Looking for holiday shows? Here are a few traditional offerings and some offbeat choices.
If you don’t have the time or endurance for an entire “Nutcracker,” St. Paul City Ballet offers “Clara’s Dream.” Excerpts from the second act will thrill the tiny dancer in everyone for a very Christmas-conscious price. (Dec. 14, Chanhassen High School, $20, and Dec. 15, Macalester College, $15-$20. 651-690-1588, spcballet.org)
You can’t get more dramatically classic than Handel’s Messiah performed at the Basilica of St. Mary. Tickets for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s two concerts Dec. 20-21 with Dale Warland and the SPCO Chorale (Jonathan Cohen conducting) are close to 90 percent sold, but the orchestra also will perform Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos Dec. 12-15. ($12-$42, www.thespco.org)
Classical couch potatoes, you’re in luck: The Minnesota Opera’s 2011 world premiere of “Silent Night,” an operatic version of the true story of the World War I Christmas Eve cease-fire that garnered a Pulitzer Prize for composer Kevin Puts, will be broadcast on PBS on Dec. 13. KRISTIN TILLOTSON
Brave New Workshop can be counted on to bend a holiday halo or two. This year’s show, “I Saw Daddy Marry Santa Claus,” folds in current events like gay marriage and the National Security Agency. ($26-$36, bravenewworkshop.com, 612-332-6620)
The one-night-only interactive variety show “Mary Mack’s Holiday Meat Raffle Show With Doggie Sweater Competition” is back for a fourth year at a new venue, Cedar Cultural Center (Dec. 19, $10, TheCedar.org). Expect the loosey-goosiest of atmospheres presided over by funny-bunny Mack, including music, comedy and yes, a contest for sweater-wearing dogs. (Register your pooch at marymackcomedy.com.)
Whether or not you’re a diehard David Sedaris fan, the stage version of his account of working at Macy’s as Crumpet, the world-weary, chain-smoking elf, is the perfect antidote to commercial excess. Frank Theatre’s production of “The Santaland Diaries,” starring Joe Leary, runs Dec. 13-23 at Cowles Center. ($29, thecowlescenter.org)
Pagans needn’t feel left out this season. In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre presents “Between the Worlds,” a tribute to the winter solstice featuring music, puppets and dance, followed by warm beverages and cookies (six performances Dec. 13-22, $20, hobt.org). KRISTIN TILLOTSON
AROUND THE TREE: HOLIDAY TRADITIONS IN THE SOVIET ERA
Through Feb. 2: As an officially atheist country, the Soviet Union banned Christmas celebrations even though they had flourished in Russia before the revolution of 1917. Christmas trees were attacked as a “savage custom,” and “religious dope.” Then the Soviet birth rate began to fall, so, in the mid-1930s, Soviet boss Joseph Stalin decreed a traditional focus on the family, complete with prettily ornamented New Year’s trees for the pleasure of children. The exhibit features more than 20 paintings, antique ornaments, red-star tree-toppers, holiday masks, figurines of Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden and other artifacts of the time on loan from private collections. (10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat., 1-5 p.m. Sun. Ends Feb. 2, $5-$9. Museum of Russian Art, 5500 Stevens Av. S., Mpls. 612-821-9045 or www.tmora.org) MARY ABBE
THE NEW STANDARDS HOLIDAY SHOW
Dec. 7-8: Still don’t believe that this is the best locally generated holiday music revue in town? Proof is in the bookings. The jazz-pop reinventionist trio — featuring rock vets Chan Poling of the Suburbs and John Munson of Semisonic/Trip Shakespeare, plus vibraphone ace Steve Roehm — has grown from a one-night stand at the Fitzgerald in 2006 to two nights in a twice-bigger theater, plus dates around the state. The performances have expanded, too, with extra symphonic and choral accompaniment and an ever-growing list of naughty and nice guest singers. They won’t be unwrapped until show time, but we know they’ll spark plenty of good cheer. (Dec. 6-7, State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., $35-$100, 1-800-982-2787 or TheNewStandards.com. Also: Nov. 29-30 at Papa Charlie’s in Lutsen; Dec. 11 at Rochester Civic Auditorium, and Dec. 14 at St. Cloud’s Paramount Theatre.) CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER
‘LOYCE HOULTON’S NUTCRACKER FANTASY’
Poll: Which top Oscar-nominated film is next on your must-see list?