This is a guide to holiday theater in 2009. For our 2010 guide, click here.
The holidays are a time of cherished traditions, and for many families, those traditions include a theater outing. Local theaters are mounting a dizzying array of holiday shows this November and December—but most of them are variations on a few standard plots. You’ve got your Nativity stories, you’ve got your Nutcrackers, you’ve got your Christmas Carols, and you’ve got your Santa stories; in each category, there are options ranging from the reverently traditional to the completely outlandish.
Below you’ll find your guide to the most prominent options, arranged by alphabetical order in each category—including a category, at the end, for people who would like to go to the theater to escape the holidays rather than to celebrate them. In cases where shows have been previously reviewed in the Daily Planet, the reviews are linked from the shows’ titles. Reserve your tickets now, since many of these are very popular, and good seats will go quickly.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, SteppingStone Theatre
SteppingStone Theatre is a company producing theater by young people, for young people. Their annual holiday production tells the story of a family of misfits who, amid humorous mishaps, find their places in a community Christmas pageant. Despite the gorgeous new theater it’s presented in, this production has the feel of an actual community Christmas pageant. A good choice for: Families, and people who enjoy the charm of productions where the actors are children. (December 4-22; steppingstonetheatre.org)
The Bible Christmas Story, Abridged, Mystery Ranch Productions
A troupe accustomed to presenting the entire Word of God in 90 minutes at Pioneer Place on Fifth in St. Cloud is pulling out the Christmas portion of the Good Book and giving it a relatively expansive treatment…still, in under 90 minutes. A good choice for: People looking for an irreverent show in St. Cloud, or who want an excuse to make a road trip. (December 3-19; ppfive.com)
Black Nativity: A Season for Change, Penumbra
UPDATE: Read Sheila Regan’s review of Black Nativity: A Season for Change.
A uniquely meaningful production by a uniquely meaningful company, this show casts the Nativity as a gospel musical. One of Minnesota’s legendary holiday productions. A good choice for: People who want something more than just another white Christmas. (December 3-27; penumbratheatre.org)
Holiday Pageant, Open Eye Figure Theatre
UPDATE: Read Jay Gabler’s review of Open Eye’s holiday pageant.
From its origins in the living room of Open Eye founders Michael Sommers and Susan Haas, the puppeteers’ annual holiday pageant grew to a lavish gala affair at the Pantages. This year, the pageant is returning to its intimate beginnings with several performances at Open Eye’s cozy storefront space. An affectionate, but still wickedly skewed, take on the Christmas Story. A good choice for: People who like their brains and imaginations to be warmed along with their hearts. (December 4-23; openeyetheatre.org)
La Natividad, In the Heart of the Beast
UPDATE: Read Sheila Regan’s review of La Natividad.
“As much as its Christmas story belongs to the ages,” wrote Mary Turck about last year’s production of La Natividad, then poignantly performed in the shadow of a looming temporary closure for the inventive Lake Street company that stages the pageant each year, “La Natividad belongs to today and here and now, rooted in Minneapolis and in the experience of immigrants and carpenters and angels and babies and mothers.” A good choice for: Fans of large-scale puppetry; those who want to celebrate the holidays with a vibrant, diverse community. (December 10-20; hobt.org)
A Christmas Carol, Guthrie Theater
UPDATE: Read Jay Gabler’s review of A Christmas Carol.
Just as many people only go to church once a year, when they attend Christmas Mass at the Cathedral, there are many Twin Citians who set foot in a theater only in December, for the Guthrie’s Christmas Carol. Big Blue has rejiggered the show for its 35th annual production: this year it will run just 90 minutes, with no intermission. Also, longtime Scrooge Raye Birk has been replaced by TV/movie vet Peter Michael Goetz. A good choice for: Traditionalists. (November 19-December 31; guthrietheater.org)
A Christmas Carol: The Golden Girls Remix, Theatre Arlo
UPDATE: Read Jay Gabler’s review of A Christmas Carol: The Golden Girls Remix.
