'A Christmas Carol'
Things looked pale for the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge before he was shown the error of his ways by previous business partner Jacob Marley (which is kind of scary, since Marley is dead).
But this is a life/death situation, and a voice from the grave is the kind of reality check Scrooge needs: Among his long list of sins, the embittered Scrooge can count a profound lack of generosity, especially when it comes to his impoverished employees, whom he underpays and whose welfare he disregards.
Compassion may not be Scrooge's strong point, but Marley encourages the curmudgeon to open his pocketbook and, in turn, refill his bankrupt heart in an exchange for a better life.
How did conditions get so stale for the sad bachelor in the first place? This is the question Marley and the spirits of Scrooge's Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come hope to answer as they delve into Scrooge's life in a one-night ghost tour of memorable moments.
Scrooge compares notes as happier times open and close quickly while a frightening future unfolds. He's made to witness the consequences of his penny-pinching when he learns that the family of one of his employees, Bob Cratchit, can barely afford Christmas dinner much less proper health care for his crippled youngster Tiny Tim. Effectively horrified by his selfishness, Scrooge seeks to redeem himself in the Guthrie's 30th annual production of Dickens' hopeful tale, an annual Christmas classic.
Tuesday-Sunday, Nov. 20-Dec. 26, call for times, Guthrie Theater, 725 Vineland Pl. $14-$45. 377-2224.
'A Very IKEA Christmas, or Some Assembly Required'
Massive home interiors warehouse, IKEA, is kind of a big deal (there's a new one in town, out by the Mall of America, in case you've been under a rock or something). Its expansive do-it-yourself offerings and subsequent low prices make stylish digs affordable. But as the Brave New Workshop asserts in their song/sketch extravaganza, "A Very IKEA Christmas, or Some Assembly Required," cheap doesn't always come cheaply.
These funny shoppers complain about such common IKEA pitfalls as congested aisles, crying babies, impromptu family fights, long lines and other retail stumbling blocks -- all obstacles inherent to Christmas shopping as well, they observed after a few IKEA sprees.
In fact, the IKEA-Christmas shopping crossover is downright uncanny. Is this a random cultural connection or a marketing conspiracy?
Director Caleb McEwen addressed the suspicions in a written statement about the show/expos/, "[IKEA and Christmas] both leave you exhausted, you're surrounded by boxes and invariably your family gets into a fight. You have to wait in line for food. Children are crying. You spend more than you planned. There are too many parallels to ignore."
Make the connection.
Nov. 11-Jan. 15, Thursday-Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 7 and 10 p.m., Sunday 7 p.m. Brave New Workshop Theatre, 2605 Hennepin Ave. S. $15-$25. 332-6620.
'City Children's Nutcracker'
In this distinctly urban ballet, kids don Rollerblades instead of slippers and boogie to bouncy hip-hop tunes as opposed to Tchaikovsky's melodious orchestral arrangements.
Now in its 13th year, the "City Children's Nutcracker" does more than provide an updated performance of a favored classic. This joint project between Ballet Arts Minnesota (528 Hennepin Ave. S.) and the Minneapolis Park Board teams a diverse group of city kids (all of whom participated in various Park Board summer activity classes) with professionals to give them the rare opportunity to try out new steps and take center stage.
Never fear, though, the classic tale remains true to its roots. The young troupe recreates the drama between rat king, snow queen, sugarplum fairy and nutcracker athletically with an upbeat and lively interpretation.
Nov. 26-28, Friday 7:30 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 3 p.m., Monday-Tuesday 10:30 a.m. State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave. S. $11-$22. 651-989-5151.
It's impossible to talk about "The Producers -- The New Mel Brooks Musical" without talking about the fact that it's really a fraud. Well, at least its producers are. Has-been theater producer Max Bialystock and his nervous accountant Leo Bloom are swindlers willing to sink to any low for a measly extra buck. They're also brilliant PR folks.
In dire economic straits, these dramatic con artists concoct a fake musical sure to plummet box-office-wise, leaving them with the cash they raised from lonely old ladies in order to stage it. With such tasteless dribble as the number "Springtime for Hitler," they feel certain they can count their dollars/empty seats that'll most likely be left by the end of the performance.
The heist sort of lives out its phony momentum with some of the real stuff (critical acclaim, that is): True to the farcical nature of the show itself, this musical within a musical has landed more Tony Award "bests" than any other Broadway show. Nominated for Best Musical, Original Score, Book, Direction, Choreography, Orchestrations, Scenic Design, Costume Design, Lighting Design, Actor, Featured Actor and Featured Actress -- a lot of people seem to agree that The Producers' elaborate scheme is a pretty good one.
Dec. 1-5, Wednesday 7:30 p.m., Thursday 2 and 7:30 p.m., Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday 1 and 6:30 p.m. Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave. S. $18-$75. 651-989-5151.
The ghosts look like "real" phantoms in the Broadway musical, "Scrooge" that features the renowned 40-year veteran of the silver screen -- Richard Chamberlain who's most recognized for key parts in movies like "The Thorn Birds" and "The Bourne Identity."
Now Chamberlain dramatically captures the begrudging Ebenezer Scrooge's daily grumblings and altogether grim disposition that match his dark cloak.
But besides a celebrity star and all of the Christmas Carol regulars (Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and Jacob Marley to name a few), this musical pulls out all of the stops as it's fully equipped with special effects (with the help of the Harry Potter "illusionist") to lend an authentic haunting quality to the spectral visitors' spectacle and a Londonderry set that would make Dickens feel at home.
Nov. 9-14 Tuesday-Thursday 7:30 p.m., Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday 1 and 6:30 p.m. Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave. S. $20-$73 (kids free admission with purchase of adult ticket on Wednesdays, "Kids Night On Broadway"). 651-989-5151.