Like certain moms, arts organizations plan early for the holidays. We’ve been hearing about holiday plays, concerts and shows since August. Thinking about Santas and snow in August is like lining up now for Black Friday at Best Buy. But it’s time to start making choices. Wait too long and you might miss out on tickets to something you really want to see. Today, tomorrow (and probably Friday, too), we’ll point you toward events we believe are worthy of your dollars and your time.
“A Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie. Because it’s the big one. Because, after 40 years, more than 800 actors, and over 2 million people in the audience, the Guthrie has it down. Because J.C. Cutler is back as Scrooge. Because Joe Chvala (Flying Foot Forum) returns as director. Because it’s a good and timeless story and the Guthrie tells it exceedingly well. Opens Wednesday, Nov. 19. FMI and tickets ($34–$86, less for children). Through Dec. 28.
Winterlights at the Purcell-Cutts House. The Prairie school-style house near Lake of the Isles will be decorated for the holidays to reflect the “progressive” lifestyle of the Purcells around 1915. Costumed docents will lead 45-minute tours. New this year: The 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. tours on Sundays will feature improvisational performers from DangerBoat Productions (The Theater of Public Policy people) playing period characters, including a nosy neighbor. Weekends from Nov. 29 to Jan. 4. Hourly Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Sundays from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. FMI and reservations ($5, $4 students, free for MIA members and under 12). You’ll take a shuttle from the MIA and back again.
Christmas Candlelight Service at Macalester’s Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel. Because candlelight services are magical, never more than at Christmas, when they’re the antidote to canned music and commercials. With the Macalester College Concert Choir. 1600 Grand Ave., St. Paul. Thursday, Dec. 4. 8 p.m. Free.
“Play with My Poodle for Christmas”: Miss Richfield 1981’s 15th Annual Holiday Show at the Illusion. A beauty pageant title holder must be single. But that was 1981, and Miss Richfield’s clock is ticking, and she’s on the prowl for Mr. Right. That’s all you need to know about this new production, which features twisted sing-alongs, audience interaction, surprises, videos, and Russ King as the one and only Miss R. Dec. 5-21. FMI and tickets ($31–$41). Opening night (Dec. 5) is sold out.
The Bad Plus at the Dakota. Will the jazz-plus trio play their own versions of holiday songs? Not a chance. Yet the Bad Plus has become a holiday tradition for many. This will be the 15th straight year that Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson and Dave King have moved into the Dakota for several nights of musical exploration, occasional mayhem and brainy, engaging tunes. They’ll feature their latest release, “Inevitable Western,” and whatever else they choose to pluck from their now vast catalog of possibilities. Four nights, eight shows. Dec. 25-28. FMI and tickets ($40).
Sing-A-Long Sound of Music at the Riverview. Overlooking the grammatical error (it’s Sing-Along, not Sing-A-Long!), this will be a fun night. The show starts with a vocal warm-up, during which the host takes you through a complimentary selection of props you’ll use during the film, which screens with subtitles. Come as a nun, a lonely goatherd, or something over-the-top for the fancy-dress competition (Ray a Drop of Golden Sun wore a gold Lycra cat suit; a group of twenty, covered in fake turf, were the Alps). Dec. 26 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 27 at 3 p.m., Dec. 28 at 3 p.m. Additional times may be announced later. FMI and tickets ($12 adults, $7.50 for under 11 and over 62).
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has named its newest artistic partner, the internationally celebrated Swedish clarinetist Martin Fröst. (The umlaut over the o translates to a short u, as in composer Kevin Putz.) Just 43, Fröst has a résumé as long as your arm that includes prestigious prizes, artist-in-residence positions, artistic directorships, extensive touring, a broad repertoire, an impressive discography, and a long-term exclusive recording collaboration with Sony Classical, announced last week.
In October, he played a series of concerts with the SPCO that orchestra president Bruce Coppock called “perhaps the most kinetic, awe-inspiring performances SPCO audiences have ever experienced.” The SPCO is the first major international orchestra outside of Scandinavia to engage Fröst as an artistic leader.
The artistic partnership takes effect immediately and extends through the 2018–19 season. Fröst will appear with the SPCO in a three-concert Cal Performances residency at the University of California, Berkeley, in March 2015. The SPCO will play a major role in Fröst’s large-scale, multiyear “Genesis Project,” which explores the development of classical music. Recording, commissioning new works, and touring (including a major Far East tour) will all be part of the relationship between Fröst and the SPCO.
Fröst joins the SPCO’s two most recent artistic partners, violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaya (announced in January) and pianist Jeremy Denk (March). With conductor Roberto Abbado, pianist Christian Zacharias and violinist and conductor Thomas Zehetmair already in place as partners, the SPCO has created a line-up of enormously talented, internationally known musicians who aren’t one-time guest artists, but part of the team. It’s exciting to imagine what they’ll do next, especially in their new concert hall at the Ordway, which opens in March.
Tonight (Wednesday, Nov. 12) at Honey: Creative City: Art, hors d’oeuvres and dancing. Join Creative City Road Map artists Chrys Carroll and Keegan Xavi for a night of live painting, performances and dancing with a DJ. Complete a Creative City Road Map survey and get a free food ticket. 18+. 7–11 p.m. Register here. Free.
Thursday at Open Eye Figure Theatre: “The Juniper Tree.” One of the darker tales by the Brothers Grimm is retold by Doris Duke award winner Michael Sommers in a show first performed 20 years ago at the Jeune Lune. It’s a story of hopes, dreams, birth, death, a beheading, cannibalism, singing birds, magic, justice, and resurrection, told with puppets and a live band. For ages 8 and up. FMI and tickets ($15/$12/$10/pay-as-able). Through Nov. 30.
Thursday at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault: VocalEssence: “River Songs and Tales with Mark Twain.” Add bushy eyebrows and a mustache, put him in a white suit and hand him a cigar, and Don Shelby looks just like Mark Twain. The former WCCO-TV news anchor plays the role in the new VocalEssence tour that celebrates life on the Mississippi through choral music and the spoken word. Directed by Jon Cranney, conducted by Tesfa Wondemagegnehu, featuring fiddle player Molly Sue McDonald, it starts in Faribault and travels to three more Minnesota river cities: Austin, Red Wing and Dawson. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets (prices vary by venue).
Friday at Gallery 13: Opening reception for “Aldo Moroni: Master Sculptor/Ceramic Artist.” Moroni’s first major exhibition in a decade features his evocative, storytelling carved clay cityscapes and sconces, some lit from within. 7–10 p.m. Free. Through January 3.
Saturday at the Grand Hand Gallery: Tenth Anniversary Party and Holiday Open House. Has it really been 10 years since Ann Ruhr Pifer opened her smartly curated, sublimely tempting gallery of fine American craft? The things she carries – ceramics, jewelry, prints, paintings, fiber, leather, metal and more – reflect her own affection for the artist’s hand. 5-7 p.m. Beverages, treats and live music by jazz guitarist Briand Morrison.