Summer more or less commences in Madison this weekend with the first big outdoor festival of the season: Syttende Mai in Stoughton. The calendar also includes: productions of And Other Plays, Les Misérables, Mythical Proportions; the Drag Down Cancer benefit show; performances by the Madison Youth Choirs; more live music from Saliva, Houses in Motion, the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, Goat Radio, The Fiery Furnaces, TweedFunk, SweetGrass, and Graham Lindsey with Owen Temple; and, the Urban Assault Ride.
NOTEWORTHY: Actress Julianne Phillips marries Bruce Springsteen, 1985.
BIRTHDAYS: Visionary rocker Peter Gabriel and Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer Stevie Wonder, 1950.
Stoughton, through May 15
No one celebrates the signing of Norway's constitution as fervently as Stoughton -- probably not even Norway. The annual festival features dancing, music, a parade, a Saturday run/walk from Madison to Stoughton, and gastronomic delights like svinekoteletter.
And Other Plays
Broom Street Theater, 8 pm. Also Saturday (8 pm) & Sunday (2 pm), May 14 & 15
The east-side troupe presents an evening of short plays old and new by the Madison writer Rob Matsushita. His last play's title declared that Hitler was right, so expect surprises.
Overture Hall, 8 pm. Also Saturday (2 & 8 pm) & Sunday (1 & 6:30 pm), May 14 & 15
If you've never seen the iconic 1980s musical based on Victor Hugo's novel, the show that gave us "I Dreamed a Dream" and all that, then check out this touring production, part of Overture's Broadway series.
Bartell Theatre, 8 pm. Also Saturday, May 14, 8 pm
Comedian and actress Nora Dunn, of Saturday Night Live fame, performs her one-woman show as a benefit for Mercury Players Theatre. Last winter she showed up for a talkback after a Mercury performance of the controversial play The Last Supper. (She was in the movie version.) See Arts Beat.
Majestic Theatre, 8 pm
The Memphis hard-rock fivesome is best known for "Always," the tuneful dirge that topped the alternative chart. A success like that has been elusive in recent years, but that hasn't stopped the guys from recording seven albums, including this year's Under Your Skin. The performance is part of the JJO Spring Fling, which also features Rev Theory, Emphatic, Seven Day Sonnet and Madam Adam.
Houses in Motion
High Noon Saloon, 10 pm
Houses in Motion's covers of Talking Heads classics are nothing to sneeze at, thanks to taut musicianship and frontman Greg Ujda's compelling version of David Byrne's wild-eyed stare.
Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band
UW Memorial Union Terrace, 10 pm
This quartet of family members -- a Grammy-nominated singer-accordionist pair and their fiddle-wielding kids -- breathe new life into old Cajun tunes, adding French ballads to the mix as they explore the sounds of southwest Louisiana.
Mickey's Tavern, 10:30 pm
This five-piece of music-scene vets from the Randy Cliffs, Knuckel Drager, the Pugilists and more play Southern rock with a Midwestern twist and some sublimely strange lyrics. Munch on some songs from their debut LP, Portrait of the Band as a Young Goat, which they'll release at the show. With the Low Czars.
NOTEWORTHY: Vaseline trademarked, 1878.
BIRTHDAYS: Talking Heads singer David Byrne, 1952; filmmaker Sofia Coppola, 1971.
Drag Down Cancer
High Noon Saloon, 6:30 pm
A bevy of beautiful drag queens, drag kings and comedians perform to benefit the American Cancer Society. The hostess is Cass Marie Domino, one of Madison's loveliest people.
The Fiery Furnaces
Majestic Theatre, 7 pm
The Furnaces' latest offerings include a "silent record" of sheet music as well as Democ-Rock, a project that let fans shape the band's creative process through a series of online polls. See what they're up to next at this performance.
UW Memorial Union Terrace, 9:30 pm
This Milwaukee four-piece fuse classic soul vocals with poppin'-'n'-slappin' bass, smoldering blues-guitar licks, and high-energy drumming. Members of the band have also performed on Broadway, jammed with B.B. King, and traced their lineage back to legendary bluesman Howlin' Wolf.
High Noon Saloon, 10 pm
Local quintet SweetGrass offers a supercharged set of old-time Americana and bluegrass music. With the Boys 'n the Barrels.
NOTEWORTHY: Susan B. Anthony & Elizabeth Cady Stanton establish National Women's Suffrage Association, 1869.
BIRTHDAYS: Rock offspring Ahmet Rodan Zappa, 1974.
Urban Assault Ride
Olin Park, 9 am
Participants in this lively event bicycle to designated checkpoints, where they engage in wacky physical exertions (sample exertion: bike limbo). It's all in the name of fun, promoting cycling and sustainability, supporting charity -- and, if you're lucky, winning a sweet new bike.
Madison Youth Choirs
First Unitarian Society Auditorium, 3 & 7 pm
The young singers apply their heavenly voices to a program called "Pillars, Spires and Arches." The selections by Bach, Handel, Brahms and others relate to architectural structures, and where better to contemplate architecture than First Unitarian?
Graham Lindsey, Owen Temple
Kiki's House of Righteous Music, 8 pm
Rolling Stone has dubbed Lindsey's oeuvre "well-traveled folk that's both hick and haunting." Write your own description at this show, which also features country-folk craftsman Owen Temple, a recent winner of the B.W. Stevenson Songwriting Competition.