Relish the season’s joy with a return to theater

Christmas shows

Nothing beats live entertainment. Perhaps now more than ever, taking in and absorbing live human emotion on stage can awaken the soul and connect us like few other life experiences.

This season, the holiday shows are plentiful from sparkling new discoveries to old favorites that comfort like warm slippers on a cold night. 

Find a few of the MSR editors’ picks below. Make sure to check the theaters’ websites or call ahead for COVID-19 safety protocols before purchasing tickets. And have yourselves a merry little Christmas!

Courtesy of Penumbra Theater ‘Black Nativity is a back to thrill audiences

Black Nativity

Dec 2. to Dec. 24

@ Penumbra Theatre, 270 North Kent S., St. Paul

If you like your Christmas musicals with heart and foot-tapping soul, don’t miss this classic musical written by Langston Hughes and directed by Lou Bellamy. Running until Dec. 24, Penumbra’s homegrown Christmas show returns with a joyful concert version of the Nativity story. The capable Sandford Moore serves as musical director, with Dennis Spears, Greta Oglesby, and the Kingdom Life Church Choir rounding out the vocal talents. $15-40.

Info: For tickets, visit or call 651-224-3180.

José James at the Dakota

Dec. 11-12 | 7 pm

@ The Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.

Enjoy smooth and soulful Christmas renderings by crooner José James, who has been referred to as the “prince of new-jack jazz.” A versatile singer, James returns with his first holiday project that imbues classic songs of the season with the warmth and soul captured on his new Christmas album. $40-50.

Info: For tickets, visit or call 612-332-1010.

Welcome Christmas

Dec. 11 | 4 pm & 7:30 pm @ Plymouth Congregational Church, 1919 LaSalle Ave., Mpls.

Dec. 12 | 4 pm @ Roseville Lutheran Church, 1215 Roselawn Ave. W., Roseville

The power of a mother’s love is the theme for VocalEssence’s annual concert, which makes a return with three performances in December. The program features poetic and spoken tributes shared by Twin Cities area mothers, including 18th- and 19th-century Brazilian composer José Maurício Nunes Garcia’s setting of the Magnificat (Song of Mary); and selections by B.E. Boykin, a young Black composer whose first operatic commission had a virtual premiere with the Minnesota Opera this year. And more. $20-40.

Info: For tickets, visit or call 612-547-145.

Courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Lila Ammons

JazzMN Returns Home for the Holidays

Dec. 13 | Dinner @ 5:30 pm; Show @ 7:30 pm

@ Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ Main Stage, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen

Internationally touring vocalist Lila Ammons will join in the festivities to help mark the full return to the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. JazzMN Orchestra will play several classic holiday hits as well as new spins on old favorites that are sure to help swing in the season. $35-58.

Info: For tickets, visit or call 952-934-1547.

Courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Ginger Commodore

“Christmas… With a Whole Lot of Soul Feat. Ginger Commodore”

Dec. 14 @ 8:15 pm | Dec. 15 @ 1 pm & 8:15 pm

@ Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ Main Stage, 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen

Ginger Commodore and friends will help usher in the joy of the season with a show that infuses Christmas classics and originals, remixed and reframed as R&B, soul, funk and gospel. Enjoy classic tunes like “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “My Favorite Things,” “This Christmas,” “Mary, Did You Know?,” “Let It Snow” and more. Also discover some new band originals laced with R&B stylings, jazz riffs, and gospel harmonies. $40.

Info: For tickets, visit or call 952-934-1547.

“Lightwire Theater’s A Very Electric Christmas”

Dec. 15 | 7 pm

@ Ordway Theater, 345 Washington St., St. Paul

Audiences of all ages will enjoy this delightful story about the exploits of a young bird named Max and his family as they journey south for the winter. Adventure ensues when Max gets blown off course and ends up at the North Pole. Enjoy dancing toy soldiers, caroling worms, and performing poinsettias that light up the stage. $23-33.

Info: For tickets, visit or call 651-224-4222.

“For the Holidays” with Moore by Four

Dec. 20 @ 7 pm | Dec. 26 @ 5:30 pm

@ Crooners MainStage, 6161 Highway 65 N.E., Fridley

Moore by Four’s “For the Holidays” is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, as this veteran ensemble offers up soulful Christmas tunes like only they can. The Dec. 13 show has already sold out, so get your tickets while you can. $35.

Info: For tickets, visit or call 763-760-0062. 

“A Joyful Night of Christmas with Gwen Matthews and Robert Robinson”

Dec. 21-22 | Various times

@ Crooners MainStage, 6161 Highway 65 N.E., Fridley

Drink in the soulful sounds of these two dazzling vocalists who pair up for concerts that celebrate the magic and beauty of the season. $35-$40.

Info: For tickets, visit or call 763-760-0062. 

Courtesy of the Guthrie Theatre ‘A Christmas Carol’ is back with a new look and sound

A Christmas Carol

Runs until Dec. 27 | Various times

@ Guthrie Theater’s Wurtele Thrust Stage, 818 S. 2nd St., Mpls.

This world-premiere adaptation of the beloved Charles Dickens classic remains faithful to the text while inviting audiences to rejoice in the holiday season and live their best lives through all-new looks and sounds. $29 to $134.

Info: For tickets, visit or call 612-377-2224.