Critics’ picks: The 15 best things to do and see in the Twin Cities this week


The New Standards

This lounge-y Twin Cities trio has set, um, a new standard for holiday shows. You can count on a parade of guests, snazzy arrangements, witty repartee between Chan Poling and John Munson, great vibes from Steve Roehm, stylish suits worn by all three, precious few Yule songs but lots of rewarding music, and the Trip Shakespeare classic “Snow Days.” Per tradition, the New Standards have not announced guests for their 16th annual holiday show. (8 p.m. Fri. & Sat. & 4 p.m. Sat. State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. $55-$135,


Angel Olsen

Between three-night stands in Seattle and Chicago, the St. Louis-reared singer/songwriter of “Shut Up Kiss Me” indie fame is stopping back into her regular Minneapolis haunt for one night only and one last go-round behind last year’s hauntingly gorgeous album, “Big Time.” Olsen turned the drama up to 11 with torchy flare on the LP, which she followed this spring with the worthy leftovers EP “Forever Means.” Part Patsy Cline and Hope Sandoval with a Leonard Cohen-esque writing style, she has been stunning local audiences going back to the Entry and Cedar a decade ago. She’ll be joined by longtime Minneapolis cohort Nona Invie from Dark Dark Dark (8 p.m. First Avenue, 701 1st Ave. N., Mpls. $32-$35,


Pert Near Sandstone

Hosting western Wisconsin’s famously familial Blue Ox Music Festival over the past decade seems to have added to the playful mix of influences and brotherly camaraderie in this frontman-less bluegrass-fueled Americana quartet, as evidenced by the spirited sounds on its new album, “Waiting Days.” Songs like “All Waves Break” and the winterized title track are laced with post-pandemic hope and a raw elegance aided by producer Ryan Young of Trampled by Turtles. The fellas are bringing their summery warmth indoors to celebrate its release with Them Coulee Boys and Humbird. (8:30 p.m. Sat., First Avenue. $23,


Sunny War

The Nashville-born and Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter has described herself as a former teenage gutter punk. Now in her early 30s, the ex-busker from Venice Beach, Calif., has developed into an intriguing Americana performer, with finger-picking guitar chops influenced by Elizabeth Cotton and Chet Atkins and penetrating self-penned songs about romance and social issues. She’s touring behind her fourth and most musically ambitious album “Anarchist Gospel,” which embraces folk, gospel, rock, country blues and some curious experimentation. (8 p.m. Sat. Hopkins Center for the Arts, 1111 Mainstreet, Hopkins. $27-$32,


Heartless Bastards

After relocating to Austin, Texas, and remaking her scrappy Cincinnati garage-rock group in the late-2000s, grade-A rock howler Erika Wennerstrom has churned out a series of more dramatic and at times cosmic albums rife with Zeppelin, Heart and twangy influences. She and the band are taking something of a victory lap at the year’s end after a run of festival dates, the 10th anniversary reissue of their best record, “Arrow,” and further rumination on their lovely, pandemic-issued LP “A Beautiful Life.” Rootsy Maryland picker Laney Jones opens. (8 p.m. Sun., Turf Club, 1601 University Av. W., St. Paul. $25,


Sandbox Percussion

Andy Akiho seems to be the composer of the moment. Or at least he is according to the Grammys, as he currently has three nominations in classical categories, making that five in the past three years. The first of those five came for “Seven Pillars,” a 2021 piece he wrote for (and with) New York-based Sandbox Percussion, a quartet that makes music from striking myriad instruments and objects. Its performance of the 11-part, 85-minute work is also visually fascinating, with lots of movement and lighting effects. (8 p.m. Wed., McGuire Theater, Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Place, Mpls. $10-$55, 612-375-7622,


The Singers

This outstanding Twin Cities chamber choir asked all who visited their website to name their favorite Christmas carol. After tabulating more than 350 votes, they’ll be sing arrangements of the top eight at these concerts, which also will feature seasonal works by contemporary composers. Matthew Culloton conducts, while harpist Min Kim will be the lone instrumentalist. (3 p.m. Sun., Westwood Lutheran Church, 9001 Cedar Lake Road, St. Louis Park; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 4801 France Av. S., Mpls.; 2 p.m. Dec. 10, Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, 1938 Stanford Av., St. Paul. $35,



‘Black Nativity’

