December: the month for holiday shows


Madame Bonbonniere in Nutcracker Fantasy performed by Minnesota Dance Theater

If you're in the mood to celebrate the holidays, local theaters and dance companies are here to help. It seems just about everybody has got a holiday show this year to lure you in their doors. Here's a list of what I've found - if you spot something missing, let me know and I'll add it.

(Update: I've moved this post up on the blog to reflect the fact that new shows have been added.)

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Classics, Old and New

"A Christmas Carol", at the Guthrie Theater(this year marks the shows 35th run). It's the Dickens' classic, and the whole production - with its huge cast and decadent set - speaks to the indulgent mood of the holidays.

"Black Nativity," at Penumbra Theatre. Each year Penumbra Theatre reinvents its holiday musical, and this year the theme is "A Season for Change." Expect lots of holiday tunes, sung by some of the greatest talents in town.

Minnesota Dance Theater presents founder Loyce Houlton's "Nutcracker Fantasy" featuring sugarplum fairies, a rat queen, and a 42-piece symphony orchestra conducted by Philip Brunelle.

While it's a relatively new work, "All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914" has quickly become a Twin Cities favorite. It features the real-life story of men on either side of a war who find a common bond, and a momentary peace, in Christmas carols. Performed by a mix of local actors and Cantus men's choir.

Particularly Fun For Families:

Steppingstone Theatre brings back its perennial favorite: "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." In it the Herdmans - "the worst kids in the whole history of the world" - invade the Christmas pageant and everyone braces for complete disaster.

Minnesota Jewish Community Theater presents "Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins," adapted from the book by Eric A. Kimmel and featuring the creations of local puppeteer Chris Griffith.

Stages Theatre Company in Hopkins offers up "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," a musical based on the poem by Clement C. Moore.

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre presents "La Natividad." Beginning at HOBT's Theater and Mercado Central, the audience accompanies Maria and José through the streets as they look for refuge. The procession ends with a puppet-filled Nativity, plus a fiesta-- complete with music and food.

Burnsville Performing Arts Center presents "Junior Claus." When Santa Claus is suddenly sidelined, young Junior must learn how to drive the big red sleigh, climb down chimneys, and everything else that goes into making "the greatest delivery in the world."

Open Eye Figure Theatre presents "The Holiday Pageant" - a tale filled with devils and angels, sheep and shephards, and tricks and trumpets... starring both puppets and people.

Jim Lichtscheidl performs his one man show "Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol" at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul. The flip side of the classic Christmas tale, Jacob Marley's story begins in the afterlife where his business partner Scrooge once again determines his future.

Mounds Theatre in St. Paul presents "A Christmas Story," the Jean Shepard story turned classic movie. (Remember the fishnet-stockinged-leg-lamp-stand?)

Dance Your Heart Out:

Ballet of the Dolls returns to its holiday chestnut "Nutcracker (not so) Suite" in which Ken and Barbie play the leads. This year celebrates Barbie's 50th birthday. "Expect hilarious, touching, and risqué performances, saturated with much merrymaking."

For a more traditional take on the classic, Ballet Minnesota presents "The Nutcracker" at the O'Shaughnessy in St. Paul.

For the younger kids, Zenon Dance Company presents a series of morning and afternoon performances of "The Nutcracker according to Mother Goose" at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis.

Not For Kids:

The Jungle Theater presents "The Seafarer" - the tale of an Irishman living in his own hell who ends up playing cards for his soul on Christmas Eve. "Colorful" language throughout.

Bryant Lake Bowl hosts a flurry of holiday fare that is aimed at the older set. There's "Inappropriate Laughter III: Merry Sketchmas and Happy Ha-Ha-Ha-lidays!," "The Santaland Diaries," and "Letters to Santa...Postage Due!"

Bryant Lake Bowl also plays host to "Nutbuster! The Ballet" in which John Munger, Artistic Director of the Third Rabbit Dance Ensemble, presents his one-man solo version of The Nutcracker as a psychotic day-fantasy in the mind of Drosselmeyer(supposedly Clara's kindly and magical uncle).

Joking Envelope (the creation of local playwright/performer Joseph Scrimshaw) presents "Fat Man Crying" at the Minneapolis Theater Garage. "George and Skye Deal are a happily married couple enjoying a casual Christmas Eve at home until Santa Claus breaks in--armed with a magic sack, intimate details about the couple and a neurotic fear of a mysterious man known only as 'The Dave'."

And there's "Foxy Tann's Beaverdance" at Bedlam Theater in Minneapolis. I think this one wins the award for descriptions:

"Jacques Brainerd is the manliest of manly fur traders descending on Central Minnesota at the dawn of the Nineteenth Century. He can paddle faster, shoot straighter, and handle more beaver than any voyageur in the woods. His Ojibwe girlfriend Bemidji is worshipped by the local beavers as a goddess. Mister Blaine is Brainerd's boss, a bourgeois capitalist with secret plans for the fur trade that he is keeping under cover. Loring Park is the city kid who answers Blaine's call for a new kind of man. Karl Marx, disguised as Santa Claus, travels back in time to change the evolution of the US Economy."

Unlikely Holiday Adaptations

(As if the above wasn't strange enough already... )

Commedia Beauregard presents "A Klingon Christmas Carol" - a reworking of the original, translated into Klingon (with English supertitles for all of us non-native speakers). From their site: "Scrooge has no honor, nor any courage. Can three ghosts help him to become the true warrior he ought to be in time to save Tiny Tim from a horrible fate?"

Back to Bryant Lake Bowl, there's "A Christmas Carol: The Golden Girls Remix." "Join us on a Christian allegory-meets-flashback episode when Sophia--Sicily's original Scrooge--eats a bad bit pastrami and, trapped in that tortured space between life and death, is visited upon by the spirits of Christmas past, present and future."

Phew! How's a gal to choose? Let me know what you're planning to see this holiday season, and if I missed something, tell me.