The troupe that debuted this fall with a gay(er) production of The Importance of Being Earnest “remixes” the Dickens classic, inserting Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia. And they’re doing their homework: Arlo’s Matthew Foster tells me he owns the entire run of Golden Girls on DVD. A good choice for: People who prefer TV Land to Ovation. (November 22-December 20; bryantlakebowl.com)
A Christmas Carol: One-Man Show, Dana’s Boys
Dana’s Boys promise “a twist” (yes, another) on A Christmas Carol, “filled with music, surprises, and celebrity impressions!” A good choice for: People who are amused by celebrity impressions. (December 10-19; bryantlakebowl.com)
A Christmas Carol: Unscripted and Uncensored, ComedySportz
The title pretty much says it all. A good choice for: People who wonder what Scrooge did to amuse himself during all those lonely nights. (November 20-December 18; comedysportztc.com)
Fezziwig’s Feast, Actors Theatre of Minnesota
The premise of this Harriet Island production is that you’re hanging out with the jolly Fezziwigs, who enact a clever story written by “Fezziwig’s dear friend Charles Dickens” while they stuff your face with roast pork, sweet potato, and bread pudding. A good choice for: People who agree with Scrooge that the fat, happy Fezziwig really knew how to live. (December 3-20; actorsmn.org)
Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, Park Square Theatre
UPDATE: Read Rebecca Mitchell’s review of Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol.
Jim Lichtscheidl, local theater’s answer to Jim Carrey, plays 17 characters in this Christmas Carol, which is told from beyond the grave by Scrooge’s rueful partner Jacob Marley. Reviewing last year’s production in the Daily Planet, Betsy Mowry praised Lichtscheidl’s virtuoso performance but cautioned that “the dour subject matter of the afterlife, where Marley slowly takes up the chains he earned over his years of greed and deceit, is fairly heavy.” A good choice for: Jim Lichtscheidl fans. (December 3-20; parksquaretheatre.org)
A Klingon Christmas Carol, Commedia Beauregard
After the success of this spring’s movie, is Star Trek hot again? Commedia Beauregard is hoping so, bringing back its Christmas Carol set among Klingons—who speak authentic Klingon. Adding an interesting Freudian element to this production is the fact that cast member Michael Ooms is the son of Richard Ooms, the Guthrie’s Scrooge for many years. A good choice for: Sci-fi buffs and linguistics majors. (November 27-December 13; cbtheatre.org)
The Classic Nutcracker, Ballet Minnesota
The O’Shaughnessy is a wonderful setting for this community-spirited production. Though the choreography and the live music aren’t anything to write home about, there’s a palpable warmth in the auditorium, which you can expect to be well-stocked with Nutcracker nuts and with friends and family of the skilled young dancers. A good choice for: Those seeking a traditional Nutcracker that’s a little off the beaten path. (December 18-20; balletminnesota.org)
Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy, Minnesota Dance Theatre
As the Guthrie is to Christmas Carols, so is Minnesota Dance Theatre to Nutcrackers; their holiday ballet, in fact, is (at least by their calculation) the longest-running arts event in Minnesota history. The production, choreographed by (how’d you guess?) Loyce Houlton, is accompanied by an orchestra under the capable baton of Philip Brunelle. A good choice for: Traditionalists. (December 18-20; hennepintheatretrust.org)
Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker, Orpheum Theatre
This elaborate production from The Nutcracker‘s motherland recasts the Kingdom of Sweets as the Land of Peace and Harmony. Whatever…it’s all a fantasy. A good choice for: Ballet aficionados and people who think there’s nothing the least bit funny about peace, love, and understanding. (December 11-12; hennepintheatretrust.org)
Nutbuster!! The Ballet, Third Rabbit Dance Ensemble
UPDATE: Read Jay Gabler’s review of Nutbuster!!
