Tinsel time: A few must-see events of holiday entertainment season

Now that we've crested Halloween, the feel-good fun begins.

Alan Sparhawk, front man of Black-eyed Snakes. Clint Austin / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune
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Now that Big Box has scraped its aisles clean of candy corn residue in favor of turkey-brown hues and pine tree scents, it is officially time to start thinking about The Holiday Entertainment Season.

Here are a few upcoming seasonal events to get you merry and bright.

'A delicious roasting'

In the contemporary show "The Thanksgiving Play" by Larissa FastHorse, an elementary school teacher and a small team of people who are not Native American, try to make a culturally sensitive holiday production. As described in a New York Times review of an off-Broadway show from 2018: "the familiar, whitewashed story of pilgrims and Native Americans chowing down together gets a delicious roasting from expert farceurs." Artists involved include Justin Peck, Robert Lee, Evan Kelly and Cheryl Skafte.

"The Thanksgiving Play" opens at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at The Underground, 506 W. Michigan St., Duluth.

Slow strolls


Santa Claus. Clint Austin / 2015 file / Duluth News Tribune

The Christmas City of the North Parade, traditionally the line in the snow that separates Duluth's non-holiday season from full-on holiday season, returns with its slow stroll. The KBJR-TV event, with its collection of marching bands and dancers, quirky floats, relatively little candy and a Santa cameo, is Nov. 19.

Slow, well-lit strolls

After hosting a drive-thru event last year, Bentleyville Tour of Lights will again be an in-person event. Pros: You can linger longer at the vistas. Con: You'll miss that moment where Santa literally walks up to your car window.

At more than a month long, the showcase features light displays that pay homage to Duluth landmarks and well-known characters. There are also bonfires, snacks and more. Bentleyville opens at 5 p.m. Nov. 20 at Bayfront Festival Park, Duluth.

The snow will come out ... tomorrow

Cadence Graber will trade off with Sofia Salmela as the title character of "Annie." Contributed / Duluth Playhouse

The Duluth Playhouse's family-friendly pick for the season is the story of an optimistic young orphan, the flammable Miss Hannigan and maybe a new life with Daddy Warbucks. The Tony Award-winning musical includes songs like "Hard Knock Life," "Tomorrow" and more.

"Annie" opens at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 and plays until mid-December at the NorShor Theatre, Duluth.


Steam rolled

The heavy-touring Mannheim Steamroller (they've been doing this for 35 years), known for its sort of new-agey, epic ballad-style repertoire, returns with its "Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis."

The concert is at 7 p.m. Nov. 22 at Symphony Hall, Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

You've heard of Black Friday ...

But what about Black-eyed Snakes Friday? This annual post-Thanksgiving show has a few things in common with the consumer holiday: a crush of bodies; distorted vocals; sights you won't want to un-see; a truly in-the-moment vibe. You probably won't mistake Brad Nelson's drums for the sound of your own heartbeat at the mall, though, which is a point in the favor of the 8 p.m. Nov. 26 show at Cedar Lounge in Superior.

Old-timey holiday tunes

Davina and the Vagabonds. Contributed photo

Davina and the Vagabonds, known for an old-timey jazz-blues sound that brings to mind sharp shoes and sexy lamps, is offering a seasonal show, "A Vagabond Holiday," featuring songs by Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Otis Redding, Billie Holiday and more.

The Twin Cities band plays at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at West Theatre, 319 N. Central Ave., Duluth.

Bad Bad (Santa) Hats


Bad Bad Hats. Contributed / Zoe-Prinds Flash

This isn't specifically seasonal, but the traditional headwear or holiday creatures like Santa and his elves could technically be considered Bad Bad Hats.

Bad Bad Hats, with their seemingly easy-breezy 1990s vibe, return to Duluth in early December, so.

The Minneapolis pop trio of Kerry Alexander, Chris Hoge and Con Davidson's album "Walkman" came out in mid-September. Bad Bad Hats plays at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at Sacred Heart Music Center, 201 W. Fourth St.

More handbell

The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra's last performance of the 2021 season is its "Holiday Spectacular," which includes holiday tunes alongside the local, internationally touring handbell ensemble Strikepoint. There will be a sing-along.

The DSSO's concert is at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at Symphony Hall, Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

Clara meets lumberjack

The Minnesota Ballet, which took its seasonal show to TV last year in a defense against the spread of COVID-19, returns with "Nutcracker Suite: A Duluth Tale." This version, choreographed by Karl von Rabenau, features Minnesota-specific notes, like a lumberjack.

The ballet opens Dec. 10 at Symphony Hall.

Hello, 2022

The third annual "New Year's By The Lake" is seemingly this year's large-scale New Year's Eve event in Duluth. It starts with a five-course meal at Greysolon Ballroom with a Maxi Childes Trio soundtrack.

Comedian Jack Willhite will perform at the NorShor and there will also be music by Big Wave Dave and the Ripples, Laura Velvet and DJ Cory Bonneville. There will be balloon drops, a toast and party favors at midnight. The event is Dec. 31.

Christa Lawler is a features reporter for the News Tribune. Reach her at .

I am a 20-plus year employee of the Duluth News Tribune, first as a sports reporter, briefly as a copy editor and now as a features reporter with an emphasis on arts, entertainment and oddities. I enjoy trail running, paddle boarding, reading, yoga, cooking and things that are hilarious. I live in, and celebrate, West Duluth with my elementary school aged daughter, my longtime partner, and two pandemic pets. I can be reached at (218) 279-5536 or
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