more ripe for satire than the period of stress and obligatory poultry than the holidays?
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
Cloud Cult's combination of catchy melodies, live painting, green-living themes and hints of electronica creates a freeform celebration that leads many fans to emotional catharsis. Expect lots of tunes from its latest release, a concept album called Light Chasers. Fans of Beirut and Balkan-inspired folk will revel in Dark Dark Dark's opening set as well.
Restaurant Magnus, 9 pm
The multitalented jazz saxophonist will also show off his clarinet skills at this show, along with Nick Moran's bass finesse, Geoff Brady's percussion know-how and Brennan Connors' talents on flute and soprano sax.
Scatz Sports Bar & Nightclub, 9:30 pm
The radio-friendly country band is known for sweeping local awards shows like the Madison Area Music Awards and the Wisconsin Area Music Industry honors. However, it's the explosive live show that makes the group a perennial favorite among local fans of Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood and Lady Antebellum.
Harmony Bar, 9:45 pm
Reverend Raven and his gang are from Milwaukee but play Chicago blues with the best of 'em. Check out tunes from their latest release, Shake Your Boogie, at this toe-tappin', fanny-shakin' gig.
BIRTHDAY: Prince protege/singer/drummer Sheila Escovedo, 1959.
UW Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall, 10 am-3:45 pm
This confab considers the connections between biology and biography in the arts, with panels and presentations by scholars and guest performance artists Helen Paris and Leslie Hill.
UW Lathrop Hall's H'Doubler Performance Space, 7 pm
The UW's Department of Afro-American Studies and the Campus Women's Center present this staging of Ntozake Shange's groundbreaking 1975 play, a series of poems from the perspective of African American women, delivered as monologues. Perhaps you saw Tyler Perry's recent film version, For Colored Girls. No seats are available for Saturday's performance, so Sunday is the way to go.
Inferno, 7 pm
When we last encountered the Madison chapter of Naked Girls Reading, the ladies were reading the work of rockers like Henry Rollins. Naked. At tonight's event, styled as a literary slumber party, they'll read childhood favorites like Nancy Drew. Naked.
High Noon Saloon, 8 pm
The ska-punk standard-bearers return to Madison to celebrate the rerelease of their 1993 classic, Big Daddy Multitude. Learn more about the band and its affinity for the National Mustard Museum in this week's Tour Stop. With Something to Do and Car Full of Midgets.