MNMO Recommends

A Condensed Carol

After 35 years, several Scrooges, and countless cries of “God bless us, every one,” the Guthrie Theater took a cold-eyed look at its long-running production A Christmas Carol and commissioned a leaner, if not meaner, version of the holiday cash cow. The new show, shorn of the excesses that have crept in over the decades, is now a 90-minute one act, holding fast to Dickens’s story and bringing more urgency to Scrooge’s plight by telling the tale in just one breath. Through December 31 at the Guthrie Theater,

The Lutefisk King

He loves the stuff, no lye

Minnesotans can be passionate about their lutefisk, but none more so than Jim “Nordblad” Harris of Apple Valley, who regularly attends at least 15 fishy dinners a year and one season dined at 30. He’s been eating the traditional Scandinavian dish—cod soaked in lye, then boiled and topped with sauce—since he was a kid. And now his website,, is the national go-to guide for connoisseurs, listing about 200 restaurants, churches, and lodges across the country that offer the dinners. The site gets more than 1,000 hits a month, mostly at this time of year. But the calendar doesn’t dictate Harris’s appetite. “For me, lutefisk season starts on July 1,” he says, “and ends on June 30.”
—Erin Peterson

Jim’s Tips

Lutefisk for beginners

1. Avoid the mush: Look for flaky, solid fish. If it’s cooked right, it won’t be like Jell-O.
2. Go to church: Church dinners offer the most camaraderie—and unexpected quirks: Pastors and their wives have been known to break into an Ole and Lena act.
3. Hit the sauce: Meatballs, Swedish sausage, and potatoes are the go-to side dishes. Norwegians ladle butter sauce on top; the Swedes prefer cream sauce.

Buried Treasures

The Walker Art Center has revamped its permanent-collection exhibits for the first time since opening its new building, pulling works by Warhol, Hopper, and other big names from the vaults. But as new chief curator Darsie Alexander explains, the real thrill may be in how they’re displayed.

How does the new presentation break away from the standard timeline approach?
The new show “Benches and Binoculars,” for example, is a floor-to-ceiling installation of a good chunk of our paintings collection, accompanied by chaise lounges and binoculars. People can look up into the rafters to clearly see those works that are physically and visually out of reach.

What was it like to dig through the Walker’s vaults?
My particular leaning is toward more recent works, by artists born in the 1960s and 1970s, but I was surprised by a lot of the early figurative painting from the WPA era, a moment of art-making with a regionalist flair, more narrative and maybe even a little didactic compared to present-day art.

How did the digging inspire the displays?
There are some amazing standouts in the new exhibitions, but I was fascinated by the way these individual works made contact with each other and my interest was to put these objects into a dynamic conversation with one another.
—Alyssa Ford

Photo by Greg Helgeson

Turning Scandinavian

The unlikely instigator of a new holiday hit


SARAH HICKS ONCE SPENT her Christmases surfing. The pops conductor for the Minnesota Orchestra was born in Japan and raised in Hawaii. Yet when the orchestra decided last year that it needed a new holiday show, Hicks came up with the concept A Scandinavian Christmas.

Hicks may now be more familiar with Scandinavian culture than many Nordic-sweater-wearing locals. She can say Merry Christmas in Finnish—Hyvää Joulua!—and in several other Nordic languages. “I’m a nerd,” she admits. She has researched the cultures of Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, uncovering festive orchestral music and ethnic dances to include in the show, which opens December 11 and runs through December 19.

The orchestra’s desire for a holiday hit was spurred by the recent retirement of Doc Severinsen as its pops conductor, though the bandleader’s Jingle Bell Doc show is still an Orchestra Hall tradition. “It was time for something new,” says Hicks. But what are the essential ingredients of a holiday hit? Start with some great music, she figures, work in some new material every year, and encourage audience participation. And don’t forget a sense of humor. “You can see by looking at me that I’m totally Scandinavian,” Hicks has joked to audiences. This year, she’s closer than ever.

Art About Town

The guide to going out

» In The Heights, Broadway’s biggest blockbuster last year finally arrives here for a week at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis starting December 1.

Minneapolis photographer Alec Soth’s latest book is the limited-edition Allowing Flowers, featuring quietly powerful portraits from the affordable-housing communities operated by CommonBond. You’ll find it at

Another new book—Minnesota in 3-D: A Look Back in Time (Voyageur Press, $19.99)—may be the coolest way to reflect on our history in some time. It contains 45 vintage stereoscopic images plus a built-in stereo viewer, so you can sit back in your smoking jacket and contemplate the way we were.

On December 4, the Highpoint Center for Printmaking opens its first gallery show in its new Uptown digs (designed by James Dayton), which includes a collection of lithographs, etchings, and other prints by its co-op members.

Singer-songwriter Keri Noble returns from a Midwest tour for her annual holiday shows—two in one night—at the Varsity Theater on December 3.
» Navajo playwright Rhianna Yazzie has had a terrific couple of years in which four of her plays were produced locally. She brings her latest, Ady, to the Playwrights’ Center on December 7, relating the life of surrealist muse Adrienne Fidelin.

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre is bringing back its popular La Natividad production from December 10 to 20, including an outdoor candle-lit procession.

The History Theatre is bringing back Sisters of Swing, its big hit for many years now, through December 20, with a cast now featuring Stacey Lindell, Ruthie Baker, and Patty Nieman as the Andrews Sisters.