Only three weeks remain in the holiday season, and Madison stages remain festive with productions of A Christmas Carol and The Santaland Diaries, performances by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and Perfect Harmony Men's Chorus, and a talk by Maury Laws. The calendar also includes: the opening of the "Forward Reaction" art exhibit and a talk by David Schweickart; a kids' show with Gustaver Yellowgold; performances by UW Redefined and the UW Choral Union & Chamber Orchestral; sets by DJs Chris Rusu and Josh Manion, and DJs Brook and Lizzy T.; live music from The Queers, Erin McKeown, Screamin' Cyn Cyn & the Pons, Popa Chubby, Navan, Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three, The Daredevil Christopher Wright, Katie Powderly, German Art Students, and the Jack Grassel Super Guitar Trio; and, a benefit tribute to and performance by Marcus Bovre, and the Big Star U.S. Tour Singer-Songwriter Battle.
Forward Reaction: Truth Hits the Streets
Common Wealth Gallery, through Dec. 20
Photographer Eric Baillies, printmaker Craig Grabhorn and painter Nina Bednarski present a retrospective of the posters, photographs and other artworks they made during the convulsive Capitol protests last winter. Grabhorn's poster of a rat eating the state of Wisconsin became iconic. Meet the artists at tonight's reception (6-10:30 pm).
Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra
Blackhawk Evangelical Church, 7 pm
With Festival Choir of Madison, the WCO performs Handel's Messiah, the iconic, ecstatic Christmas favorite.
A Christmas Carol
Overture Center's Playhouse, 7 pm. Also Saturday & Sunday, Dec. 10 & 11, 2:30 pm
After skipping it last year, Children's Theater of Madison brings back Dickens' yuletide classic. The production stars two luminaries of the local stage, American Players Theatre's James Ridge and Colleen Madden.
Beauty and the Beast
Overture Hall, 8 pm. Also Thursday (7:30 pm), Saturday (2 & 8 pm) & Sunday (1 & 6:30 pm), Dec. 8, 10 & 11
The touring incarnation of Disney's hit Broadway musical, based on the hit Disney movie, features the timeless "Be Our Guest" along with several songs written for the stage version.
The Santaland Diaries
Barrymore Theatre, 8 pm. Also Thursday (7:30 pm), Saturday (8 pm) & Sunday (5 pm), Dec. 8, 10 & 11
The Bricks Theatre presents a stage adaptation of David Sedaris' hilarious essay about his stint as a department-store elf. The one-man show offers shrewd commentary on parenting, race, celebrity obsessions, hygiene and the commercialism of the holidays.
DJs Chris Rusu, Josh Manion
Electric Earth Café, 9 pm
Milwaukee's Manion will splice jungle and dubstep with breaks aplenty, and then local record-jammer Rusu will hit the decks with minimalist soundscapes that have earned kudos from Beatport and Richie Hawtin. With Rapture and JP.
Frequency, 9 pm
What began as a small-town Ramones appreciation society has grown into a band of hooligans that have been thumbing their nose at authority figures for nearly three decades. Revel in classics such as "I Hate Everything" and material from their newest album, 2010's Back to the Basement. With Knockout, the Transgressions and Direct Hit.
UW Memorial Union Rathskeller, 9:30 pm
McKeown peppers her folk-inspired melodies with hints of modern pop and retro swing, plus the occasional reference to Douglas Adams' side-splitting novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Boo the vapid aspects of Christmas -- or celebrate the season in a new way -- with her new anti-holiday album.
Screamin' Cyn Cyn & the Pons
High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
Say good luck to madcap singer Shane O'Neill as he chases his dreams in New York City, alongside other Wisco kids like Pezzettino. Don't be surprised if "Cat Waco" spawns a mosh pit or the crowd sings "20 Percent Gay" as a round. With Pink Mink and Birthday Suits.
Harmony Bar, 9:45 pm
A native of the Bronx, guitarist Popa Chubby plays blues music that's steeped in the electric Chicago sound. Since the early 1990s he has released dozens of CDs, including his latest, Back to New York City.
High Noon Saloon, 11 am
Morgan Taylor's character Gustafer Yellowgold is a friendly creature from the sun. Taylor's multimedia family performance features live music, animated illustrations and storytelling.
