Robert Porco, the Cleveland Orchestra's director of choruses, is as in love with Handel's Messiah as he was when he first conducted it 25 years ago. The famous oratorio only grows more exciting with time, he says: "I'm turned on by it whenever we do it." Porco leads the orchestra and its 65-member chorus in the perennial piece, which its composer never intended as a holiday-centered work. "It's simply a fantastic piece when looked at in any way, whether you're religious or not," explains Porco. "Of course, the other draw is the element of faith that people bring to it." Four guest vocalists will join the orchestra and chorus onstage when they perform the work this week: soprano Leah Partridge, mezzo-soprano Jane Gilbert (pictured), tenor Gregory Turay, and bass Kevin Deas. Says Porco: "[They] certainly bring an extra freshness and keep things alive." The Cleveland Orchestra performs Messiah at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Severance Hall, 11001 Euclid Avenue. Tickets range from $29 to $86, available by calling 216-231-1111. -- Zachary Lewis
Set for stun -- er, fun
When the Byron Nemeth Group was recording its new single, "Dreamcatcher," the band's leader (pictured) visualized a Christmas Concert Laser Light Show Spectacular to coincide with its release. "I wanted a real European-style rock show," he says. So he hired Introspective Lasers of Strongsville to program a computerized light show for Saturday's CD release party. But there was a problem: Laws on laser wattage are strict. Laser beams typically have up to 20,000 milliwatts of power -- way too much to point at people. "A 20,000-milliwatt laser was probably shot into a crowd, left a single beam sitting on someone for 20 seconds, and someone got eye damage," speculates Introspective president Tom Theus about the origin of the law. "The ones we use are reduced to 500 milliwatts. Very safe." Get ready for some retina-friendly fun at 8 p.m. at the Winchester, 12112 Madison Avenue in Lakewood. Tickets are $7; call 216-226-5681. -- Cris Glaser
Danke Schoen, Wayne
Instead of spending the holidays under the lights of the Stardust Casino theater named after him, Mr. Las Vegas is coming to town for a Wayne Newton Christmas. In more than five decades, the 62-year-old singer has recorded 157 albums and sung to more than 30 million people. "And I can tell you one thing," he once remarked. "People may leave one of my shows disliking Wayne Newton, but they've never walked out saying, He didn't give us our money's worth.'" Show time is 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Palace Theatre, 1519 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $35 to $50; call 216-241-6000. -- Cris Glaser
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