Tis the Season (Not the Holiday One)

Don’t worry. With Halloween wrapping up, we’re not immediately turning to thoughts about the holiday season. However, before winter is upon us, we want to write about another season that got underway a couple months ago. Typically beginning in the fall, our many music and theater groups embark on their season of concerts and productions. Groups like Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Opera, Madison Ballet, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Forward Theater Company, University Theatre, and several other groups stay very busy with an ongoing array of excellent music and theater. Similar to our restaurant scene and sporting events, a small city like Madison has so much to choose from when it comes to the performing arts scene. With that in mind, we’d thought we’d give you a few of our recommendations for the upcoming season so you don’t miss out on some excellent shows and concerts. 

MSOMadison Symphony Orchestra. The annual MSO Christmas concert is not to be missed and definitely gets us in the holiday spirit. This year’s concert is coming up on the weekend of December 4. Beyond that, they have an excellent set of concerts from now through April. We particularly recommend the Emanuel Ax concert from March 11-13 because we enjoy piano performances. Plus the concert features the lively (and not so long) Mahler Symphony No. 4, a departure from his more typical dramatic style. The MSO website allows you to listen to the music of any concert and read program notes, so you can decide which concert might best suit your musical interests.

Forward TheaterForward Theater Company. Once again, Forward Theater has put together an exciting and ambitious season of theater here in Madison. The season opens this week with the Midwest premiere of Silent Sky. On the top of our list as well is the production of Mr. Burns (A Post-Electric Play) running April 7-24. We’re not die-hard fans of the Simpsons (and you don’t need to be to enjoy the play), but we like our dose of dark comedy with some music added in. In its review, The New York Times described the play by asking, “When was the last time you met a new play that was so smart it made your head spin?”  We’re sure this will be a fun and thought-provoking play along with an outstanding season overall with Forward Theater Company.

Madison Opera's 2007 production of La Boheme
Madison Opera’s 2007 production of La Boheme

Madison Opera. This year La Boheme returns to the Madison Opera season. The opera is coming up soon on November 13 and 15, so you need to act soon to get tickets. We recommend La Boheme for a couple reasons. First, as Madison Opera notes, it is the greatest love story in opera, and opera is made for great love stories. Second, if you don’t normally attend the opera, La Boheme draws in anyone with its beautiful music, arias, and duets. The final scene has to be one of the most moving in all of theater. If you can’t make it to La Boheme, Madison Opera has two more operas this season, and they consistently offer top-notch performances in all that they do.

Mad MenMajestic Theater / Orpheum Theater. While both the Majestic and the Orpheum have shows year-round, it’s worth mentioning a couple of upcoming events at each venue. Glen Hansard will be playing at the Orpheum on November 19. The Irish singer and songwriter has an impressive resume of musical accomplishments. He is most widely known for the music behind the movie Once, which also became a hit Broadway musical. On December 5th, the Mad Men Soiree returns to the Majestic Theater. Called the “swankiest holiday party”, this evening of 60s era music and dress has been a huge hit over the past four years and we’re glad to see this event keeps going even after the series finale.

University Theatre. Part of the UW Department of Theatre and Drama, University Theatre is well into its 2015-16 season with two plays already completing their run. But there is plenty more coming. If you’re in the Madison area during late winter, we recommend Smart People by leading female playwright Lydia Diamond. Four stories within the play examine issues important especially to our up and coming generation, such as racism, intelligence, and human connections. The play runs from February 25 to March 13 at the UW Mitchell Theatre.

Peter PanMadison Ballet and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. Two of Madison’s renowned performing arts groups come together to present the story of Peter Pan for three shows on March 19 and 20 at Overture Hall. A show for both adults and children, Peter Pan will feature the choreography of long-time Madison Ballet Artistic Director, W. Earle Smith along with a contemporary score played by WCO. A timeless and magical story, we’re certain this production will not disappoint.

We are so grateful for the many opportunities for performing arts and entertainment in Madison, and we hope this sampling of music and theatre gets you in the mood of the season before that other “holiday” season takes over.

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