If the Moscow Ballet is looking to gloss over the disturbing aspects of The Nutcracker, Third Rabbit director John Munger—who blogs for the Daily Planet—wants to embrace them. Munger performs this production solo, as “a psychotic day-fantasy in the mind of Drosselmeyer, supposedly Clara’s kindly and magical uncle.” A good choice for: People who always thought Drosselmeyer was a little creepy. (December 9-23; bryantlakebowl.com)
The Nutcracker (Not So) Suite, Ballet of the Dolls
UPDATE: Read Jaclyn Evert’s review of The Nutcracker (Not So) Suite.
Ballet of the Dolls describes its take on The Nutcracker, starring living Barbie and Ken dolls, as “hilarious, touching, risqué.” Reviewing the 2007 production in the Daily Planet, Christopher Pommier wrote that it started slow but really picked up when the sex workers arrived on stage…and “during the second act, to my delight, things only got more trippy.” A good choice for: People who, when they attend traditional Nutcrackers, find themselves checking out the Rat King’s codpiece. (December 9-31; ritzdolls.com)
The Nutcracker According to Mother Goose, Zenon Dance Company
UPDATE: Read Melissa Slachetka’s review of The Nutcracker According to Mother Goose.
The Guthrie has trimmed its Christmas Carol to an hour and a half, but Zenon will get you outta the Ritz in a cool 45 minutes. The company cites a Pioneer Press review calling their jazzy romp appropriate for “kids from 3 to 93,” and people at either end of that continuum don’t have time to sit around watching rats die. A good choice for: Families with exceptionally hip young children. (December 12-20; ritzdolls.com)
Santa/elf shows, Class I: Family-friendly
The Elves and the Shoemaker, Youth Performance Company
A shoemaker and a bunch of elves do their darndest to make a surly princess—who somehow has the authority to cancel Christmas if she remains mirthless—giggle. It sounds like another Ballet of the Dolls premise, but actually it’s the holiday show by Minneapolis’s Youth Performance Company. A good choice for: Kids who are neither surly nor mirthless. (December 3-20; youthperformanceco.com)
Junior Claus, Beyond Broadway
UPDATE: Read Rebecca Mitchell’s review of Junior Claus.
Getting right in the holiday spirit, a video advertisement at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center Web site implores visitors: “Don’t wait! Buy now!” The goods being sold are tickets to Junior Claus, a new musical that’s already won raves from Santa, Rudolph (“I’m bringing my seven best friends to see it!”), and the North Pole Express. A good choice for: Kids who wish plays were movies. (December 10-27; burnsvillepac.com)
S. Gunter Klaus and the Story Before, Jon Ferguson Theater and John Heimbuch
UPDATE: Read Jay Gabler’s review of S. Gunter Klaus and the Story Before.
Whimsical playmaker Jon Ferguson has a deft touch with young actors and audiences: his Fringe show co-produced with Stages Theatre Company was oversold for every performance. This new production, co-created with playwright John Heimbuch, tells the story of Santa’s origin as “a lonely toy-maker engaged in an epic battle with the dark of winter.” A good choice for: Those who want their holiday theater to come with a generous dose of the unexpected. (December 10-23; southerntheater.org)
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Stages Theatre Company
UPDATE: Read Phillip Andrew Bennett Low’s review of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
A musical adaptation of the classic Clement C. Moore poem. The script and music are new, but don’t expect any wild departures from the well-known legend: Stages is advertising the show with the iconic 1863 Thomas Nast woodcut that doomed Santa to an eternity of merry obesity. A good choice for: Traditionalists. (November 20-December 28; stagestheatre.org)
Santa/elf shows, Class II: Sketchy Santas
Fat Man Crying, Joking Envelope
UPDATE: Read Nora Leinen’s review of Fat Man Crying, and Jay Gabler’s blog entry about the show.
