This holiday season, catch a local, theatrical performance, or two. Not much compares to the shared experience of people gathered in an audience, spontaneously reacting to a live production on stage. Theatre holds up a mirror to society, and watching a play provides the opportunity for observers to see themselves. The whole theatre experience—every play—deals with the basic aspects of life. Going to a play is relaxing, fun, and at times, shocking, when serious issues are presented. But maybe most of all, theatre helps us to better understand ourselves and our world. The time is now! Go to a play and support the local, theatre community.
THE MYSTERY CAFE, Owatonna (themysterycafe.com/) Brian Kelly, owner of The Mystery Café, presents “I’ll Be Homicidal For Christmas” (runs December 14, 21, 28 – with matinees on the 21st, 28th and January 4). The cast: Dave Gangler, Michael Lee, Wini Froelich, Dan Rooney, Ann Lees and Paul Somers (a Waseca native). The venue: The Owatonna Country Club – 1991 Lemond Road, Owatonna, MN. “We are celebrating our 30th anniversary this year, and we are very excited to bring our show to Owatonna for the very first time,” Kelly commented. “I’ll be Homicidal for Christmas” is one of the funniest shows in Kelly’s repertoire. It takes place on the set of a 70’s holiday variety show, where guests are members of the studio audience (and depending on their talents…may even be featured extras). It’s an interactive comedy, a variety show, a mystery, and a Christmas show, all-in-one. It’s also something that the whole family can enjoy. There’s some sophistication in the jokes, but there’s also a lot of slapstick and cartoonish characters. The show is in four acts, and dinner is served between acts. The actors serve the food, and mystery money is provided, so that they can be bribed for more information. The service breaks allow guests to interact with the characters – and the others at their table, which makes it a very social evening as well.
The plot: It’s December 23, 1978. Albee Humphrey used to be a household name, but his star is fading fast. He has to deliver a smash hit Christmas special or he will never work in Hollywood again. He’s got special guests, including a diva, a ventriloquist act, a knife-throwing routine, musical numbers, and there’s even a rumor of a reunion with his one-time comedy partner, who he hasn’t spoken to in 20 years. He’ll make his way back to the top…or die trying. Words from the cast: Dan Rooney: I’ve always appreciated that many roles have been written for me to highlight my strengths as a comedic actor. This is rare in theatre, and I’m very thankful for such a generous gift. Ann Lees: What I really love about the Mystery Cafe is that we get to perform with the people, not just for the people. They are a part of our show. Michael Lee: I have found that the Mystery Cafe trusts and supports its actors to play within the form, to find sincere interactions and a sense of freshness between actor and audience. Wini Froelich: The first thing I found at The Mystery Cafe was it is full of stock characters; that which an audience can recognize right away. To allow the interplay between the audience member and character to be real and easy with honesty, is a challenge. Dave Gangler: My favorite part of doing Mystery Café shows is how closely we perform to the audience and interact with them. The culture at Mystery Café is one of positive friendliness and supportive teamwork amongst supremely talented people. (please view the trailer) www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmZRQStACao.
SHELDON THEATRE, Red Wing (sheldontheatre.org) Bonnie Schock, Sheldon Theatre Executive Director, is pleased to announce the production of the timeless Nutcracker. Performed by The Continental Ballet Company, The Nutcracker runs on December 20, 7:30 p.m.; at the Sheldon, 443 West Third Street, Red Wing. The Continental Ballet Company’s presentation of *The Nutcracker has toured throughout Minnesota and is a beloved annual tradition in Red Wing. Especially designed for families, this seasoned production develops themes of generosity, non-violence, and responsibility through the timeless tale of Clara’s fantastic voyage to the Land of the Sugarplum Fairy, with her magical godfather, Drosselmeyer.
Other December performances coming up at the Sheldon…*12/6, 7:30 p.m. – Cherish the Ladies: Celtic Christmas (concert of traditional Irish music performed by an acclaimed all-female band); *12/8, 7:00 p.m. – m-pact: White Christmas (concert of one of the top pop/jazz vocal groups in the country); *12/13, 1:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. – The Platters: Very Merry Christmas Show (holiday concert from legendary classic rock & roll/soul vocal group); 12/28, 7:30 p.m. – C Willi Myles Home for the Holidays (stand-up comedy); 12/31, 7:30 p.m. – New Year’s Eve with Monroe Crossing (concert with Minnesota’s most celebrated bluegrass band). “All of these are unique holiday shows you won’t hear anywhere else this holiday season–from Celtic music to comedy—jazz and soul to bluegrass,” said Sheldon Theatre Publicist Ellen Stanley. (*kids under 14 get in free with purchase of adult ticket).
