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Sterling brings 'family-fueled' show

Mike Sterling (far right) will be joined by five other musicians and three Brave New Workshop writers/actors when he brings "At Christmas" to the Sheldon Theatre on Dec. 15.

"At Christmas" doesn't claim to be an extravaganza.

Instead, Mick Sterling thinks of it as the kind of show you'd bring into your living room to celebrate the season with family and friends.

Sterling, a six-piece band and three actors will present the show at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 in the intimate space of the historic Sheldon Theatre.

In addition to being a concert of holiday music, "'At Christmas' is a unique blend of family-fueled comedy and drama," said Sheldon spokesmen, who described the show as "funny, poignant and heart-warmingly tender."

The music came first. Four years ago, Sterling explained, he released a CD, "Blessed -- Songs for Christmas" on the New Folk Records label. It features fresh interpretations of familiar holiday songs.

Rather than just have a CD release party, he decided to build a Christmas show around it. He called Peter Guertin, musical director for Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis and a friend since junior high school.

Guertin loved the idea and took it to his wife, Michelle, an alumni of the Brave New Workshop, a theater that specializes in political and social satire.

"Let's write some scenes about things that happen at Christmas," they suggested, and alternate them with music in the show.

The result is a "family-fueled comedy and drama" that became a part of the Twin Cities holiday entertainment calendar. This year, they received a Minnesota State Arts Board Legacy grant that enabled the troupe to take the show on the road to smaller towns, including Red Wing.

"We're pleased with how the show has translated" to those audiences, Sterling said.

The stories were written and are performed by Michelle Guertin and two other Workshop alumni -- Shanan Custer and Jim Robinson.

"These are real family stories told in a more humorous and personal way than you'd get from another Christmas show," Sterling said.

Noting the writers' backgrounds, he added, "These are Brave New Workshop actors and writers. It's a smart show -- very funny and surprisingly tender, too," since Christmas can also be a tough time for some people.

Peter Guertin wrote the score for the show. The structure is unchanged but the music and scenes get tweaked each year, and the finale is the song that gave the show its title: "I'll Be Waiting Here -- At Christmas Time."

Sterling is front man for the band, which will share the stage with the actors. Also performing are Peter Guertin, violinist Lisi Wright and the guitar-bass-percussion trio Lehto & Wright.

One of the most-recognized names on the Twin Cities music scene, Sterling has been performing for more than 30 years. His longtime band, the Stud Brothers, was inducted into the Midwest Music Hall of Fame. A number of years ago he brought that group at a Club Sheldon dance event in Red Wing.

Sterling also is the founder of a nonprofit organization, the 30-Days Foundation, which helps people facing real-life financial jams. Proceeds from the sale of "At Christmas" and other CDs -- including a three-CD set of holiday music -- at the Sheldon concert will go to that charity.

Tickets to "At Christmas" are $12.50 for adults, $8.50 for students. They can be purchased at the box office, by calling 651-388-8700 or 800-899-5759, or online at

If you go...

Who: Mick Sterling and friends

What: "At Christmas" stage show

When: 7 p.m. Dec. 15

Where: Sheldon Theatre

Cost: $12.50 adults, $8.50 students

More info: 651-388-8700, 800-899-5759 or