Saturday, December 19, 2020

Virtual Holiday #TCTheater Shows

Well friends, we've nearly made it to the end of a very strange year, one filled with tragedy, grief, awakening, and maybe a little hope as we reexamine how and why we do everything, and have the opportunity to do it better. The holiday season obviously looks a lot different this year (and not just because there's no snow in Minnesota). But one thing remains the same - #TCTheater has produced an abundance of holiday offerings, virtual of course. Read through the list below (some of which I've watched already, some of which I plan to) and find one (or ten) that look appealing to you. Some are free to view or listen to, some are offered in exchange for a small fee, but regardless, please consider a donation to your favorite theater(s) as part of your end-of-year giving, if you're in a position to do so. I have great hope that theater will return in 2021, and donations help ensure that theater companies will make it through to that time. One thing I've learned this year is that artists will find a way to make and distribute art, no matter the circumstances they find themselves in.

Bucket Brigade, A Misfit Christmas: a new music-theater piece from co-founders Jeremiah and Vanessa Gamble, streaming at specific times this weekend only. "Smile, laugh and hum along to your favorite Christmas carols as a tone-deaf angel, an absentminded census taker, a cow, a little drummer girl, and several other misfits share their offbeat and charming stories of the first Christmas. This music-filled morsel is perfect for the whole family! Plus, Jeremiah shares his original Dr. Seussy Christmas story, Peas and Joy- a Christmas-crazy family digs through the holiday madness to find the true meaning of Christmas. "

Guthrie Theater, Dickens' Holiday Classic: a re-imagining of the 40+ year tradition in which four previous cast members of A Christmas Carol tell the heart-warming story, available to stream anytime before December 31. You can read my full review here, but suffice it to say I never miss a chance to experience this, "because Charles Dickens' story of redemption, community, family, and human kindness never gets old. It's a beautiful and necessary thing to be reminded that 'what brings us together is greater than what drives us apart.' That it's never too late to change, to grow, to become a kinder and more generous person."

Girl Friday Productions, Winterlight
: the first of three episodes is available to watch now, with two more being released the last two Mondays in December. #TCTheater favorites perform a collection of songs, stories, and poems, both classics and new works. It will truly bring a light into this dark season. Free to watch, but if you'd like to pay for this beautiful art, Girl Friday is suggesting a donation to Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center.

Great River Shakespeare Festival, GRSF Everywhere: New Years Eve Celebration
: celebrate the New Year with GRSF company members - live on December 27, also available to watch later.

Huge Theater, Family Dinner Presents A Very Quarantine Christmas: my favorite thing at Huge is this long-form improv show about a group of friends and family gathering for a family dinner, and the awkwardness that can ensue, especially when audience-suggested secrets come out! This year they've reimagined it as a Zoom family gathering, which is just as delightfully fun and awkward as always. Three episodes are currently available to view on the Huge YouTube channel, with the final dinner streaming live tonight! (Read my mini-review here.)

Illusion Theater, Miss Richfield’s Guide to a Socially Diseased Holiday: an annual tradition at Illusion, Miss Richfield returns for the 21st year - virtually! "This special online production will teach you how to comfortably fit a social disease into your annual holiday celebration!" Click here to read my review of her show a few years ago; it's likely a bit different this year without the interactive element, but I'm sure Miss R is still great Minnesota fun. Streaming at specific times through this weekend only. 

Lakeshore Players Theatre, Here Comes Santa Claus
: this new play by longtime theater critic Graydon Royce and Greta Grosch of The Church Basement Ladies is streaming at specific times through this weekend only! "An original radio play, inspired by the history of White Bear Lake! In a collaboration with the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society, this story will bring nostalgia, delight and entertainment to your holiday season!"

Lyric Arts, Home for the Holidays: I watched this charming variety show featuring many Lyric Arts favorites last weekend, and it gave me all of the cheery and nostalgic holiday feels. Plus a few teasers for their production of Elf: The Musical (I believe a regional premiere, not counting the tour that came through the Ordway a few years ago), postponed from 2020 to 2021. And there's a kids' version too, both streaming now through January 3.