A raft of talented actors, singers and dancers have cycled through the cast in the decades but look out for narrator Jennifer Whitlock and longtime singer Dennis Spears. Both have been with this Lou Bellamy production of Langston Hughes’ re-telling of the story of Jesus’ birth for over 30 year. Choreographer Gary Abbott recreates the dances for Mary and Joseph this year while maestro Sanford Moore leads the music accompaniment that also includes the Kingdom Life Choir. (7:30 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 2 & 7:30 p.m. Sat., 4 p.m. Sun. Ends Dec. 24. Penumbra Theatre, 270 N. Kent St., St. Paul. $20-$45. 651-224-3180,


‘Scrooge in Rouge’

For some, Christmas can be a drag. But “Scrooge in Rouge” promises to lift spirits by making folks blush. Directed by Joel Sass with music by Jefferson Turner, this show irreverently sends up Charles Dickens’ miser in drag. Go for the camp. Stay for the naughty list. (7:30 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Dec. 30. Open Eye Theatre, 506 E. 24th St., Mpls. $30. 612- 874-6338,


‘Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)’

Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald and John K. Alvarez crafted this comedy for those who tire of all the earnest sweetness and good tidings of the holidays. The madcap show features three performers who riff on, and riffling through, holiday traditions from across the world. Jason Ballweber directs. (Dec. 1-31: 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 2 & 7:30 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Yellow Tree Theatre, $45. 763-493-8733,



Ashley Gavin

The current Queen of Mean was the runaway star of 2022’s 10,000 Laughs Festival, delighting fans of her “We’re Having Gay Sex” podcast with her off-the-cuff insults. Her material can be brutal, but she’s clearly got nothing but love for her followers. After her Cedar Cultural Center gig a little over a year ago, she patiently posed for pictures with hundreds of her worshippers. “I’m the reverse Ellen,” she said from the stage. “I’m mean up here. I’m nice out there.” (7 p.m. Fri., Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Av., Mpls., $35-$65,



Wintertime Carnival

At the Museum of Russian Art, time travel to the Romanov Dynasty (1613-1917) and the Soviet era (1922-1991) at the Museum of Russian Art to experience historic holiday ornaments and memorabilia. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 essentially canceled Christmas, and New Year’s celebration became a thing only during the Soviet regime. Christmas didn’t come back to Russia until the fall of the Soviet Union. This exhibition explores a holiday season that’s different from what we know today. (Ends Jan. 21. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat., 1-5 p.m. Sun., 5500 Stevens Av., Mpls. $5-$14, free for ages 13 and under., 612-821-9045)


‘Once Upon a Mansion’

Artists of Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, Finnish and Sami descent contribute to this annual celebration at the American Swedish Institute. Artist Tia Keobounpheng, who is of Sami and Finnish heritage, will install a himmeli, a straw mobile, and artist Anita Jain will create an immersive, moss-filled landscape from a Finnish fairytale. Various objects from the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Iowa will also be on display. (Ends Jan. 7. Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues., Wed., Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thurs., 2600 Park Av., Mpls. $6-$15, free for kids 5 & under., 612-871-4907)



‘Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet’

A production formerly called “The Great Russian Nutcracker” changed its name to “Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet,” last year as a statement of solidarity with Ukraine after the Russian invasion. The U.S.-based Talmi Entertainment is making its 31st tour across the country, filled with 10-feet tall puppets, acrobatics and an international cast of dancers. This version replaces the “land of sweets” with the “land of peace and harmony.” It’s “Dove of Peace,” operated by two dancers, replaces the Sugar Plum scene. (7 p.m. Thu. & Fri., 1 & 5 p.m. Sat., Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Av., Mpls. $34-104, 612-339-7007,



Gingerbread Wonderland

The annual “curated cookie community” once again turns flour, sugar and warm spices into familiar buildings and landmarks. Mimicking the world’s largest Gingerbread City exhibited in Bergen, Norway, the local version features cookie structures made by home cooks and professional bakers. Since its inception, the Norway House holiday event has ballooned to more than 250 structures. Structures are judged by visitors and award prizes for Best in Show and Best Kids’ Structure. A chosen panel of judges also pick favorites to be featured throughout the holiday season. (10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fri.; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.; Noon-4 p.m. Sun. & Tue. Ends Jan. 7. $15. 913 E. Franklin Av., Mpls.


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