In a classic Bill Cosby routine, the Lone Ranger bellies up at a saloon and tries to wheedle a free drink from the bartender by offering a peek under his mask. In that spirit, Joseph Scrimshaw asks: what if the man who knows who’s been naughty and who’s been nice starts hitting the bottle and gets loose-lipped? A good choice for: People to whom it’s occurred that it would actually kind of suck to have Santa’s job. (December 4-20; jokingenvelope.com)
Letters to Santa…Postage Due!, Janelle Ranek and Jules Weiland
What happens when you don’t put enough postage on your letter to Santa? You “get your questions answered and holiday woes solved by Gloria the Martini-swilling chain-smoking crass old broad.” A good choice for: People who think that Christmas is best served on the rocks. (November 29-December 19; bryantlakebowl.com)
The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris, Theatre Limina
A trio of performers enact skits from the essay that introduced David Sedaris to the world: a memoir of his days as an elf at a department-store Santaland. Featuring Sandleresque satirical songs by the duo the Misfit Toys. A good choice for: People who never wanted to sit on Santa’s lap, ever. (November 29-December 19; bryantlakebowl.com)
Santa/elf shows, Class III: Santas who seem sketchy but actually aren’t
Another Night Before Christmas, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
UPDATE: Read Phillip Andrew Bennett Low’s review of Another Night Before Christmas.
The Chanhassen promises that this show is “insightful while delightfully entertaining” and a “musical jewel,” which are the kind of things you’ve heard about a million holiday shows before…but have you ever heard them about a show where “Santa” is a homeless man who breaks in to the apartment of a lonely, dispirited single woman? A good choice for: People who think that having previously mounted a show called Married Alive! is a good qualification for creators of holiday entertainment. (November 20-December 31; chanhassentheatres.com)
“Christmas episodes” in series
Away in the Basement, Plymouth Playhouse (Church Basement Ladies series)
UPDATE: Read Jean Gabler’s review of Away in the Basement.
Only at the Plymouth Playhouse, home to epic runs of Minnesota-themed musicals, does a three-month engagement count as a “limited run.” You’ve been warned: that’s the finite window of time you have to catch the holiday edition of the Church Basement Ladies series. A good choice for: Church basement ladies. (November 5-January 24; plymouthplayhouse.com)
Holy Bells…A Deer Camp Christmas!, Actors Theatre of Minnesota (Deer Camp series)
The premise of this show sounds controversial—believers try to defend their public Nativity display from the litigious ACLU—but what apparently puts this new musical in the “feel-good” ballpark (as it’s advertised) is the fact that the believers in question are more concerned about the end of their excuse for boozy tree-cutting expeditions than about any threat to their religious freedom. A good choice for: Boozy deer hunters and the people who love them. (November 27-January 3; actorsmn.org)
A Don’t Hug Me Christmas Carol, Hennepin Stages (Don’t Hug Me series)
UPDATE: Read Betsy Gabler’s review of A Don’t Hug Me Christmas Carol.
The Minnesota-spoofing Don’t Hug Me franchise takes on Dickens in a musical production that has sold out every December performance in its two previous years at the Hennepin Stages. Songs include “The Bunyan Beguine” and “I Love You More than Football.” The show has “a laugh a minute,” according to the Norway Times. A good choice for: People who like Ole and Lena jokes. (November 27-January 3; hennepintheatretrust.org)
Sister’s Christmas Catechism, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts (Late Night Catechism series)
UPDATE: Read Melissa Slachetka’s review of Sister’s Christmas Catechism.
If you enter the McKnight Theatre for this production, be prepared to be recruited for a role in the living Nativity assembled by Sister as part of her quest to solve the mystery of the missing Gold of the Magi. A good choice for: People who went to a Catholic school that was run by nuns. (November 18-December 27; ordway.org)
Other holiday shows
All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, Cantus, Theater Latté Da, and Hennepin Theatre Trust
UPDATE: Read Lydia Howell’s preview of All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.
