The A&E holiday season starts with a trio of well-dressed jazz musicians and ends with acrobats balanced atop a pyramid of chairs.
The New Standards play a holiday concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at the College of St. Scholastica. The Peking Acrobats help the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra with a New Year’s Eve performance in Amsoil Arena. In between is a mix of holiday-themed sketch comedy, the Minnesota Ballet’s annual performance of “The Nutcracker,” a community sing-along of Handel’s “Messiah,” a new winter arts festival at the Depot and more.
Here are your A&E holiday picks:
Music The New Standards have been selling out holiday shows at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul for years. Now catch them at 8 p.m. Saturday at the College of St. Scholastica. This is a show by the band of former rock ’n’ rollers now decked out in suits and ties and playing the sort of instruments that are too fancy to smash on stage.
Tickets start at $31 and are available at spotlight.css.edu. Katie McMahon, the original lead vocalist for “Riverdance,” performs carols and dance from Ireland, Sweden, Germany and America during her annual “Celtic Christmas” concert.
The show is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at Mitchell Auditorium at the College of St. Scholastica. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for children. Sacred Heart Music Center is going holiday-centric through December with an eclectic mix of holiday-themed concerts: Redpath is the harmonizing sister duo of Lauren and Torie Redpath, now with additional acoustic guitar and fiddle. Joe Beier opens the show at 7 p.m. Dec. 2. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. The University of Minnesota Duluth’s music department has a full schedule of seasonal concerts under the umbrella of “Sounds of the Season.” The Chamber and Symphony Orchestra perform at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, the Choral Ensemble at 1 p.m. and the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Concert Band at 4 p.m. on Dec. 4, the Woodwind Chamber Recital at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 5, the Winter Big Band Concert at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 7 and Vocal Jazz at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 10. These Irish singers have been called “A Fab Five peddling Celtic styling” by the New York Times. Celtic Thunder Christmas includes holiday standards such as “It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas,” “Let it Snow,” “Winter Wonderland and “Silent Night” in addition to original tunes by Celtic Thunder.
This group has released six albums and five live-performance DVDs. They use dramatic lighting, special effects and choreography.
Celtic Thunder Christmas is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at Symphony Hall at the DECC. Tickets start at $45 at Ticketmaster outlets. SimpleGifts with Billy McLaughlin is a six-piece ensemble that brings a modern twist to traditional Christmas carols and hymns. The band includes violin, Celtic whistle, piano, acoustic guitar and percussion with three-part female vocals. This concert is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15 at Sacred Heart Music Center. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Twin Cities-based chamber vocalists from The Rose Ensemble perform “Slavic Wonders” at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18. The show focuses on ancient pieces related to feasts and saints from Russia, Poland, Bohemia and the Ukraine. The concert spans eight centuries.
Tickets are $25 at the door. St. Scholastica has been hosting a sing-along of Handel’s “Messiah” for the past 31 years — 26 under the direction of Shelley Gruskin. The free event fills Mitchell Auditorium with a chorus of voices. Scores are available for purchase. Accompaniment is provided by the St. Scholastica Center for Early Music Orchestra.
This year’s event is at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 20 in Mitchell Auditorium. The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra boasts the final event of the holiday season: The annual New Year’s Eve concert, the Peking Acrobats with the DSSO.
This event includes hoop-leaping, chair balancing, wire walking and more.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 31 at Amsoil Arena. Tickets start at $27 and are available at Ticketmaster outlets.
Theater The Duluth Playhouse’s production of “The Sound of Music” might not have sleighs or mistletoe, but it does have snow and a family friendliness that makes it a good holiday pick — enough so that the film version starring Julie Andrews tends to air during the holiday season.
“The Sound of Music” opens Dec. 1 and plays at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday through Dec. 18, 2 p.m. on Sundays and 2 p.m. Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 at the Duluth Playhouse. Tickets are $25 adults, $23 seniors, $15 for youth and students. County Seat Theater presents “The Christmas Miser,” the story of a crotchety old actor portraying Scrooge in a production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” The actor — deceptively lovable on stage — is visited by a series of his own personal ghosts.
Show includes a holiday concert by Bill & Kate Isles.
“The Christmas Miser” is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2-3, Dec. 7-10, 2 p.m. Dec. 4 and Dec. 11 at Encore Performing Arts Center in Cloquet. Tickets are $15 adults, $13 students and seniors at (218) 878-0071. Rubber Chicken Theater returns with its fourth annual holiday comedy revue, “The Running (Unopposed) Man, or Another Fine Ness You’ve Gotten Us Into” (last year’s title was “Rubber Chicken’s Christmas Tea Party, or, Is That a Chip in Your Cravaack or Are You Just Happy to See Me”). This year’s show takes candy cane-flavored jabs at local current events: bears, elections and opera companies. They play off the holiday theme with an Occupy Bentleyville skit and some thoughts on synthetic candy canes.
“Running (Unopposed) Man” is at 7 p.m. Dec. 2-3, Dec. 9-10, Dec. 16-17 and Dec. 30-31 at the Venue at Mohaupt Block. Tickets are $15. Call (218) 213-2780. Renegade Theater Company’s comedy troupe Dink Tank has been on ice for the past two years, but is back with what was once an annual holiday show. “Dink Tank: Return of the Dinks” features sketch comedy, some of it holiday themed, and at least a skit or two fast-tracking the troupe to a spot on the naughty list — if their reputation stands true.
“Dink Tank: Return of the Dinks” is at 8 p.m. Dec. 9-10 and Dec. 16-17 at Teatro Zuccone. Tickets are $10. Call (218) 336-1414.
Dance The Minnesota Ballet returns to the early 1900s for an Edwardian version of its annual production of “The Nutcracker.” Think Sugarplum Fairy, snow falling in Central Park, music by Tchaikovsky and darling young dancers. This version, with choreography by Allen Fields, has been called “a dazzling new take.”
“The Nutcracker” is at 7 p.m. Dec. 9-10 and 3 p.m. Dec. 11 at Symphony Hall at the DECC. Tickets start at $13. Go to minnesotaballet.org.
Lights, misc. The College of St. Scholastica’s 15th annual Lighting a Tradition ceremony is at 5:15 p.m. Dec. 6 and includes the lighting of the college Christmas trees. “A Country Christmas on the North Shore” is a tour of four Knife River homes decorated for the holiday season and an artisan craft show.
The tour is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 10, starting at the Knife River Recreation Center Hall. Transportation is provided between homes. Tickets are $14 and include refreshments. Proceeds go to the Knife River Recreation Council. The Depot Winter Arts Festival is a chance to tour the museums for free, meet Santa Claus and check out live performances from local arts organizations and artists including Arrowhead Chorale, Cheryl Skafte’s dramatic reading of “The Polar Express,” Lyric Opera of the North and On-Call Cabaret, a new Playhouse cabaret group. The festival is free, but visitors are invited to bring a pair of new mittens that will first decorate the mitten tree, then be donated to a local shelter.
The festival is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Depot Great Hall. The biggest light show in town is Bentleyville Tour of Lights, which opened last weekend. It runs 5-9 p.m. daily and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
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