PARADISE COMMUNITY THEATER, Faribault Paradise Center for the Arts (paradisecenterforthearts.org/) Julie Fakler, operations manager; and Director Sandee Hardy Hagen, offer the fantastic Peter Pan production at Paradise Community Theatre; Paradise Center for the Arts; 321 Central Avenue NW, Faribault. Presentations: December 5 at 6:30 p.m. (ASL-interpreted and sensory-friendly performance); December 6, 7, 12, 13, at 7:30 p.m.; December 8, 14, 15, at 2:00 p.m. (Peter Pan) This superb adaptation captures all the magic and charm of everyone’s favorite story. The Darling children love to hear of Peter Pan’s adventures during his visits through the open window of the nursery. Then one night after Nana has taken his shadow and Wendy has sewn it back on, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell whisk the children off to Neverland to be part of the adventures. Wendy, John and Michael become friends with the Lost Boys and Princess Tiger Lily and Wendy becomes everyone’s mother. When the evil Captain Hook captures Wendy and the Lost Boys, Peter Pan comes to their rescue. Together with the ticking crocodile, Peter Pan puts Captain Hook in his place and returns the Darling children to their home.
(Best of Broadway for the Holidays) Saturday, December 21 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, December 22 at 2:00 p.m.; Southern Minnesota’s best performers return center stage for a sizzling performance, featuring Broadway’s favorite holiday show tunes. This show promises theatre and music lovers an interactive night of fun and music, including a Holiday Dessert Auction. You don’t have to go all the way to New York City to experience the Best of Broadway or worry about what you are going to bake for your holiday parties. You can find it all right here in downtown Faribault at the award-winning Paradise Center for the Arts. “The Paradise Center for the Arts continues to be a vibrant cultural and artistic gathering place in historic downtown Faribault. We are centrally located in southern MN, less than an hour from 3 major hubs: St Paul/Minneapolis, Mankato and Rochester,” Fakler said.
COMMONWEAL THEATRE, Lanesboro (commonwealtheatre.org) Jeremy van Meter is Communications Manager of Commonweal Theatre, 208 Parkway Avenue North in downtown Lanesboro. “We have an audience favorite on the Commonweal stage this holiday season – Sanders Family Christmas,” van Meter commented. Alan Bailey is the co-author and director of the production which plays the majority of the month of December; closing December 22. Sanders Family Christmas is set on Christmas Eve of 1941 and on the night before 19-year-old Dennis Sanders is about to be sent overseas to World War II.
On this night, the family has gathered at the fictional Mount Pleasant Baptist Church to buoy a congregation’s spirits, witness about their faith and send their loved one off to war. The most exciting and appealing aspect of the production is the fact that all seven Commonweal artists serve as their own bluegrass band for two dozen songs. Between the band they all swap out instruments such as guitar, mandolin, and upright bass, to name a few, to provide a toe-tapping, knee-slapping performance, great for all ages. It is a performance full of beautiful storytelling, both through spoken word and the tight, dovetailing harmony of bluegrass-style music.
THE MANTORVILLE THEATER COMPANY, Mantorville (mantorvilletheatrecompany.com) The Mantorville Theater Company is located at 5 5th Street West, Mantorville, MN. It is a community theater, based in historic Mantorville. The company produces a variety of shows, including musicals, melodramas, comedies and more.
This holiday season, the MTC presents A Charlie Brown Christmas, by Charles M. Schulz. Dates: November 22 – December 8; Fridays & Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, 2:00 p.m. The performance is based on the television special by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson. Stage adaptation by Eric Schaeffer and special arrangement with Arthur Whitelaw and Ruby Persson.
LAKEVILLE AREA ARTS CENTER, Lakeville (lakevilleareaartscenter.com) Lakeville Area Arts Center, 20965 Holyoke Avenue, Lakeville, presents A Christmas Carol Radio Play. The Charles Dickens holiday classic comes to life as a live 1940’s radio broadcast, complete with vintage commercials and the magic of live sound effects and musical underscoring. A handful of actors bring dozens of characters to the stage, as this familiar story unfolds. Don’t miss this charming take on a family favorite that will leave no one saying “Bah, humbug!” December 20 & 21 – 7:00 p.m.; December 22 – 2:00 p.m.
“The stage is not merely the meeting place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life.”— Oscar Wilde, 1891
By Pat Garry, Contributing Writer