Songwriter Frank Loesser first posed that question in 1947, in a tune that has since been recorded countless times – by Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Mathis, the Carpenters, Barbra Streisand, Diana Krall, Idina Menzel and Kacey Musgraves, to name a few. “Wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight,” Loesser mused, “when it’s exactly twelve o’clock that night?” We can’t help you there, but we can point you toward some options – our top dozen going-out picks as we bid farewell to 2016 (buh-bye, don’t let the door hit you on the way out) and prepare to face 2017, shoulders squared and head high.
At the Ames Center: Louie Anderson. The Minnesota native, three-time Emmy winner, best-selling author, brilliant stand-up and co-star of the FX comedy series “Baskets” will spend New Year’s Eve in Burnsville. Shows at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. FMI and tickets ($32.95-$102.95). All ages. Buy in person at the Ames Center box office, save on fees.
At the Brave New Workshop: New Year’s Eve Improvaganza. “What better way to count down the end of the dumpster fire that was 2016 with the cast of characters who somehow managed to make it funny?” Exactomundo. The hourlong improv starts at 11 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15). Make a night of it by starting with BNW’s holiday review, “What the Elf?” 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($33-38).
At the Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater: Comedy Suitcase: Big Baby New Year’s Eve Show! and Lorna Landvik: New Year’s Eve Party in the Rec Room. One small theater, two fun shows. First, for you big babies who hate staying up late, Comedy Suitcase heroes Joshua English Scrimshaw and Levi Weinhagen team up with their real-life spouses and children for an evening of family fun. 5 and 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($14/$12 advance/$8 kids). Second, local actor-author-comedian Lorna Landvik presents her 8th annual Margarita-fueled, one-woman improv show, filled with characters created on the spot. 10 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20/$18 advance). Landvik’s show continues through January on Fridays and Saturdays.
At the Cedar: Lizz Winstead: Controversy: A Look Back at 2016. You can bet the “Daily Show” co-creator, Air America Radio co-founder, stand-up comedian, activist, author (“Lizz Free or Die”) and Minnesota native will have puh-lenty to say about 2016. With musical guest Sam Breckenridge. Shows at 2 and 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($45 advance/$55 day of/$65 meet-and-greet VIP). Also Friday, Dec. 30, 8 p.m.
At the Dakota: New Year’s Eve with Davina and the Vagabonds. One of our favorite albums of 2016 is their “Nicollet and Tenth,” recorded live at the Dakota. Bluesy, sassy Davina always delivers, her band is great, and there’s never an energy shortage. 6 p.m. 4-course dinner show ($128) for early birds or 10:30 cocktail show with midnight bubbly toast and $20 food voucher ($94). FMI and tickets here and here.
At the Fine Line: KING. Twin Cities twins Paris and Amber Strother and musical sister Anita Bias got noticed in 2011 with their self-released EP, “The Story,” and dream-soul sound. Not long after, the L.A.-based trio opened for Prince. Their first full-length album, “We Are KING,” issued on their own label, is a Grammy nominee. With guests Tiny Deaths, K. Raydio and DJ Willie Shu. FMI and tickets ($20 general admission, $50 reserved balcony seating). Here’s their album trailer.
At Icehouse: NYE 2016 Featuring The Pines & Friends. Mysterious, melancholy, otherworldly songs by the indie rock/Americana group led by Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt. Dinner music from 6-10 by James Buckley and Jacob Hanson, Pines sets at 10:30 and 11:50 p.m. Complimentary toast at midnight. FMI and tickets ($65 for dinner and The Pines, $20 music only).
At the New Century Theatre: Triple Espresso: A Highly Caffeinated Comedy. It spent decades at the Music Box Theatre and has played to audiences around the world. An evergreen hit constantly being refreshed, this rags-to-rags story combines magic and comedy, original music and parodies, physical humor, and a touch of audience involvement, all the while keeping it clean. Shows at 5 and 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($34-38; kids 18 and under half off). Buy in person at the New Century Theatre box office, save on fees.
At Nighthawks Diner & Bar: New Year’s Eve at Nighthawks. We really like Nighthawks. Their daily dinner specials are super – especially Tuesday’s shareable spaghetti and meatballs, with a mountain of perfectly cooked pasta and meatballs as big as your head. They make a great Eggs Bennie and amazing banana pecan pancakes. There was one dessert we didn’t understand (why would anyone put parsley dust on a pie?), but other than that, it’s home runs all the time. Your ticket includes beer, wine, appetizers and a midnight champagne toast, live music and a raffle ticket for giveaways. 9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($80).
At Phalen Park: Holiday Lights in the Park. Why drive all over the place in search of holiday lights? Just follow the path to see more than 60 holiday-themed displays including glowing sculptures and animated displays. Billed as “the Midwest’s largest outdoor holiday lights display,” this annual event, now in its 9th year, benefits the Saint Paul Police Foundation. 5-10 p.m. FMI and tickets ($8/vehicle online, $10 at the gate). Here’s a video.
At Orchestra Hall: Minnesota Orchestra with Osmo Vänskä and soprano Dawn Upshaw. Favorites from the American songbook (“Somewhere,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “April in Paris”), composer Kevin Puts’ festive “Millennium Canons,” plus Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2, a work of hope and redemption. Concert at 8:30 p.m., followed by a countdown-to-midnight after party in the lobby with champagne, savories, sweets and live music. 8:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30-125). The concert repeats Sunday, Jan. 1 at 2 p.m.
At the Southern Theater: Dangerous Productions’ 6th Annual Happy Crazy New Year. The “party-with-a-plot” starts with a secret wedding that segues into a trans-dimensional adventure and one-of-a-kind audience interactions, though no one will make you participate. Be sure to walk on stage and press the Dance Party button at least once. The play lasts 90 minutes, giving you ample time to enjoy the champagne chilling in your fridge. 8:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($10-20). Pay-what-you-can preview Dec. 29. Also Dec. 30.