5 events to kick off 2018

Start off with the musical Rent

Jan. 2-7
“How do you measure a year in the life?” is asked in “Seasons of Love,” the signature song in “Rent.” But the life of this rock musical is measured in years. The touring production of “Rent”–started in late 2016, 20 years after its first staging on Broadway–is coming to the Overture Center for the Arts. “Rent” is a reworking of Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Bohème” and one of the longest-running Broadway shows–spanning 12 years and 5,123 performances from 1996 to 2008. The show, which won a Pulitzer Prize and four Tony Awards, including best musical, tells the story of seven vibrant young artists living in New York’s East Village who grapple with the toll that HIV/AIDS takes on their group. They’ll sing about measuring life and love in a year–equal to 525,600 minutes.5 events to kick off 2018

Jeff Dunham
Jan. 12
Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham first appeared on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” in 1990 and still does 100 or more shows a year. On Jan. 12, the Texan brings his gang of dummies–including Melvin the Superhero Guy and Peanut the “Woozle”–to the Alliant Energy Center for the Passively Aggressive Tour. Dunham’s comedic legacy includes a Guinness World Record for selling the most tickets for a stand-up comedy tour (almost 2 million at 386 venues over three years ending in August 2010). He landed the No. 9 spot on Forbes Magazine’s 2017 list of the world’s highest paid comedians, raking in $15.5 million last year. Dunham’s Madison show will include large screens suspended above the stage, so spectators can get a close-up view of the antics of Dunham and his dummies. 5 events to kick off 2018

“Exit Strategy”
Jan. 18-21, 24-28, 31 and Feb. 1-4
The Forward Theater Co. production marks the Madison premiere of “Exit Strategy” by Chicago-based playwright Ike Holter, who last year won a prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize (and with it $165,000). “Exit Strategy” is a drama that spotlights the emotional upheaval and unrest during the last days at a Chicago public school that is scheduled to close. Holter’s poetic, compassionate and political language is expected to reel in audiences. Madison actors in the production at the Overture Center Playhouse include Jim Buske, Sarah Day and Daniel Torres-Rangel.5 events to kick off 2018

Masterworks I
Jan. 26
Last is first for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra as it opens the season with the final orchestral work by German composer Johannes Brahms, “Double Concerto for Violin and Cello” in Masterworks I. Observers say it’s not an easy work, so the individual instrumentalists must be extraordinary. Guest artists Soh-Hyun Park Altino and husband Leo Altino fit that description, given their playing expertise. Soh-Hyun Park Altino has been an assistant professor of violin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music since 2015. Leo Altino, an accomplished cellist, and his wife have played and taught around the world. Andrew Sewell will conduct the WCO at Overture Center’s Capitol Theater.5 events to kick off 2018

“Talking Continents”
Through April 15
If you’ve visited Chicago’s Millennium Park, you’ve likely seen the work of Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, who created Crown Fountain, the massive 50-foot glass towers at separate ends of a reflecting pool. Madison audiences get the chance to see an awe-inspiring, immersive exhibition by Plensa with “Talking Continents” at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The 19-piece exhibit is made entirely out of die-cut steel letters derived from nine different languages. All works are suspended from the ceiling to establish cloud-like structures that serve as metaphorical representations of countries and continents.

Tamira Madsen is a Fitchburg-based writer.