Just as there have been thousands of performances at Overture Center in its first decade, patrons and performers have experienced thousands of memorable moments at the venue.
For me, one memorable moment was the grand opening of the building in September 2004. I attended the open house with my son, who was 2 at the time. We were amazed by the architecture, the array of free performances and the artistic possibilities inherent in the structure.
Too Many Frogs, a Children's Theater of Madison production, was another highlight. This story of a stuffy rabbit, a gregarious frog and his ever-expanding family was the first play I took my younger son to see. It was transformative for both of us. It was amazing watching him discover an art form that is such an essential part of my life. For the next year, each time we drove past Overture, my little guy would ask if we could go see it again.
Forward Theater's staged reading of Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays also stands out in my mind. (Full disclosure: I used to work for Forward.) Some of the best actors in southern Wisconsin came together to read scenes about marriage equality as a benefit for Fair Wisconsin. Sarah Day, Nick Harazin, Richard Ganoung, Marti Gobel, Tracy Arnold, Jessica Lanius and Michael Herold were stunning.
Other Madison-area arts professionals shared some of their favorite Overture moments with Isthmus.
Tim Sauers, Overture's vice president of programming and community engagement, adored last season's performance by Complexions Contemporary Ballet.
"The choreography was incredible, and they were delightful to work with. It's one of the best school shows I've ever seen," he says.
Sauers also points to the Tommy Awards, an Overture initiative that recognizes high schoolers' achievements in the performing arts.
Rick Mackie, Madison Symphony Orchestra's executive director, mentions his organization's 2005 performance of Saint-Saëns's Third Symphony.
"It used all the sonic capabilities of the hall: a giant orchestra, a full house, thunderous applause answered by a thunderous pipe organ. Andre Watts was the guest artist, and there was so much excitement around the first concert for the public in Overture Hall."
John DeMain, Madison Symphony Orchestra's music director, mentions a monumental Mahler work.
"The end of our first season in Overture Hall, I programmed the Symphony No. 8 of Gustav Mahler, commonly known as the 'Symphony of a Thousand,' as there are such huge forces required to perform the piece. It was thrilling to finally have a space that could accommodate a huge chorus, orchestra and soloists to perform this work," he says.
Mark Fraire, director of Dane Arts and an Overture board member, sings the praises of Jesus Christ Superstar, which visited the venue in 2009, while Overture spokesman Rob Chappell enjoyed the Neville Brothers, the a cappella group the Blanks and The 39 Steps.
"The 39 Steps was Overture's first full-week Broadway engagement, a terrific British comedy with four actors playing lots of characters," he says.
Chappell also mentions the Dallas Children's Theater production of Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters.
"I brought my kids, and to see their expressions, their faces totally lit up, was amazing.... It made me keenly aware of what live performance can do."
Of course, some Overture productions are just for adults, like the racy original production of Dracula Madison Ballet presented last year.
"Dracula was the culmination of over five years of hard work," says W. Earle Smith, the company's artistic director. "[It] showed us how much Madison is willing to embrace artistic collaboration when we make something new and different, like a steampunk ballet."
Kathryn Smith, Madison Opera's general director, mentions another challenging work: her company's recent production of Dead Man Walking.
"I genuinely believe it is a true American classic, and the impact it had on our audience...nwas seismic. As Madison Opera has grown over the past decade, this was a major step in what we can do, both on stage and off. Much like the David Hockney production of Turandot had a major impact when we opened our first season in Overture Hall, I think Dead Man Walking sets the stage for the next 10 years."
Tom Carto, Overture's former president and CEO, had a revelation during Wicked, which has visited Overture multiple times.
"The Playhouse was full, there was a concert in the Capitol Theater, and I was watching over the rail on the second floor of the building, seeing all these different groups of people going to different venues. I thought, 'This is what Jerry Frautschi wanted. This is the front porch of the community.' The fact that people were going to all these things under the same roof gave me a tremendous sense of pride and satisfaction."