Holiday Express at Olbrich Botanical Gardens
Seasonal cheer builds this weekend in anticipation of Christmas and New Year's with Holiday Express at Olbrich Gardens, productions of The Nutcracker and The Santaland Diaries, and Destroy All Christmas VI. The calendar also includes: a James Watrous Gallery opening; a production of La Historia de Nuestras Vidas and performance by Cheney & Mills; a '80s vs. '90s dance party and simulcast of Les Contes D'Hoffman; a Rock Workshop bands show; and, more live music by Riders in the Sky, Cowboy Brothers, El Valiente, The JoAnne Pow!ers/Jennifer Pendur/Michael Brenneis Trio, Terry Mullan, the Eddie Butts Band, Male, Aniv de la Rev, Valentina Lisitsa, Houses in Motion, and FistCity with The Arkoffs.
NOTEWORTHY: Electoral College votes 271-266 for Republican Dubya over Democrat Al Gore.
BIRTHDAYS: Actor-hottie Brad Pitt, 1963; singer/former Mouseketeer Christina Aguilera, 1980.
Olbrich Gardens, 10 am-4 pm, through Dec. 31
In the model-train wonderland, large-scale choo-choos run through handmade fairy villages nestled among 800 poinsettias from the Olbrich greenhouses. The villages aren't real, but luckily the hot chocolate and cookies served by Olbrich are.
Overture Center's James Watrous Gallery, through Feb. 7
The gallery of the Wisconsin Academy presents side-by-side exhibits by Milwaukee's Sargent, whose "Stigmata" gathers figurative works influenced by various textile traditions, and Madison's Velliquette, whose brightly colored paper constructions make up a collection called "Fruitful Devotion."
Overture Hall, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday (2 & 7:30 pm) & Sunday (2 pm), Dec. 19 & 20
Madison Ballet presents Tchaikovsky's immortal holiday favorite, featuring choreography by artistic director W. Earle Smith. The accompaniment this year is prerecorded, but the dancing should be as beautiful as ever.
Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 pm
The Western-style entertainers, cast members of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, specialize in the close harmonies, lively musicianship and, most sublimely, yodeling identified with old-school cowboy acts like the Sons of the Pioneers. Tonight they present "Christmas the Cowboy Way."
DeJope Casino, 8 pm. Also Saturday, Dec. 19, 8 pm
The duo of Chris Ayer and Bryce Hass perform acoustic, classic-rock- and country-inflected music to gamble by.
Project Lodge, 8 pm
Eric Caldera's instrumental post-rock band will showcase material from the excellent album they released over the summer (Daceton). Caldera will also share some of his solo material -- which includes lyrics -- when he morphs into Oedipus Tex.
Mother Fool's Coffeehouse, 8 pm
The three pool their energy and talents for a Winter Solstice Concert of improvisational jazz and other wild, creative outbursts that are fun to watch, and must be fun to play.
Annex, 9 pm
Fans of house music and hip-hop are bound to drool over the magical turntablism of this Chicago-based veteran of German and Japanese raves and, more recently, the Coachella music festival. With Dissolvent, Soul Groove, Mikey, Adeptus and Angelfire.
Majestic Theatre, 10 pm
Moonwalk versus the Running Man. New Kids on the Block versus 'N Sync. Practice your dance steps and get ready to rumble for the honor of your favorite decade from the not-so-distant past. Video DJ Amos Smith will represent the '80s with songs by Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson, while DJ Fusion will pump up the '90s jams by Salt-N-Pepa, Bell Biv Devoe and MC Hammer.
NOTEWORTHY: House of Representatives impeaches President Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, 1998.
BIRTHDAY: Actor Jake Gyllenhall, 1980.
Overture Center's Rotunda Stage, 9:30 & 11 am, 1 pm
The Mount Horeb-based wife and husband are practitioners of the ancient art of juggling, as well the ancient art of comedy, which pairs well with juggling. Prepare to see the tossing of things in this Kids in the Rotunda event.
Les Contes D'Hoffman
Point Cinema, noon
The New York Metropolitan Opera presents this high-def transmission of Jacques Offenbach's 1881 opera, based on stories by E.T.A. Hoffmann, of Nutcracker fame. James Levine directs Joseph Calleja, Anna Netrebko and Alan Held.
Edgewood College's Anderson Auditorium, 1 pm
Eight Guatemalans perform a play they wrote about their experiences working in Postville, Iowa, at a meat-processing plant that was raided by immigration authorities. English-Spanish translation will be provided, and following the play is a Frontline documentary about the raid.
High Noon Saloon, 1:30 pm
Four bands from the Madison Music Foundry's rock-band boot camp -- the Fringe, Eclipse, Shockwave and Perfection Through Silence -- take the stage to show off what they've learned from their teachers, what they've created and what the road to becoming rock stars looks like at the beginning.
Brink Lounge, 7 pm
Smoky-voiced Milwaukee R&B vet Eddie Butts and his band aren't satisfied until everybody's out on the floor showing their stuff, and this holiday show should be no exception. Their song list is vast, so don't be shy about requesting some Ohio Players or Barry White. With the Barb Cheron and Tom Heaney Band, Dionte and DJ Shermanator.
Project Lodge, 7 pm
The Chicago ensemble will preview their upcoming CD, German for Shark, a collection of songs that bring together jazz, post-rock and a bit of ambient electronica (see Tour Stop). Also playing: Rabid Rabbit and All Tiny Creatures.
Mother Fool's Coffeehouse, 8 pm
This week Mother Fool's wears its punk persona. No, Glenn Danzig isn't stopping by, but you might hear a bit of Joe Strummer's ghost in local band Aniv de la Rev, which blends punk with the revolutionary sounds and themes of Latin American cumbia music.
Farley's House of Pianos, 8 pm
The accomplished Ukrainian pianist performs a pair of Beethoven sonatas, including the iconic "Moonlight," as well as Rachmaninoff's "Six Moments Musicaux" and "Piano Sonata No. 1."
Frequency, 10 pm
The yearly "take your fruitcake and shove it" celebration will serve up punk, hard rock and stoner metal that's much more in the vein of "Hell's Bells" than "Jingle Bells." The lineup of performers includes Droids Attack, the Suit, Sowbelly and Bitchdog.
High Noon Saloon, 10 pm
There's nothing like a Talking Heads party to gear up for the holidays, and luckily, that's Houses in Motion's specialty. The local tribute band will get the crowd moving with some early favorites such as "Psycho Killer" and "Life During Wartime," then move on to later classics such as "And She Was" and "Road to Nowhere." By the end of the night, you'll stop making sense from all the head-bopping you've done -- or perhaps from nostalgia overload.
Mickey's Tavern, 10:30 pm
FistCity's "punch rock," a grisly combination of punk, garage and a bit of metal attitude, goes head-to-head with the Arkoffs' "garbage rock," which is purportedly the drooling, drunk and zombie-esque cousin of garage rock.
NOTEWORTHY: U.S. formally takes possession of Louisiana Territories, 1803.
BIRTHDAY: Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson, 1966.
Frequency, 7 pm. Also Brink Lounge, Monday, Dec. 21, 7 pm Maybe you've seen Laboratory Theatre's kid-friendly Santaland Diaries, based on essayist David Sedaris' uproariously funny account of life as a department-store elf. Well, don't bring the young'uns to the Bricks Theatre's nightclub version, which, according to the terms of an arrangement with Laboratory, works blue.