Best Bets: 'Nutcracker,' 'Santaland' and 'Celtic Christmas'
Clara's winter vacation
It's Christmas Eve, and Clara gets a gift that keeps on giving: a small wooden nutcracker doll with a secret princely identity. In the middle of the night, she finds herself pairing with the toy in a battle against the Mouse King — then setting off on an adventure that includes the Ice and Dew Drop Fairies, gingerbread cookies and a globe full of dances.
The Minnesota Ballet's annual production of "The Nutcracker," choreographed by Allen Fields, features company members and students, in addition to the Minnesota Ballet Orchestra and the Lake Superior Youth Chorus.
Minnesota Ballet's "The Nutcracker" is Dec. 7-8 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. at Symphony Hall. Tickets: Start at $22 at the Minnesota Ballet or Ticketmaster outlets including the DECC box office.
Among the great seasonal tales: The one about a performer cast as a velvet-clad elf at Macy's department store. "The Santaland Diaries," based on an essay by humorist David Sedaris, is Crumpet's story of the bad behavior witnessed in the line to see Santa. Also: The "I'm going to have you fired" threats and Snowball and the elf from Queens who is so cute you want to put him in your pocket. Luke Moravec slips back into his pointy shoes to star in the one-elf show.
"The Santaland Diaries" is Dec. 6-7 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 8 at 10:30 p.m. at The Underground, 506 W. Michigan St. Tickets: $20.
Two writers writing
Poets Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop exchanged hundreds of letters in a 30-year span — a collection that interested playwright Sarah Ruhl so much, she made a play about it.
"Dear Elizabeth," starring Julie Ahasay and Jason Scorich, covers their individual works, their individual relationships, their day-to-day.
Renegade Theater Company's production of "Dear Elizabeth" is Dec. 7-8, 13-15 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. at Teatro Zuccone. Tickets: $20 adults, $16 seniors and students at www.zeitgeistarts.com.
Carols with an Irish touch
Katie McMahon of "Riverdance" fame returns for her annual "Celtic Christmas," a performance that includes Norwegian carols and a celebration of the winter solstice. Also on stage: Escalate Irish Dancers.
McMahon, Dublin-raised and now Minneapolis-based, was part of the original "Riverdance" troupe.
Katie McMahon's "Celtic Christmas" is Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Mitchell Auditorium, College of St. Scholastica. Tickets: $20 adults, $15 seniors and students, $10 children at www.spotlight.css.edu.
Velvet for Christmas
Laura Velvet and the Bookhouse Boys will play a Christmas concert at Sacred Heart that will include a little rock, a little soul and some holiday faves. There might be a Santa sighting.
The band, billed as sounding like martinis and mystery, is fronted by Lisa Holman's torch-singing alter ego. Other band members include Maija Elizabeth Tatro, Cally Nielsen, Dicky Brooks, Andrew Perfetti, John Heino, Luke Perry and Tal Lindblad.
Mark Anderson Trio opens.
A Laura Velvet Christmas is Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., Sacred Heart Music Center, 201 W. Fourth St. Tickets: $15 in advance at Electric Fetus, Globe News and www.Eventbrite.com; $20 at the door.
Take It caroling
The cast of "Take it With You," a Duluth-centric podcast starring Duluth-y characters, is performing a Christmas carol singalong — a fundraiser for the monthly radio-theater style podcast. Expect: beer, singing, joy.
"A Grand Wassail" is Dec. 10 from 7-9:30 p.m. at Bent Paddle Brewing Co., 1832 W. Michigan St. Tickets: $10.