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British Arrows at the Walker; a new opera company makes its debut

image from advertisement
Courtesy of the British Arrows 2018
David Wilson’s “What Girls Are Made Of” for Nike.

Cat videos left the Walker in 2016, but the British Arrows live on and on, a seasonal tradition for 32 years. The annual reel of award-winning ads from across the pond is so popular it screens for a whole month, starting this year on Friday, Nov. 30, and ending Sunday, Dec. 30. The 2018 Arrows will be shown 95 times.

The Arrows may be the most commercials some of us see all year, except during the Super Bowl. Streaming services and DVRs have made it easy to skip ads or zip through them. Life is too short to endure 18 minutes of commercials per hour, the amount some cable channels run.

The Arrows ads are beautifully made and filmed, funny, serious, touching, and sometimes puzzling. Is TK Maxx the same as TJ Maxx? Who’s Anthony Joshua? What do meerkats have to do with “Coronation Street”? What the devil is Kwiff?

Our favorites this year: Audi “Clowns,” set to “Send in the Clowns” sung by Irish singer Lisa Hannigan. A British Airways/Comic Relief video featuring Gordon Ramsay, Sir Ian McKellen, Thandie Newton, Gillian Anderson and Rowan Atkinson. “Pride and Breadjudice,” a three-minute mini-movie full of gags. Nike’s “What Girls Are Made Of,” made for Russian television. (Nike made two more ads similar to this, btw: one for Arab women and the other for Mexican women.)

Three you’ll wish you could rewind and watch again: Virgin Fibre’s “Delivering Awesome,” an action-packed race of vehicles and characters inside a fibre optic wire; Honda’s “Dream Makers,” a celebration of the art of filmmaking; and FIFA 18’s “More Than a Game,” featuring soccer star Christiano Ronaldo, whom some of us will remember quite fondly from last year’s Arrows.

Most ironic: Wimbledon’s “140 Years,” in praise of the white everyone wears at Wimbledon. Ironic because Serena Williams wore a black catsuit at the French Open in June; it has since been banned. In the ad, white is called “the great leveler.” Awk-ward.

The four with the most serious messages: “We Are All One,” about the Athlete Refugee Team, a group of athletes unable to live or work in their own nations. The BBC’s “Differences,” in which we’re reminded that prejudice isn’t something we’re born with. Oxfam’s grim and devastating “The Heist No One Is Talking About,” which comes with a trigger warning. And the Commercial of the Year. Its topic is so unexpected that everyone who sees the Arrows should keep mum about it, as the British might say. FMI and tickets ($14/$11.20).

The picks

At Norway House: Fourth Annual Gingerbread Wonderland. Long before LEGOs, way before Department 56, people made little houses and whole villages out of gingerbread, frosting and candy. This show opened on Nov. 17, and the winners have now been chosen. They include a gingerbread St. Paul Hotel, a gingerbread Basilica of St. Mary, and (in the Best Kids’ category) a gingerbread Minnehaha Falls. FMI. $5; free for kids 12 and under and Norway House members. Closes Jan. 6.

photo of gingerbread houses
Courtesy of Norway House
The gingerbread is back
Thursday in Westminster Hall: Town Talks: Women Leading. A new happy hour program from the esteemed Westminster Town Hall Forum, Town Talks aims to engage young adults in “reflection and dialogue on the key issues of our day.” Its launch is a strong start: a panel of four local women entrepreneurs moderated by MPR’s arts reporter, Marianne Combs. With Melissa Coleman, founder of The Faux Martha; Ashley Mary, founder of Ashley Mary Art + Design; Alex West Steinman, co-founder of The Coven; and Carly Van Veldhuizen, founder of Girl Friday. 5 p.m. happy hour with appetizers and cash bar; 6 pm. panel discussion. FMI. Free and open to all.

Thursday at the Weisman: Patricia Hampl reading. This will be lovely in so many ways. With Dan Chouinard at the piano, Hampl – Minnesota’s memoirist, MacArthur Fellow, Regents Professor, writer of fiction, poems, reviews, essays and travel pieces, author of “A Romantic Education,” “Virgin Time,” “The Florist’s Daughter,” “I Could Tell You Stories” and more – will read from her work including her latest, “The Art of the Wasted Day.” 7:30 p.m. Free.

Thursday at the Minneapolis Central Library: Talk of the Stacks: Holiday Cookie Traditions. Call it Talk of the Snacks. Yes, there will be cookies – after the talk, while supplies last. Star Tribune writers Lee Svitak Dean and Rick Nelson will discuss their new collaboration, “The Great Minnesota Cookie Book,” with food writer Beth Dooley. The book collects recipes and lore from 15 years of the paper’s popular holiday cookie contest. Doors at 6:15 p.m., program at 7. First come, first served. Free.

Thursday and Friday at the Wellstone Center: Arbeit Opera Theatre: Gian-Carlo Menotti’s “The Consul.” There’s a new opera company in town, and all tickets are pay-as-able. Founded by Kelly Turpin, former company director of Mill City Opera, AOT means to inspire community engagement by presenting socially relevant operas starring top local talent. Ambitious for sure, but opera done well can stir the passions. AOT’s first production, “The Consul,” dates from the Cold War but could have been written yesterday. A family desperate to emigrate from a totalitarian country makes daily visits to its consulate, confronting indifference, corruption and endless paperwork. The performance will be followed by a talkback with AOT’s community partner, Advocates for Human Rights. Norah Long and Gary Briggle are among the cast. For ages 13 and up. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets.

photo of gregory porter
Courtesy of the artist
Gregory Porter
Saturday at Orchestra Hall: Gregory Porter with the Minnesota Orchestra: “Nat ‘King’ Cole and Me.” Porter, who grew up without a father, was 5 or 6 when he wrote a song, sang it into a tape recorder, and played it for his mom. When she said, “You sound like Nat ‘King’ Cole,” he had to find out what that meant. Cole became a guiding light and presence in his life, his songs full of advice young Porter took to heart. Today Porter is a Grammy-winning jazz singer and songwriter, known on international stages, with five studio albums including “Nat ‘King’ Cole and Me,” a loving tribute. Recorded with Grammy-winning arranger Vince Mendoza and the London Studio Orchestra, its segue to Orchestra Hall with the Minnesota Orchestra should be satin-smooth, like Porter’s gorgeous baritone. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($31-100)

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