There’s a lot that could go wrong with an attempt to dramatize the famous Christmas Truce in which the Germans and the Allies both laid down their arms for a night of peace and carols. Reports are, though, that Theater Latté Da does it right with this production that relies on the actual words of the men who were there and features the soaring vocals of Cantus. A good choice for: People who really believe in the magic of Christmas. (December 17-20; hennepintheatretrust.org)
Apology Accepted, Panda Sandwich
Sketch comedy troupe Panda Sandwich mix Christmas fun with a timely werewolf element. A good choice for: People who enjoy a good full moon. (December 15; pandasandwichcomedy.com)
Asians and Homos and Jews…Ho Ho!, Illusion Theater
Undeterred by having been walked out on by Dwight Hobbes last year, Miss Richfield 1981 returns for more holiday fun with ethnic stereotypes. A good choice for: Asians? Homos? Jews? You got me. (November 27-December 13; illusiontheater.org)
Beaverdance! A Marxist Holiday Fur Trade Musical, Bedlam Theatre
UPDATE: Read Dwight Hobbes’s review of Beaverdance, and Jay Gabler’s blog entry about the show.
A commenter (below) alerted me to this late-breaking show directed by the indomitable (and frequently bare-assed) Foxy Tann. You’ll probably never again see such a randy Minnesota-themed musical about Karl Marx; in fact, you’ll probably never again see a Minnesota-themed musical about Karl Marx. A good choice for: People who like to bring some Surly into the theater with them. (December 3-20; bedlamtheatre.org)
Brett Favre’s Christmas Spectacular: The Immaculate Interception, Brave New Workshop
UPDATE: Read Rebecca Collins’s review of Brett Favre’s Christmas Spectacular.
The BNW has a gleaming new Ivey—a lifetime achievement award for founder Dudley Riggs—to celebrate in the glow of this Christmas, and they’re doing so in time-honored fashion, with a musical satire of current events. A good choice for: People who know how to spell “Favre” but are sick of reading about him. (through January 30; bravenewworkshop.com)
A Christmas Story, Mounds Theatre
For the sixth year running, Mounds Theatre presents the stage version of the Jean Shepherd memoir that also became the classic film about Christmas in the 40s. A good choice for: People who aren’t sick of the movie yet. (December 4-20; moundstheatre.org)
Cinderella, Children’s Theatre Company
UPDATE: Read Sheila Regan’s review of Cinderella.
A reader chastised me for initially including this show in the list of December shows not relating to the holidays; CTC’s Anne Schopen confirms that indeed, this is a fairy tale with seasonal flavor. “The show includes holiday scenes and carolers, as well as audience participation and very modern references…the viral wedding dance that was everywhere this summer, [and] moments between Cinderella and the prince that will call to mind American Idol.” A good choice for: Kids who think fairy tales are so 1697. (November 10-January 2; childrenstheatre.org)
The Enchanted Toy Shop, St. Paul City Ballet
You have to give the SPCB credit for daring to present a ballet other than The Nutcracker in December. They’re not getting too radical, though: this original piece by SPCB faculty members does feature magical, dancing toys—and a snowflake fairy. A good choice for: People who want a not-so-suite Nutcracker but aren’t quite old enough (or brave enough) for Ballet of the Dolls. (December 18-20; spcballet.org)
An “Eventually” Christmas: Holidays at the Mill, Mill City Museum
UPDATE: Read Jay Gabler’s review of An “Eventually” Christmas.
Joseph Scrimshaw wrote this (more or less) educational show, which is staged in the museum’s Flour Tower elevator ride, based on actual stories from the Washburn Crosby employee newsletter. “Witness the rocky romance of Celia and Otto; meet marketing mastermind Benjamin S. Bull; experience the awesome sweeping power of Bill Smith; and learn the secret origin of the Washburn Crosby marketing slogan, ‘Eventually—Why Not Now?'” A good choice for: People who wrote the Mill City Museum off after being underwhelmed by the flour explosion demo. (December 18-27; millcitymuseum.org)
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, Minnesota Jewish Theatre
UPDATE: Read Rebecca Collins’s review of Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins.
