Madison ascends to the summit of summer this weekend with La Fête de Marquette and Musique Électronique, the Art Fair on the Square and Art Fair Off the Square, the Madison Early Music Festival, and the Bartell Theatre Awards. The calendar also includes: productions of The Mousetrap, Mangia, Mangia, Billy Elliot, and Voices of a People's History; the Stand Up for Kids comedy benefit; a Balalaika and Domra Association of America Festival Concert; more live music from Night Moves, The Sugar Jets, Harmonious Wail, Big K.R.I.T., Steez, People's Brothers Band, and a Punk Rock Double-Header; and, the Key West Fest benefit.
NOTEWORTHY: Hollywood's Hollywood sign dedicated, 1923.
East Washington Avenue at South Dickinson Street, 4:30-11 pm. Also Thursday (4:30-10:30 pm), Saturday (noon-11 pm) & Sunday (9 am-9 pm), July 12, 14 & 15
The Fête fills the weekend with music from French-speaking regions such as Quebec, Louisiana and -- you guessed it -- France. (See Tour Stop.) Marcia Ball wraps up Friday night's celebration with an intoxicating blend of blues crooning and New Orleans-style piano. Saturday's highlights include Montreal folk trio Genticorum and Sergent Garcia, a Parisian artist who explores Latin and Caribbean sounds. Louisianians galore -- including zydeco masters Feufollet, Jeffrey Broussard & the Creole Cowboys and Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk -- take to the main stage on Sunday, along with local favorite Mama Digdown's Brass Band.
Majestic Theatre. Doors 7 pm, show 8:30 pm
This benefit for Dane County CASA features Chicago's Second City Improv All Stars, making up a show based on audience suggestions. See if you can stump them by shouting out "Van Wanggaard." With DJ Nick Nice.
Middleton-Cross Plains Area Performing Arts Center, 7:30 pm
Devotees of the Russian stringed instruments, gathered for their annual convention, present an evening of music performed by ensembles, soloists and a 100-member balalaika orchestra. Because sometimes 99 balalaikas just won't do.
Concerts in UW Humanities Building's Mills Hall, 7:30 pm
The annual confab of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music focuses this year on North American sounds. The event winds down with the Newberry Consort's Friday program ("Beautiful Dreamer: The Music of Lincoln's America") and a Saturday performance of tunes from colonial New England, French Canadian selections and more.
UW Vilas Hall's Mitchell Theatre, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday, July 14, 7:30 pm
University Theatre stages Agatha Christie's popular whodunnit, in which the house guests at Monkswell Manor try to uncover a murderer in their midst. A production in London has been running since 1952, but this one lasts just three weekends.
Elks Lodge, 8 pm. Also Thursday, July 12, 7:30 pm
This play by the storied east-side troupe TAP-IT/new works recalls Madison's old Italian enclave the Greenbush. Danielle Dresden based the work on interviews with former Greenbush residents.
Overture Hall, 8 pm. Also Saturday (2 & 8 pm) & Sunday (1 & 6:30 pm), July 14 & 15
The local run of the touring Broadway musical concludes. Elton John wrote the music for this Tony-winning show about a scrappy Irish lad who forsakes the boxing ring for the dance studio.
Terrace at UW Memorial Union, 9:30 pm
This band from Minneapolis recently scored a slot on Domino Records' roster, alongside notable indie acts Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors. Sample their intriguing blend of electronica and twang. With Wild Nothing.
High Noon Saloon, 10 pm. Also Plan B, Saturday, July 14, 10 pm
After a mini-set at La Fête de Marquette, DJ Mark Farina totes his downtempo fusion of house, acid jazz and hip-hop to the saloon, where you can celebrate his influential Mushroom Jazz series of mixes with a dance-friendly, three-hour set. DJ Elle opens. The fest continues Saturday at Plan B with Chicago house legend Paul Johnson. Stay all night and you're likely to catch his biggest hit, 1998's "Get Get Down," which fueled parties from here to Ibiza. With DJs Vinnie Toma and Urbane.
Broom Street Theater, 11 pm. Also Thursday (11 pm) & Saturday (4 & 11 pm), July 12 & 14
Howard Zinn's classic alternative history book, A People's History of the United States, gets the stage treatment as actors playing Woody Guthrie, Eugene Debs and other lefty icons deliver monologues. The play is Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative's first venture into theater.
NOTEWORTHY: Washington Post columnist Robert Novak outs Valerie Plame as CIA operative, 2003.
Capitol Square, 9 am-6 pm. Also Sunday, July 15, 10 am-5 pm
Over the years, the fundraiser for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art has grown from a shopping-mall sidewalk sale to a nationally recognized, juried fair featuring hundreds of artists. Expect the usual cheek-by-jowl crowds peering at paintings, photographs, prints, sculpture, jewelry, handmade clothing and the odd unclassifiable object. Live performers on three stages include Aaron Williams and the Hoodoo, Kanopy Dance and Et Cetera.
Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. & Monona Terrace, 9 am-6 pm. Also Sunday, July 15, 10 am-5 pm
This is the local complement to Art Fair on the Square, with scores of Wisconsin artists and craftspeople showing off their high-quality work. The fair also offers children's entertainment, a public art project and refreshments.
High Noon Saloon, 5:30 pm
After a nine-year hiatus from recording, this rowdy local pop band releases a new album of noisy, jangly tunes. With the Pamphleteers.
Bartell Theatre, 7 pm
The downtown theater hub throws a bash celebrating the best work of its resident companies, in various acting, directing and technical categories. The awards are called the Barties, natch.
Art in the Barn, Fitchburg, 7 pm
The original lineup of this local gypsy-jazz crew -- Laurie Lang, Chris Wagoner, Jon Cooper and Sims Delaney-Potthoff -- reunites to honor the band's 25th anniversary. After that performance, the current trio shares swingin' tunes that celebrate their admiration of Django Reinhardt.
Majestic Theatre, 7:30 & 10 pm
Head downtown early for a smorgasbord of punk songs by Enabler, Whiskey Pig, Pyroklast and Break the Cycle, then stick around for a late-night treat: a bonus set by the Dopamines, Direct Hit, Lipstick Homicide and Masked Intruder.
Barrymore Theatre, 9 pm
This rapper and producer from Meridian, Miss., has breathed new life into Dirty South hip-hop with his drawl-laden rhymes and carefully chosen soul samples. This show revolves around his brand-new studio debut, Live from the Underground, which arrived at stores nearly three months before its official release date (see Music). With Casey Veggies, Big Sant, Flame the Ruler, Dill and DJ Vilas Park Sniper.
Terrace at UW Memorial Union, 9:30 pm
Fresh off a performance at Milwaukee's Summerfest, this band of local funkmeisters crafts danceable jams against a backdrop of starry skies and sailboats.
High Noon Saloon, 10 pm
Funk and soul mingle with reggae and R&B when this local eight-piece get their groove going. They'll perform their freshest material as they fete the release of a new album. With Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo and Clovis Mann.
NOTEWORTHY: President Jimmy Carter delivers "malaise" speech, 1979.
East Side Club, noon
Hit the East Side Club's tiki bar, then watch the sun set over Lake Monona during this benefit for Operation Fresh Start, a house-renovation project that helps low-income families become homeowners. The live music commences with a performance by Monona-bred, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Lauren Homburg at 1 pm and ends at 8 pm after a two-hour set by the Scott Kirby Band. With Ryan Casey and Chuck Bayuk & the Drunken Sailors.