At The Phipps Center for the Arts

‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’


“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson will be produced by The Phipps Children’s Theater Dec. 12 – 15 at The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wis.

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” concerns the efforts of Grace Bradley and her husband to put on the annual church Christmas pageant despite having to cast the Herdman kids – “probably the meanest, nastiest, most inventively awful kids in the history of the world!”  Ultimately, these outrageous children discover the Christmas story and help everyone else rediscover its meaning.

The large cast of 43 actors gives many children and adults a chance to be part of The Phipps production.

The directors, John Nickolaus-Johnson and assistant director Keith Nickolaus-Johnson state, “The cast has a lot of great talent and understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish with the show. At each rehearsal they make us laugh or touch our hearts, and we hope they do the same for you.”

The performers include Heidi Hansen, Hudson, as Grace Bradley and Mike Culver, River Falls, as Bob Bradley. Their daughter and son, Beth and Charlie Bradley, are played by Elle Fallon, and Alex Tostrud, both of Hudson, The Herdmans: Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie and Gladys, will be played by Cameron Schmalz of Woodbury, Morgan Peters and Isaac Verdoorn of Hudson, Riley Culver of River Falls and Matthew Feia and Jennifer Holter, of Hudson.

Other cast members include:   Carter and Allison Dulka of Cottage Grove; Caroline and Mary Allessi from Stillwater; Katie Fischer of Woodbury; Erin, Brody, and Casey Culver of River Falls; Braden Hanafee-Major of New Richmond; Allison Thomas of Roberts; and Coretta Zontelli from North Hudson.

Other participants from Hudson include: Claire Hockman; Barrie Mayer; Sue Gherty; Diane Swanson; Jenni and Heather Derrick; Quincy, Hannah and Henry Burns; Lillian Thompson; Brian Broszko; Patti O’Meara; Ardyn and Aubrey Stoehr; Jeff Peters; Audra Grigus; Tristan Utech; Adaire MacSwain; Nick Fish; Jack Geurkink; Emily Heckmann; and Isabel Isaac.

John Nickolaus-Johnson has been working in Twin Cities theater for close to 30 years. On stage he has played a wide variety of roles ranging from the lovable Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” to the overbearing Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady.”  Other credits include the Baker in “Into the Woods,” Oliver Warbucks in “Annie,” Noah Curry in “The Rainmaker,” and Beast in “Beauty and the Beast.”

Keith Nickolaus-Johnson has been working in theater throughout most of his life. In the past few years has he branched out into directing. On stage he has played a number of roles, including Seymour in “The Little Shop of Horrors,” Nicely Nicely Johnson in “Guys and Dolls,” File in “The Rainmaker,” and The Wolf/ Cinderella’s Prince in “Into the Woods.”

Only five performances will be given on the main stage Dec. 12 – 15 on Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., as well as Sunday at 2 p.m. The

best availability is for the Thursday and Saturday evening performances.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for students 18 years and younger.  Reservations may be made by contacting The Phipps ticket office at 715.386.8409.


Holiday concert on the organ

Jelani Eddington will perform a holiday concert on the Wurlitzer theater pipe organ on Saturday, December 21 at 2 p.m. at The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wis.


Holiday favorites, such as “Sleigh Ride,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Christmas Festival,” “Carol Fantasy,” and “The Christmas Song” aka “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” as well as other popular standards by Gershwin, Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and others will be performed by the American Theatre Organ Society 2001 Organist of the Year. In addition, Eddington will accompany a ten-minute silent version of “A Christmas Carol,” filmed in 1910.

At the age of 13, he won the Young Theatre Organist Competition of the American Theatre Organ Society (ATOS), prevailing over competitors ages 13 – 21 from the United States, England, Australia, and New Zealand. Eddington remains the youngest competitor ever to win this title. He went on to graduate magna cum laude from Indiana University in 1996.

During the course of his concert career, Eddington has been featured at numerous national and regional conventions of the ATOS, and has toured extensively throughout the world, including numerous concert appearances in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. He has also accompanied numerous silent films and appears regularly at film series.

Eddington has also produced and marketed over 30 theater organ albums on some of the best-known and most dynamic instruments in the country.

Tickets are $22 for adults and $15 for all students. Discounts are also available by purchasing season tickets. Reservations may be made by contacting The Phipps ticket office at 715.386.8409 or online at


Ballroom dance

Ballroom dance parties will be offered on the first and third Saturday of every month from 7-10 p.m. in the dance studio of The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wis.

Tom Larson will offer a dance lesson during the first hour. The night club two-step and Viennese waltz will be taught on Dec. 21, the tango and Lindy hop will be featured on January 4 along with a live band, and the hustle and line dance will be taught on Jan. 18. This is an opportunity to have fun trying out new dance skills in a relaxed and comfortable environment. Dancers of all experience levels are welcome. Admission is $12 per person, or $15 per person with a live band.

Larson has taught at The Phipps since 2003 and owns the Ballroom and Wedding Dance Studio in Minneapolis. He performed for five seasons with The Continental Ballet Company.

For further information, contact The Phipps Center at 715.386.2305.


New show on New Year’s Eve

“Broadway’s Best” will be performed by The Girl Singers on New Year’s Eve, Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wis.

In their new show, Colleen Raye, Debbie O’Keefe, and Katie Gearty perform some of the biggest hits and show-stoppers from Broadway shows, including classics from “My Fair Lady,” “Gypsy,” “Oliver,” and “West Side Story,” as well as newer musicals, such as “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Misérables,” “Wicked,” and “Rent.”

Bringing fun and variety to every performance, these talented vocalists, accompanied by musical director Norton Lawellin and Trey Grimm on keyboards, and Reed Grimm on percussion, go from powerful ballads to high-energy tunes from “Grease,” “Mama Mia,” “Cabaret,” and  “Chicago.”

The creator of The Girl Singers productions, including “The Girl Singers of the Hit Parade” and “Sirens of the 60s,” Raye has performed as a vocalist across the country, from Las Vegas to Atlantic City in theaters, nightclubs, casinos, and fairs. She has also made several television appearances. A multi-dimensional performer, she sings in jazz ensembles, has toured with her show “An Evening at the Cabaret,” has a family variety show which includes her talented offspring, sings with big bands, and has a country flair with her “Musical Tribute to Patsy Cline,” which she also created.

With drama, comedy, and memorable music, “Broadway’s Best” should prove to be evening of complete entertainment for all ages.

Tickets are $23 for adults and $16 for all students. Reservations may be made by contacting The Phipps ticket office at 715.386.8409 or online