Those who thought Minnesota puppetry began with HOTB and ended with Open Eye were surprised when puppeteer Chris Griffith received an Ivey Award honoring the goblins he created for Hershel. This year, those acclaimed puppets back in all their goofy glory to try once again to put the kibosh on Hanukkah. A good choice for: People who have always wondered why the various evil forces that keep trying to steal Christmas never make a play for any of the other December holidays. (December 5-22; mnjewishtheatre.org)
Inappropriate Laughter III: Merry Sketchmas and Happy Ha-Ha-Ha-lidays, La Vie Theatre
Seasonal sketch comedy at the BLB. A good choice for: People whose attention spans are taxed by Brave New Workshop productions. (December 3-18; bryantlakebowl.com)
Indian Blood, Theatre in the Round
UPDATE: Read Lydia Howell’s review of Indian Blood.
A play telling the story of a boy with a vivid imagination growing up in a Rust Belt household in the 1940s, getting in trouble at school and exasperating his family, with offensive language in exactly one scene. No, it’s not A Christmas Story, it’s Indian Blood. A good choice for: Nostalgia buffs and fans of warm comedy. (November 20-December 13; theatreintheround.org)
Miracle on Christmas Lake, Yellow Tree Theatre
When the newly-founded Yellow Tree Theatre last year found itself without a Christmas show (there was a rights issue with their originally-scheduled script), its directors quickly assembled a production about a small theater company forced to quickly assemble a Christmas show. It was such a success that they’re running the show again this year. Reviewing last year’s production, my mom wrote that the actors are “convincingly bad.” A good choice for: People who like to root for the underdog. (November 27-December 27; yellowtreetheatre.com)
The Seafarer, Jungle Theater
UPDATE: Read Jay Gabler’s review of The Seafarer.
There’s nothing the Jungle does better than the work of Irishman Conor McPherson, who the New York Times says may be the best playwright of his generation. This haunting and unexpectedly funny 2006 play about a bunch of drinking buddies and a mysterious Christmas Eve visitor won raves in its London and New York runs; its Jungle staging is a can’t-miss event. A good choice for: Fans of serious theater done seriously well. (November 13-December 20; jungletheater.com)
Spiked!, Table Salt Productions
The Table Salt players promise a “classic holiday variety show” featuring “classic songs” performed with “a rotating cast of special guest stars.” They provide the egg nog, you bring the flask. A good choice for: People who miss Dean Martin. (December 4-20; tablesaltproductions.com)
Star Wars Holiday Special, Minnesota Film & TV Board
This is not a joke. In 1978, the cast of the original Star Wars movie appeared with guest stars including Art Carney and the band Jefferson Starship in a TV special telling the story of Chewbacca’s family awaiting the big guy’s return for “Life Day.” George Lucas has spent three decades trying to forget that this ever happened, but pirated copies survive, made from recordings of the sole broadcast. This year’s second-annual screening at the BLB will have a special poignancy in the wake of the death of Bea Arthur, who has a song-and-dance number with the Cantina aliens. A good choice for: People who really, really love Star Wars; and people who really, really hate Star Wars. (December 16; bryantlakebowl.com)
Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log, Kevin Kling
Local storytelling legend Kevin Kling takes the stage at the Guthrie to perform his one-man show, timed to coincide with the release of his new book Kevin Kling’s Holiday Inn. A good choice for: Kevin Kling fans and NPR listeners—is there a difference? (December 7; guthrietheater.org)
Tantalos, Tim Uren
Tim Uren, who played Santa in the first two productions of Joseph Scrimshaw’s Fat Man Crying, loses the red suit but keeps the whiskey bottle in this dark new holiday comedy about a woman trying to reconnect with a despairing former friend. All seats are pay-what-you-want—or, with a Fringe button, “pay slightly less than what you want.” A good choice for: People who loved Phoebe Cates’s story about her dad in Gremlins. (December 16-18; 10000comicbooks.com)
The Vilification Tennis Non-Denominational Holiday Extravaganza, Bryant-Lake Bowl
The Vilification Tennis players promise to make fun of all holidays equally, so that no one is particularly offended…”Actually, that won’t work anyway because Bill O’Reilly will complain that we aren’t concentrating all of our comedy on Christmas.” A good choice for: People who want to see ethnic holidays made fun of, but who weren’t even alive in 1981. (December 5; bryantlakebowl.com)
December shows that, believe it or not, have nothing to do with the holidays
British Television Advertising Award winners, Walker Art Center
UPDATE: Read Jay Gabler’s review of the 2009 British Television Advertising Awards.
