A very spirited Sally Wingert
Sally Wingert gives a boldly original performance as Madame Arcati, the eccentric seance leader in Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit.” Wingert is lascivious, irritable, vigorous and serious about the occult. The fun is everywhere in the Guthrie’s staging of this perfectly crafted 1941 comedy.CHRIS HEWITT
Tue.-Sun., ends Jan. 14, Guthrie Theater, Mpls., $29-$77, guthrietheater.org
For 28 years, Darlene Love sang “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on David Letterman’s final show before the big holiday. For the second consecutive year, she will sing her yule classic live in St. Paul. At 76, Love, a backup singer extraordinaire since the 1960s who landed in the Rock Hall of Fame, is a true belter, interpreting her signatures (“He’s a Rebel”) and probably some tunes from her Steve Van Zandt-produced 2015 comeback album, “Introducing Darlene Love.”
7:30 p.m. Fri. Ordway, St. Paul, $47-$111.50, ordway.org
Originally created for Ballet of the Dolls in the 1990s, choreographer Myron Johnson’s irreverent “Nutcracker (not so) Suite” found new life with James Sewell Ballet in 2015. Twin Cities actor Bradley Greenwald joins this year’s cast. Playing the hilariously terrible Mama Flo, he brings his talents as a singer and comedic actor — not to mention his affinity for drag, key to Johnson’s original saucy vision. A naughtier version is performed on select nights.
Fri.-Dec. 30, Cowles Center, Mpls., $30-$50, thecowlescenter.org
What distinguishes this year’s string of performances of Handel’s “Messiah” by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra? One is the presence of baroque specialist Jonathan Cohen on the podium. The other is the SPCO debut of Matthew Culloton’s Twin Cities choir, the Singers. Together, they have the potential to make this particular “Messiah” one to remember.
7:30 p.m. Thu. and 8 p.m. Fri.; Basilica of Saint Mary, Mpls.; 8 p.m. Sat. and 2 p.m. Sun., Ordway, St. Paul; $5-$50, thespco.org
After helping to spark the late ’80s alt-country wave and influencing a generation of rootsy rockers, Atlanta’s Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ sputtered out in the ’90s while grunge took over and frontman Kevn Kinney issued solo albums. Last year’s induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame ignited a rabid response from fans around the country and led to a new outtakes collection, “Archives, Vol. 1: ’88-’91.” Rich Mattson & the Northstars open.
8 p.m. Thu., Turf Club, St. Paul, $16, eTix.com.
Minnesota Dance Theatre has dished up more than 50 annual servings of its decadent “Nutcracker Fantasy,” first conceived by company founder Loyce Houlton in the 1960s. No canned music here. The production boasts a full orchestra conducted by VocalEssence artistic director Philip Brunelle, plus a huge cast of professional dancers and students. That makes this one of the fullest “Nutcracker” experiences in the Twin Cities.
Fri.-Dec. 23, State Theatre, Mpls., $30-$75, hennepintheatretrust.org
For sheer vocal quality and warmth of presentation, the annual Christmas show by the eight-man Twin Cities vocal ensemble Cantus is hard to beat. A highlight in this year’s program? A brand-new setting of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” by Cantus bass Chris Foss.
7:30 p.m. Tue., St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, Wayzata; 11 a.m. Thu., MacPhail Center for Music, Mpls.; 7:30 p.m. Fri., Trinity Lutheran Church, Stillwater; 7:30 p.m. Sat., Fridley District Auditorium, Fridley; more concerts through Dec. 22; $10-$40, cantussings.org
In Julie Buffalohead’s fifth exhibition at Bockley Gallery, she continues her anecdotal, narrative-driven drawings on Lokta paper. Employing a variety of animals as characters in her narratives, she leaves the story somewhat open-ended, enough so that you’ll find yourself looking and wondering for some time while standing in front of the works.
Noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat. Ends Dec 23. Bockley Gallery, Mpls., free, Bockleygallery.com
The James J. Hill House is decked out in its Christmas finery and ready to give history buffs a glimpse of holidays past. The tour shares stories of the people who lived and worked in the Summit Avenue mansion. Hear excerpts from Hill family letters and journals and view historic photographs.
10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun., Wed.-Fri., next Sun. $8-$12. James J. Hill House, St. Paul, mnhs.org/hillhouse.