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Continued: Holiday entertainment preview: Chestnuts, and just plain nuts

  • Article by: STAR TRIBUNE STAFF
  • Last update: November 15, 2013 - 11:15 AM

Dec. 20-23: Minnesota Dance Theatre is just one year shy of celebrating the 50th anniversary of its signature holiday event. MDT has presented the family favorite at the Cowles Center for the past two seasons, but now the troupe will travel back down Hennepin Avenue to the State Theatre, a familiar stage for the “Nutcracker Fantasy.” More spacious digs means that a full 44-piece orchestra, led by Philip Brunelle, will perform Tchaikovsky’s composition, accompanying the cast of MDT professionals and students, all of whom seem to get an extra big kick out of this production (especially the littlest ones who scamper about as the wee pot-bellied mice). Superfans can join in a “Nutcracker Tea Party” (4:30 p.m. Dec. 22, $100-$125) that includes treats, a backstage tour, a photo with cast members and premium seating for that evening’s show. (7:30 p.m. Dec. 20, 2 & 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Dec. 22, noon Dec. 23. $35-$75. State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. 800-987-2787. CAROLINE PALMER



Dec. 12-22: Penumbra Theatre’s “Black Nativity,” a hallmark of the holidays in the Twin Cities, was suspended last year because of the company’s financial difficulties. Even before that, Penumbra, like many theaters with holiday traditions, had tinkered with the show in order to refresh it. This year, the theater brings back a concert production, backed by the mass choir of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and featuring solo performances by Dennis Spears, Greta Oglesby and Yolande Bruce. Maestro Sanford Moore conducts while Penumbra founder Lou Bellamy narrates Langston Hughes’ script. (7:30 p.m. Dec. 12-13 & 18-20; 2 & 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14-15 & 21-22. Penumbra Theatre, 270 N. Kent St., St. Paul. $30 or $66 for dinner package. 651-224-3180 or ROHAN PRESTON



Nov. 29-Dec. 15: Set to a modern yet nostalgic soundtrack, this high-energy circus show sets a cheery tone with aerial performers, jugglers, dancers and even rapping carolers. Contortionists, acrobats and gymnasts take guests on a whimsical trip into the imagination of an elf named Elfie who crash-lands inside the Mystic Showroom. After fluttering about, the Elf engages the audience in a holly, jolly adventure. (Mystic Lake, $28-$36. MELISSA WALKER



Dec. 7-15: VocalEssence’s annual show celebrates the season with a Latin flair this year. The centerpiece is a Christmas cantata, “La Fiesta de la Posada,” by legendary jazz musician Dave Brubeck. He fell in love with Mexican folk music as a child, and here blends Latin rhythms with American jazz to celebrate Las Posadas, the Latin festival recounting the journey of Mary and Joseph to the stable. Pianist Dan Chouinard and local band Mariachi Mi Tierra join Philip Brunelle and the VocalEssence Chorus and Ensemble Singers. Beloved carols, in arrangements by renowned American composers, round out the program. (7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, Trinity Lutheran Church, 115 N. 4th St., Stillwater; 4 p.m. Dec. 8, Plymouth Congregational Church, 1919 LaSalle Av., Mpls.; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, 12650 Johnny Cake Ridge Road, Apple Valley; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14, Colonial Church of Edina, 6200 Colonial Way, Edina; 4 p.m. Dec. 15, Plymouth Congregational Church, 1919 LaSalle Av., Mpls.; $20-$40, WILLIAM RANDALL BEARD



Nov. 23-Dec. 22: Ruthie Baker, left, Stacey Lindell and Jen Burleigh-Bentz return to the History Theatre stage for this holiday version of the popular Andrews Sisters story. The show is based on Christmas USO performances the Minnesota sisters did during World War II, when they were the hottest act in the world. The three women are joined by Mark Rosenwinkel, who plays a couple of characters including comedian Lou Costello. It’s pretty irresistible stuff for Andrews fans, with lots of numbers from their songbook. And these three singers are right on the money. Raymond Berg returns as the band leader — a good sign — and Ron Peluso directs. Michael Hoover has fashioned a new set design we’re eager to see. (8 p.m. Thu.-Fri., 2 & 8 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun., plus 10 a.m. Nov. 26, Dec. 5, 12 & 19. History Theatre, 30 E. 10th St., St. Paul; $15-$40, 651-292-4323 or GRAYDON ROYCE



Dec. 4-5: The lead singer of the Ronettes was featured on one of the greatest holiday albums of all time — 1963’s “A Christmas Gift to You From Phil Spector” — so 25 years ago she decided to stage her own musical Yule party in her hometown of New York. For the past several years, the self-proclaimed bad girl of rock has taken her show on tour to sing her classic renditions of “Sleigh Ride,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” which still rank among the most-played holiday recordings every year. Her performance will also include some of the hits (“Be My Baby,” “Walking in the Rain”) that landed the Ronettes in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (7 p.m. Dec. 4-5, Dakota Jazz Club, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., $45-$65. 612-332-1010.) JON BREAM

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