December 2012 Event Highlights
When Journey, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar or Whitesnake comes on the radio, do you crank up the sound and belt out the tunes? If so, you’re a solid ’80s music fan—and you won’t want to miss Rock of Ages as it hits Overture Center (December 4–9, overturecenter.com). This arena-rock musical tells the story of a small-town girl and big-city guy who meet in 1987 on the Sunset Strip. This Los Angeles love story is set to the sounds of twenty-eight of the era’s biggest hits.
It’s a sad story—a mother suffering from bipolar disorder—but Next to Normal is a powerful, honest and ultimately hopeful show. Madison Theatre Guild (November 30–December 15, madisontheatreguild.org) presents this Pulitzer Prize–winning rock musical, filled with vibrant songs and dialogue, at the Bartell Theatre.
Life was changing rapidly at the turn of the nineteenth century, and art was no exception. A group of German and Austrian artists rejected classical ideals and sought new ways of looking at the world and defining art. In German and Austrian Prints: 1890–1925 (December 15–March 3, chazen.wisc.edu), the Chazen Museum of Art highlights a collection of prints from a University of Wisconsin alumna that showcases not only the breadth of German and Austrian printmaking, but also the experimentation and personal expression that characterize the period.
With Greg Hettmansberger
As the holiday season emerges from the overindulgence of Thanksgiving feasts, the brisker temperatures, the colored lights and the ubiquitous tunes from radio stations and storefronts create a crescendo of inescapable atmosphere. But what really puts the holidays into the air are the holiday musical shows that offer the comfort of tradition with the promise of something a little new each year.
Of such traditions, the most prominent locally is probably A Madison Symphony Christmas with maestro John DeMain. Imagine the musical version of a Christmas tree the height of Overture Hall’s stage. DeMain and the MSO give us nothing less than engaging soloists, the Mt. Zion Gospel Choir and Madison Youth Choirs—and a couple of hours of glorious sights and sounds. (November 30–December 2, madisonsymphony.org).
Andrew Sewell and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra have clearly established their own tradition—not just presenting Handel’s Messiah, but performing it for sold-out audiences three years in a row. Sewell has proven adept at pulling off a great middle-of-the-road approach: The instruments are not “authentic” to Handel’s time, but the numbers are, and most importantly, the spirit and clarity of the interpretation make the perfect holiday gift for all music lovers. (December 7, wcoconcerts.org).
Want more classical coverage? Find Greg Hettmansberger’s blog.
For a family-friendly way to ring in the new year, don’t miss U.S. Bank Eve (December 31, usbankeve.com/madison). Games, trains, hands-on activities, live entertainment, treats and more take place at venues across the city, from the Keva Sports Center in Middleton to the Madison Children’s Museum downtown to the Prairie Athletic Club in Sun Prairie. A fireworks show over Lake Monona just after 10 p.m. caps the night of all-ages fun. For a family-friendly way to ring in the new year, don’t miss U.S. Bank Eve (December 31, usbankeve.com/madison). Games, trains, hands-on activities, live entertainment, treats and more take place at venues across the city, from the Keva Sports Center in Middleton to the Madison Children’s Museum downtown to the Prairie Athletic Club in Sun Prairie. A fireworks show over Lake Monona just after 10 p.m. caps the night of all-ages fun.
Join the Madison Bach Musicians in celebrating the season with beautiful music. The group’s Baroque Holiday Concerts (December 14–15, madisonbachmusicians.org) take place at the stately First Congregational Church on University Avenue, with Friday evening’s performance featuring a pre-concert lecture and Saturday afternoon’s taking on a family concert theme.
First Congregational Church is also the setting for Madison Youth Choirs’ Winter Concert Series (December 16, madisonyouthchoirs.org). Marking the organization’s tenth anniversary, the event features a wide range of choral music, including works by Bach, Britten and Brahms, plus folk songs and MYC favorites. The show begins with the high school ensembles followed by the boychoirs and the girlchoirs.
And stunning sounds meet a lovely setting at Olbrich Botanical Gardens’ Holiday Concert Series (December 2–30, olbrich.org). The Sunday-afternoon shows take place in the Evjue Commons and highlight an eclectic mix of seasonal music—from ’50s country and rock by Marcy and the Highlights to organ music by Larry Jankowski, youth violins by Suzuki Strings, the Madison Horn Club and more.
For certain Madisonians, it’s not truly the holidays until they’ve seen sugarplum fairies, snowflakes and tiny mice dance across Overture Hall’s stage. Madison Ballet continues the tradition with The Nutcracker (December 15–24, madisonballet.org), featuring lavish costumes and sets and artistic director W. Earle Smith’s dynamic, athletic choreography.
Madison Ballet mixes things up with a second production—an irreverent take on the holiday ballet classic. In Nutty Nut (December 22), Clara and the Nutcracker encounter an unusual cast of characters, from pop stars to local celebrities.
And Li Chiao-Ping Dance offers its own spin with The Knotcracker (November 30–December 2, lichiaopingdance.org). The production blends dance with theater, poignancy with humor, to tell the story of a young girl trying to fit in.
Tamara Norden Brognano, star of Four Seasons Theatre’s She Loves Me, shares details on the musical
What made you interested in this show?
I am outreach coordinator for Four Seasons Theatre. Just before the group’s inception in 2005, I did a small production of She Loves Me with Andrew Abrams [her co-star in this month’s show]. The other reason I love this musical is my character; she best finds her voice when she writes. Amalia and I are kindred spirits.
Can you describe the plot?
The basic story has quite a history. It was a novel that was adapted into a play and then adapted into a movie a few times [including 1998’s You’ve Got Mail], and then it was adapted into a musical. It’s about two people who work together; both join the Lonely Hearts Club and correspond as “Dear Friend.” They bicker all the time, but they write these heartfelt missives at night.
How are you approaching the role?
The main entry point for me is the music—there’s beautiful, poignant music for Amalia to sing.
What should audiences expect?
The writers are Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, and the next big thing they created was Fiddler on the Roof. This is more lighthearted. Also, one of the nice things about Four Seasons Theatre productions is we use mostly local talent and we’re using a full twenty-piece chamber orchestra. That makes it really special.
She Loves Me runs December 7–16 at Overture Center. fourseasonstheatre.com
Katie Vaughn is managing editor of Madison Magazine. Read her arts and entertainment blog .