Your 2019 Holiday Arts Roundup

Get in the festive spirit with some of the best shows Minnesota has to offer over the holiday season.

The holiday season arts scene in Minneapolis–St. Paul is full of traditional standbys like “A Christmas Carol” and “The Nutcracker,” but also those unique diamonds in the rough that you may not find anywhere else. Whether you’re looking for something specifically LGBTQ+ focused or not, the Twin Cities arts scene is overflowing with artistic cheer this yuletide.


The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra continues its tradition of presenting classical music associated with the Christmas season with performances of the holiday classic, Handel’s “Messiah.” A musical rite of the holiday season, this Baroque-era oratorio still awes listeners 250 years after the composer’s death. Jory Vinikour conducts the SPCO and The Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists in Handel’s glorious masterpiece, featuring soprano Yulia Van Doren, countertenor Reginald Mobley, tenor Ben Bliss, and baritone Theo Hoffman. Can’t attend one of the performances? Check out a live stream of the concert on Sunday, December 23 at 2pm.

Dec. 19–22 • Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis & Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, St. Paul • Showtimes vary • $12–$50

Photo via Penumbra Theater


Presented by Penumbra Theater, Black Nativity is a retelling of the classic Nativity story with an entirely black cast. The show has been presented at Penumbra annually for decades, and while various elements have changed, it has always maintained its gospel-infused sense of joy and hope. Black Nativity was conceived by Langston Hughes in 1961 during the civil rights movement as a kind of large-scale church pageant that continues to be performed regularly. Sharply relevant to current global politics, this story of outcasts seeking refuge resonates today.

Nov. 21–Dec. 22 • Penumbra Theater, St. Paul • $15–$40


A Drag Queen Christmas—The Naughty Tour returns to Minneapolis with a magical and hilarious evening of holiday performances featuring contestants from Ru Paul’s Drag Race. The show is generally comprised of the queens who perform remixed music medleys and other Yuletide hits, giving a monologue after their first performance. A Drag Queen Christmas offers entertainment, laughs, and an opportunity to see these personalities live and uncut. Nina West, a comedy queen who was named season 11’s Miss Congeniality after auditioning for the show nine times previously, hosts the evening.

Dec. 3 • Pantages Theatre, Minneapolis • 8pm • $43–$170.50


The holiday season is very predictable and unfolds in a familiar way year after year after year. Why not mix it up with something predictably unpredictable? Brave New Workshop’s “Getting Plowed: A Holiday Survival Guide” takes a look at the holidays and offers a satirical edge to those who might need it to get through all the family foibles that this season inevitably produces. The popular show includes brand new sketches and familiar throwbacks, including the fan-favorite musical tradition, “The BNW 12 Days of Christmas.” Seeing improv come together in front of your eyes can be a magical experience, and the perfect place to see it is the Brave New Workshop, which has been crafting improv and satire in Minneapolis since 1958—longer than any other improv theater in the U.S. 

Nov. 1–Jan. 4 • Brave New Workshop, Minneapolis • Showtimes vary • $11–$49


The George Maurer Jazz Group poses for a photo // Photo via George Maurer

The George Maurer Jazz Group’s motto is “dress smart, act casual, look like you know what you are doing and wait for somebody to count to four.” An 8-person gang that has been collaborating for years and led by pianist and composer George Maurer, the combo enjoys a healthy reputation in the area for presenting jazz shows full of just the right proportions of refinement and relatability. This annual performance at the Dakota features favorite holiday standards mashed-up with jazz and classical standards.

Dec. 23 • Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis • 7pm • $20–$30


The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus performs Bell Boys // Photo by Paul Nixdorf

Guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and three-time Grammy award-winner Brian Setzer is credited with continually taking chances with innovative and daring musical styles, while celebrating forgotten genres of music like rockabilly and swing. Along the way, he has scored chart-topping hits, sold 13 million records and received the Orville H. Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award throughout his decorated career as founder of the Stray Cats, his 19-piece Brian Setzer Orchestra, and as a solo artist. Consistently cited as one of the world’s greatest living guitarists, Setzer and his orchestra come to the State Theatre for one night only, bringing big-band horn arrangements and a huge dose of retro holiday cheer.

Nov. 15 • 8pm • State Theatre, Minneapolis • $53.50–$89


Minneapolis’ premiere holiday celebration, the Holidazzle festival has delighted residents, visitors, and downtown employees for years. The festivities this year feature stories highlighting local people, businesses and places that showcase the food scene, art district, park system, active lifestyle, local entertainers, and community groups that contribute to making life in Minneapolis unique and special. The programming lineup include visits from Santa Claus, musical performances, and weekly movies featuring holiday classics, to name a few—all nestled within the heart of the city.

Nov. 29–Dec. 22, Thur–Sun • Loring Park, Minneapolis • Times vary


One of the most-attended dance events in the area, Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota presents “A Minnesota Nutcracker.” Set to Tchaikovsky’s magical score, this production adds local flare with Minnesota settings and backdrops including Rice Park and Summit Avenue in St. Paul and the banks of the Mississippi in Minneapolis. It’s whimsical and weird, with zany characters and fanciful costumes, and the prevailing theme of ragtag adventure brings this predictable plot to life in a way that is sure to incite in viewers some childlike wonder this holiday season.

Dec. 7–9 • Ames Center, Burnsville • Showtimes vary • $20–$38


The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus offers their traditional campy and queer holiday concert billed as “Bell Boys” with the special guests of the Bell of the Lakes handbell ensemble. For nearly 40 years, the TCGMC has offered rewarding musical performance experiences that celebrate diversity and use music as a way to transform, education and heal—all while giving voice and visibility to a cultural minority. This concert features the premiere of a new Chanukah work entitled “The Coming of Light.”

Dec. 13–15 • Ted Mann Concert Hall, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis • Showtimes vary • $25–$50

Visual Arts

Photo via Minneapolis Institute of Art

Presented by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Prairie School-style Purcell-Cutts House will be adorned for the holiday season in the style of the upper-middle-class progressive lifestyle of the Purcells. The house was designed by William Purcell and George Elmslie in 1913. The house, known for its beautiful style, innovations, and many stained-glass windows, is located near Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. Forty-five-minute tours led by costumed tour guides bring to life the social traditions of the period.

Nov. 30–Jan. 5 • Purcell-Cutts House, Minneapolis • $5 general admission, free for Mia members, students, & kids under 6