A DOZEN HOLIDAY THEATER SHOWS
Before Santa comes, our regional theaters make sure there's plenty of holiday cheer
By Lianna Matt
While many holiday traditions revolve around food and get-togethers, they also involve listening to stories with family. Some have magic in them, like “The Nutcracker,” some are laugh-out-loud relatable like “The Christmas Story,” and others just seem to catch the whimsy and joy of the season, like “The Sound of Music.” The holiday shows our regional theaters have chosen to put on have a little bit of everything, so make sure to mark your calendars and treat yourself to some new holiday stories this year. (For some of the shows on the Twin Cities’ biggest stages, check out our earlier holiday theater roundup.)
The Looney Lutherans in Hold the Lutefisk! (Nov. 1-Dec. 23). Getting your house ready for hosting may seem like a daunting task, but the three Looney Lutherans are here to help at Plymouth Playhouse’s Hold the Lutefisk! These three gals are the larger-than-life home improvement and hospitality personalities that will get you through the season with tips like the 12 Days of Housework—which doubles as a fantastic exercise regime—the best ways to bribe Santa and more.
Sister Act (Nov. 3-Feb. 24). You may have seen the Whoopi Goldberg movie “Sister Act,” but you’ve never seen the story like this. Up-and-coming singer (at least in her opinion) Deloris Van Cartier is forced into the witness protection program at a convent of all places, and while her irreverence and mischief don’t jive well with the nuns’ strict rules, her music abilities do. Chanhassen Dinner Theatres has brought back “Sister Act” again due to popular demand, so sit back, enjoy your meal and tap your toes to songs composed by Alan Menken, whose credits include a dozen Disney movies such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “Hercules,” as well as musicals like “Little Shop of Horrors.”
The Polarizing Express (Nov. 10-Jan. 27). The holidays are full of a comedy of errors and laughable (and not so laughable) conversations with family members who just don’t see things your way: in essence, perfect fodder for Brave New Workshop’s show, “The Polarizing Express.” Brave New Workshop is the oldest continuously running sketch theater in America, so you know they’ll hit the nail on the head when it comes to holiday hilarity.
Coney Island Christmas (Nov. 17-Dec. 17). Some childhood stories you have to pass on, and at Lyric Arts Main Street Stage, Shirley is telling hers to her great-granddaughter in “Coney Island Christmas.” Putlizer Prize-winner Donald Marguiles’s story about how young Shirley was cast as Jesus in her school’s Christmas pageant—despite being Jewish—is heartfelt and nostalgic, perfect for the holiday season.
Miss Bennet (Nov. 18-Dec. 30). If you loved the wit and charm of “Pride and Prejudice,” fall in love with “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” at Jungle Theater. This time it’s Mary’s turn to be in the spotlight. When we first met her in “Pride and Prejudice,” she was quiet and intelligent with a love of books and a dislike for dances. Now, a few years later, she’s met a man she could love. Just one problem: He’s a de Bourgh (as in Lady Catherine de Bourgh) and quite out of her league, as they say these days. Check out our review on it here.
A Very Asian Xmas … Carol (Nov. 25). It's “A Christmas Carol” as told by musical theater company Mu Performing Arts and led by the infamous Jasmine, artistic director Randy Reyes' drag alter-ego. For this special performance of “A Very Asian Xmas … Carol,” things are getting a little festive, so don your favorite holiday clothes and enjoy the appetizers and dessert included with the ticket. As the website says, “You won't find your Grandpa's Dickens here.”
Coco’s Diary: A Christmas Gift to Remember (Nov. 25-Dec. 23). It’s 1927, and Clotilde “Coco” Irvine has a diary to write in. It was originally a Christmas present, but now it’s the account of her crazy year full of boys, troubles at school and adventures at home. Based on the true diary of Irvine, who lived on Summit Avenue in St. Paul, “Coco’s Diary” brings back some of the musical hits of the 1920s as it retakes the Minnesota History Theatre stage.
A Christmas Carole Petersen (Nov. 29-Dec. 30). There’s something about the holidays that drive people nuts. Let’s be honest: It’s usually family. With Theatre Latté Da, Tod Petersen is telling the story of Christmases in Mankato, Minnesota, and how his mother Carole did (or didn’t) keep everything from becoming a helter skelter mess. While “A Christmas Carole Peterson” is filled with more than a dozen holiday classics, Theatre Latté Da warns its audiences the show might not be for everyone: “Our disclaimer is that if your children believe in Santa Claus when they arrive at the show, they may not when they leave.”
Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings (Nov. 30-Dec. 17). The singing quartet Forever Plaid was on their way to the big time in the 1950s, but a school bus may have derailed them a little bit—to the afterlife. Now they’re getting a second chance for one more concert, and you can bet it’s going to be a big one. Lyric Arts isn’t going old school with “Plaid Tidings”; it’s going classic with four-part harmonies, a cornucopia of holiday songs, and a feel-good story about coming together and following your dreams.
Black Nativity (Nov. 30-Dec. 24). At this point, Penumbra Theatre’s acclaimed “Black Nativity” is multi-generational. Like many holiday spectaculars, this is a vibrant mix of theater, dance and music with choreographer Uri Sands of TU Dance, the Kingdom Life Church Choir and more lending their talents to proclaim the reason for the season.
Dot (Dec. 8-Jan. 7). Growing old can be difficult; watching your parents grow old is a whole different beast. It’s time for the Shealys to get back together at their childhood home for the holidays, but this year, their mother Dot can’t remember things like she used to. “Dot” may not be for the youngest members of the family, but as you sit in Park Square Theatre, you’ll find yourself, laughing, tearing up and being reminded of just how strong family can be.
Hershel & the Hanukkah Goblins (Dec. 9-17). With Chris Griffith’s award-winning puppet design for the more whimsical cast members, “Hershel & the Hanukkah Goblins” returns to the Minnesota Jewish Theatre. When Hershel arrives at the Helmsbergville village, he doesn’t understand why there is no Hanukkah. No one is cooking latkes; no menorahs light up the window. When he finds out it’s all because of some nefarious goblins, Hershel decides enough is enough and spends eight nights in the old synagogue to face the goblins and bring Hanukkah back.
AND FOR ONE MORE SHOW ...
Danger Committee: The Wreath of Khan (Nov. 24-Jan. 6). So this isn’t technically a play or a musical, but it’s pretty spectacular anyway. The nationally known Danger Committee is back with their Stocking Full of Awesome holiday show, and it’s filled with comedy showmanship, knife throwing, juggling and stupid stunts (although they look pretty cool when Reynaldo, Bald Guy and Other One do them). This might be your only chance to see a Teddy Bear clinging to a Tomahawk, so really, what do you have to lose by going?