Crowds will be thick in downtown Madison this weekend up and down State Street at Maxwell Street Days, as well as in and between Mendota and Monona at Paddle & Portage. The calendar also includes: productions of Our Mutual Friend, You've Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery!, and The Critic, and Laurie Tiburon's Pretty Big Show; Opera in the Park; the close of the Madison Early Music Festival; and, more live music from Hamell on Trial, Dubtonic Kru, Fort Wilson Riot, The Hussy, VO5, Battles, Thurston Moore, and Red Elvises.
NOTEWORTHY: MSNBC debuts, 1996.
BIRTHDAYS: Actress Lolita Davidovich & actor/director Forrest Whitaker, 1961.
State Street area, 8 am-6 pm. Also Saturday (8 am-6 pm) & Sunday (10 am-5 pm), July 16 & 17
Downtown merchants revive the spirit of Chicago's old Maxwell Street Market by piling the sidewalks with their wares. The people-watching is primo, the bargains can't be beat, and there's music all weekend.
Young Shakespeare Players Playhouse, 6 pm. Also Thursday (6 pm), Saturday (2 pm) & Sunday (2 pm), July 14, 16 & 17
Young Shakespeare Players stages this production of Charles Dickens' novel, about the effects of a miser's will. The script by Richard DiPrima was adapted specially for the kids' troupe.
Concerts at Mills Hall in the UW Humanities Building, 7:30 pm
The annual confab of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music winds down with a performance by the Chatham Baroque string trio (Friday) and a recreation of a Mexican vespers service (Saturday).
MercLab, 8 pm. Also Thursday (8 pm) & Saturday (4 & 8 pm), July 14 & 16
Mercury Players Theatre presents a work by local playwrights Christian Neuhaus and Rick Stemm. It's a comic mystery, during which the audience determines the direction of the story -- a conceit that pays tribute to the old Choose Your Own Adventure books. First staged last year, this play is headed for New York City's International Fringe Festival in August.
Kiki's House of Righteous Music, 1326 MacArthur Rd., 9 pm
Though Ed Hamell classifies himself as a political punk rocker, don't expect a lot of electric power chords at this house show. Instead, listen closely to his acoustic guitar as he lambastes the country's broken political system with an assortment of zingers.
High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
Blazing the trails of contemporary roots reggae, Dubtronic Kru melds music traditions from the tropics with spoken word and jazz. With Taki Allstars.
Glass Nickel PizzaAtwood Avenue, 10 pm
The high-energy duo from Minneapolis began as a quartet that released an indie-rock opera -- complete with dance and puppetry -- a few years after their 2004 launch. Last year they released a lovely indie-pop album, Predator/Prey, and this year they recorded a well-received Daytrotter session. With Screamin' Cyn Cyn & the Pons, The Kemps, and The Manginas.
Mickey's Tavern, 10:30 pm
The over-the-top garage-rock two-piece began in Madison a few years ago and still has one foot -- and drummer -- firmly planted here. Join their explosive spazz-out in the relative safety of the neighborhood watering hole. With the Paperhead, D. Watusi, and The Arkoffs.
NOTEWORTHY: John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and sister-in-law die in plane crash off Martha's Vineyard, 1999.
BIRTHDAYS: Police drummer Stewart Copeland, 1952; actress Phoebe Cates, 1963.
James Madison Park, 9 am (registration begins at 7 am)
If you can paddle a canoe or kayak real fast, and also run real fast while carrying a canoe or kayak, you're a contender for this race. It starts in Lake Mendota, proceeds on foot across the isthmus to Lake Monona, then winds up in Olin Park.
American Players Theatre, Spring Green, 3 pm
This seldom-performed 1779 satire by Richard Brinsley Sheridan is, by APT standards, pretty adventuresome, eschewing traditional plotting in favor of a simple premise: a critic goes to see a play, and the play-within-the-play is performed in its uproarious, gloriously terrible entirety. There's singing and dancing, hilariously overwrought acting and a bravura comic performance by Sarah Day. A mustn't-miss for APT fans.
Sprecher's Restaurant & Pub, 7:30 pm
Add some punch to your Saturday night with a disco party courtesy of upbeat local music makers VO5.
Barrymore Theatre, 8 pm
Tiburon, who founded Madison's Cherry Pop Burlesque, hosts this big show of national burlesque performers, including New York City's Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey, the Dolls of Doom from Chicago and many more, including a lineup of local performers.
Garner Park, 8 pm
Madison Opera, Madison Symphony Orchestra and four guest artists team up for their annual free concert, held in the fresh air of the spacious west-side park. The program includes opera and Broadway favorites, plus highlights from Madison Opera's upcoming season.
UW Memorial Union Terrace, 9:30 pm
Despite losing singer Tyondai Braxton, the NYC-based trio of new-wavey dance-rockers released their sophomore LP, Gloss Drop, to critical praise and eager audiences. With The Fresh & Onlys and Delicate Steve.
High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
The celebrated Sonic Youth cofounder showcases his new solo album, Demolished Thoughts, an inward-looking acoustic work produced by Beck and praised by Rolling Stone and innumerable fans. With Hush Arbors.
NOTEWORTHY: Disneyland opens, 1955.
BIRTHDAYS: Big-haired comedy legend Phyllis Diller, 1917; TV star David Hasselhoff, 1952.
High Noon Saloon, 8 pm
Spice up your Sunday night with the outrageous surf-laced rockabilly, Russian lounge tunes and over-the-top costumes of these frequent visitors to Madison. With Pistols at Dawn.