“One doesn’t need to be especially cynical,” I wrote last year, “to see the annual December screening of the British Television Advertising Award winners at the Walker Art Center as the Twin Cities’ most honest holiday tradition. Instead of paying to be preached to about peace and love and selflessness, museumgoers pay to be preached to about the power of material goods to solve all ills.” A good choice for: Anglophiles and film buffs. (December 4-January 2; walkerart.org)
Corleone: The Shakespearian Godfather, Gremlin Theatre
UPDATE: Read Crystal Erickson’s review of Corleone.
“Corleone,” says Diablo Cody, “is a treat for Shakespeare geeks and Puzo freaks alike.” Jennifer’s Body may have given you cause to doubt Cody’s aesthetic judgement, but if you’re actually a Shakespeare geek or a Puzo freak, you’ll likely attend this production anyway. A good choice for: Need it be said? (November 20-December 13; gremlin-theatre.org)
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
UPDATE: Read Jean Gabler’s review of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
Given its staging in St. Paul, some will see this story about a guest whose kind heart transforms a surly host as a reverse allegory for the 2008 Republican National Convention…but you don’t need to get political to enjoy the sterling songs by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman. A good choice for: People who aren’t afraid to admit they know every number by heart. (December 15-January 3; ordway.org)
Hansel and Gretel, Old Log Theater
The venerable Excelsior institution stages a musical adaptation of the Grimms’ tale. A good choice for: Families who prefer to have the disturbing subtexts of fairy tales tamped firmly down. (November 10-December 30; oldlog.com)
In the Heights, Orpheum Theatre
UPDATE: Read Jay Gabler’s review of In the Heights.
The 2008 Tony winner for Best Musical comes to the Orpheum in a touring production. We’re promised a journey to “a vibrant Manhattan community—a place where the coffee is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music.” A good choice for: People who have been waiting impatiently for Friends: The Musical. (December 1-6; hennepintheatretrust.org)
Nunset Boulevard, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
UPDATE: Read Jean Gabler’s review of Nunset Boulevard.
Dan Goggin’s wacky nuns return for a seventh go-round, this time at the Hollywood Bowl-a-Rama. A good choice for: People who have seen all six of the previous shows. (through March 14; chanhassentheatres.com)
Of Mice and Men, Park Square Theatre
UPDATE: Read Dwight Hobbes’s review of Of Mice and Men.
Park Square takes on the classic Steinbeck tale. A good choice for: High school English teachers. (November 17-December 17; parksquaretheatre.org)
Oklahoma!, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
This kind of show is meat and potatoes (well, theatrical meat and potatoes) for the Chanhassen; the kind of show that’s earned the venue the designation “the Cadillac of dinner theaters.” A good choice for: People seeking a tuneful escape from the snow bowl to the Dust Bowl, and who would like that escape to come with dinner rolls. (through January 23; chanhassentheatres.com)
Sisters of Swing, History Theatre
UPDATE: Read Bev Reiva’s review of Sisters of Swing.
Quick, name all the superstar musicians who came from Minnesota! If you said “Bob Dylan” and “Prince” but forgot the Andrews Sisters, you’d best boogie down to the History Theatre to learn the story of LaVerne, Maxene, and Patricia. A good choice for: Members of the Greatest Generation, and their Swing Kids…or grandkids. (November 21-December 20; historytheatre.com)
Tales of Rashomon, Green T Productions
UPDATE: Read Crystal Erickson’s review of Tales of Rashomon.
Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s stories are best known as the bases for Akira Kurosawa’s classic 1950 movie Rashomon; this stage adaptation of the stories examines, as does the film, the nature of truth through multiple tellings of the story of a murder. A good choice for: Samurai fans. And who isn’t? (December 17-January 3; mixedblood.com)