Minnesota Orchestra, A Midwinter Gathering with Kevin Kling
: streamed live last night and available to watch on demand, this show features stories from the great Minnesota storyteller Kevin Kling, as well as other #TCTheater artists. Interspersed with the stories are performances of holiday classics by the full orchestra, or smaller ensembles, all performed on the stage of the beautiful Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis.

Open Eye Theatre, The Longest Night: one of my all-time favorite holiday shows celebrates the one winter holiday we all have in common - the solstice. On the longest night of this year, December 21, Open Eye will be streaming a previously recorded version of this show on their Facebook page in a live watch party. Created and performed by #TCTheater favorite Bradley Greenwald, the show is "part science lesson (complete with visual aids), part history, part mystical spirituality... the loveliest of celebrations of the season." Click here to read my review from 2016.

Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Sounds of Blackness' The Night Before Christmas: In Concert
: streaming on demand through January 3, "The Night Before Christmas: In Concert brings Soulful Santa, Mrs. Claus, Santa’s Fine Reindeer, and the famous Dancing Chitlins to life with show-stopping, roof-raising music, in styles ranging from R&B and hip hop, to jazz, blues, and gospel, in a contemporary adaptation of the beloved holiday classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Sounds of Blackness holiday favorite hits “Joy of Christmas,” and “Soul Holidays,” are featured, along with arrangements of classic carols like “Silent Night” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” Featuring 17 vocalists, including Ordway Resident Artist Jamecia Bennett, and the Sounds of Blackness 10-piece band, The Night Before Christmas: In Concert will deliver a concertized version of the program’s music, giving viewers a “front row” feel through close-ups of the performers."

Park Square Theatre and Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society, The 1939 Mercury Theatre on the Air A Christmas Carol: a MORLS classic, in which they recreate an authentic radio broadcast complete with sound effects. They put this together with each of the four cast-members performing from their own home, and it's an old-fashioned delight - with video too! Streaming now through January 3.

St. Croix Valley Opera and Phipps Center for the Arts, New Year's Eve Extravaganza
: "this special evening of music, laughter, and stories is being pre-recorded at The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson WI." Featuring some familiar names and faces from #TCTheater - stream it on New Year's Eve!

The Champagne Drops, Christmas with the Champagne Drops
: enjoy the dulcet tones and gorgeous harmonies of Leslie Vincent and Emily Dussault as the perform holiday favorites and, knowing them, a few originals. Live on Zoom on December 21 (and possibly available to watch later, I'll keep you posted).

Theater Latte Da, All is Calm and A Christmas Carole Petersen: Latte Da is bringing us two of their annual holiday traditions. Last year's production of All is Calm at the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis was filmed for broadcast on PBS this year; check your local listings or stream it on Friends, this is simply my favorite holiday theater tradition because it's truly a celebration of kindness, community, and peace. For something a little more silly but also heart-warming, check out a new radio version of Tod Petersen's delightfully charming A Christmas Carole Peterson, on mytalk107 next week or as a podcast.

Yellow Tree Theatre, A Cattywampus Christmas: the Miracle on Christmas Lake franchise continues in this radio play that sees our favorite Minnesotan Martha Knutson traveling to Texas with her sister in a The Holiday-inspired house swap. You can read my full review here, but in short, this fun and very Minnesotan holiday comedy feels like going home for the holidays. Available to listen to anytime.

...and on the music front:

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, The Holidays at Chan: Chanhassen is offering several streaming concerts in the next week or so, including Celtic Holiday Hooley, Christmas From the Heart, An Andy & Bing Christmas, and Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret Presents:  We Three Kings of Comedy – A Holiday Variety Show. Available to watch on demand on select dates.

Crooners Supper Club, Christmas at Crooners: I've been to Crooners more often this year than all years previously, thanks to their fantastic outdoor drive-in concert series this summer/fall. For the holidays they're streaming an all-star concert on December 22, including some names you might recognize from #TCTheater.

Tonic Solfa, I'll Be Home For Christmas: I've been following this a capella group, originally from St. Cloud and my alma mater, for many years. For the past 20, I've attended their holiday concert, and I'm so happy the streak was not broken this year! The hour-long show features holiday and non-holiday songs, classics and originals, plus a few selections from the Big Band Experience (which includes a couple of the guys from TSF, plus instruments!). My year simply would not be complete without TSF at the holidays. Available to stream on demand through December 26.