Grace Episcopal Church, noon
Inspired by Emerald Isle musical traditions such as the sean-nós tune, this local Celtic vocal group will swathe pews in angelic vocal harmonies, sung poems and gorgeous laments from long, long ago.
Heid Music, 7948 Tree Lane, 2 pm
Laws, the musical director of the 1964 animated special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, is on hand to talk about the show and his musical career. Denizens of the Island of Misfit Toys will claw their way out of the woodwork for this one.
Perfect Harmony Men's Chorus
Masonic Center, 7 pm. Also Sunday, Dec. 11, 3 pm
The gay men's choral group presents a program called "Peace on Earth," honoring cultures and faiths of the world.
Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three
Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 pm
LaFarge takes listeners on a whirlwind tour of tunes that reference 20th-century Americana with jazzy riffs, ragtime flourishes, and a healthy dose of country blues (see Tour Stop).
Wisconsin Union Theater, 7:30 pm
Armed with nothing but their voices and a lineup of crowd-pleasing arrangements, UW-Madison's coed a cappella ensemble prove that you don't need a guitar to rock out. With Phonetic One.
UW Choral Union & Chamber Orchestra
UW Humanities Building's Mills Hall, 8 pm. Also Sunday, Dec. 11, 4 pm
The combined ensembles give the deluxe treatment to 20th- and 21st-century works: Morten Lauridsen's "Lux aeterna," Dominick Argento's "Evensong: Of Love and Angels," Eric Whitacre's "Water Night" and Ralph Vaughan Williams' "O Clap Your Hands."
Britney vs. Gaga
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
Don your most daring outfit and show your support for the leading ladies of pop as DJs Brooks and Lizzy T blast Top 40 megahits such as "Poker Face" and "Oops!...I Did It Again."
The Daredevil Christopher Wright
Frequency, 9:30 pm
Fresh off a tour with Canadian folk-rocker Dan Mangan, this harmonious Eau Claire trio release a whimsical new EP, The Longsuffering Song, at this show. With Icarus Himself, New Ruins, and Caroline Smith & the Good Night Sleeps.
High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
Filled with musicians from the bands of Joe Pug and Justin Townes Earle, Powderly's debut LP, Slips of the Tongue, came together at Butch Vig's Smart Studios here in Madison and Elkgang Studios in Knoxville, Tenn. Celebrate its release before it snuggles between the folk and alt-country sections of your CD collection (see Music). With Earl Foss & the Brown Derby and Josh Harty.
German Art Students
Mickey's Tavern, 10:30 pm
Madison acts come and go, but after 12 years together, this pop-punk-rock trio are verging on local-legend status (see Music). Tonight they celebrate a new EP, The Power and the Trust. With Brighton and Sons of Atom.
NOTEWORTHY: King Edward VIII abdicates British throne to marry U.S. divorcee Wallis Warfield Simpson, 1936.
Rainbow Bookstore, 1 pm
The Loyola University Chicago philosophy professor, author of After Capitalism, gives a talk called "How to Replace the Rule of the 1%: Getting from Capitalism to Socialism." If life after capitalism means no more Mariah Carey Christmas specials, sign us up.
Jack Grassel Super Guitar Trio
Brink Lounge, 3:30 pm
Milwaukee-based Grassel plays jazz on the six-string masterfully, which is why he has notched numerous honors, including a Grammy nomination. Ask him for a card, and he will teach you guitar lessons on Skype. He's joined by Kirk Tatnall and Dane Richeson.
Medicine: A Tribute to the Music of Marques Bovre
High Noon Saloon, 5 pm
Superb Madison musician Bovre is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, and this evening a who's-who of local songsters sing their appreciation and raise some money. With Marques Bovre & the Evil Twins, Paul Cebar, the Gomers, Honor Among Thieves, Jentri Colello and Josh Harty.
Big Star U.S. Tour Singer-Songwriter Battle
Majestic Theatre, 7 pm
An acoustic alternative to a battle of the bands, this event based on David K's musical reality show of the same name invites local solo artists, duos and trios to compete for applause from the audience, a cash prize, and a chance to rub elbows with record-industry bigwigs.