Now is the time to brighten the night with festive occasions as winter solstice steals our day. The theater provides a venue for us to celebrate as we seek to renew connections with friends, family or coworkers. Enjoy a great performance with any of these fine options below and start off the holiday season with a cheer.

(credit: Jupiter Images)

“Christmas at Chanhassen”
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
Fireside Theatre
501 W. 78th St.
Chanhassen, MN 55317
(952) 934-1525
www.chanhassentheatres.comDate: Nov. 16 through Dec. 31

Back by popular demand, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is returning to its original revue of traditional holiday music that’s been thrilling audiences since 1987. Professional entertainers in beautiful costumes sing songs people know and love in an intimate theater setting. Start with a festive ambiance, add a variety of entrees, wines, desserts and coffee and leave filled with the spirit of the holidays.

“A Christmas Carol”
Guthrie Theater
818 S. 2nd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55415
(612) 377-2224

Dates: Nov. 13 through Dec. 29

Lest we forget the meaning of Christmas, Charles Dickens has a story to tell us. A new adaptation by Crispin Whittell and directed by Joe Chvala is every bit as powerful and uplifting. Audiences can experience the coldness of winter, the sadness of death, the darkness of the night and despair in the miserly ways of Ebenezer Scrooge, played masterfully again this year by J.C. Cutler. See the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future nudge a cold and heartless Scrooge towards appreciation for life. This family event is now in its 38th year and on the Wurtele Thrust Stage.

(credit: Jupiter Images)

“Elf The Broadway Musical”
Ordway Center
345 Washington St.
St. Paul, MN 55102
(651) 224-4222
www.ordway.orgDates: Dec. 5 through Dec. 30

Buddy mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and finds himself at the North Pole believing that he is an elf. As Buddy begins to realize he is not an elf, Santa reveals where he can find his father and Buddy sets off to reconnect with his dad. Not only is the workaholic dad oblivious to the spirit of Christmas, but his little brother Michael doesn’t even believe in Santa. Buddy must overcome his New York family’s jaded attitudes and restore the warmth and joy of Christmas. This family-oriented story will win over kids with its special effects and adults with its humor. You will leave the theater filled with the spirit of Christmas.

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“2 Pianos 4 Hands”
Park Square Theatre
20 W. 7th Place
St. Paul, MN 55102
(651) 291-7005

Dates: Dec. 5 through Dec. 30

Get ready for a high-energy, audience-pleasing piano repertoire of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, rock and jazz as two boys who dream of becoming famous classical pianists grow to adulthood as friends and adversaries. The humor is fast and light as Michael Donley and Peter Vitale play Ted and Richard trading off roles as student, teacher or parent. As an added bonus, Park Square’s auditorium is completely remodeled with larger, more comfortable seats.

(credit: CBS)

“Christmas on the Ranch”
Plymouth Playhouse
2705 Annapolis Lane N.
Plymouth, MN 55441
(763) 553-1600
www.plymouthplayhouse.comDates: Nov. 1 through Jan. 13, 2013

Miss Monica loses her husband and the town rallies to cheer her up in a Christmas country-cowboy revue. Sing along to your favorite Christmas classics with Miss Monica played by singer-actor Monica Heuser, whom audiences have loved in “A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline.” Discover new favorites by Monica and her band “The Bunkhouse Boys.” Enjoy the eclectic characters like Big Finn, Sherriff Andy, Long Tall Joey and Little Jenna as they reveal the lives of cowboys through humor with two special readings of cowboy poetry.

“Madeline’s Christmas”
Stages Theatre Company
1111 Main St.
Hopkins, MN 55343
(952) 979-1111

Dates: Nov. 16 through Dec. 27

Relive a childhood fantasy through Madeline as one of Ludwig Bemelmans’ six original books comes to life this holiday season. Will Madeline get to go home for Christmas when everyone, including Miss Clavel, gets the flu? The adventure begins with a knock at the door. You know the rest if you have read the book. This is a popular musical production for all ages adapted by Jennifer Kirkeby with music by Shirley Mier. Stages Theatre Company plays to more than 130,000 young people and their families every year, engaging young artists with themes relevant to their lives.

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Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at