Songs and stories, often filled with surprises, come to Red Wing on Dec. 16 when Kevin Kling brings his holiday show, "Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log," to the Sheldon Theater.
The holiday show, which also features pianist/accordionist Dan Chouinard and vocalist/accordionista Simone Perrin, will start at 7:30 p.m.
"Master storyteller Kevin Kling's wry tales of Midwestern holiday and family traditions take surprising turns, from laugh-out-loud bizarre to the touchingly insightful," according to Sheldon spokesmen.
The one-man, one-night show is a Minnesota holiday tradition. Kling will be performing it Monday night at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, where he has been sharing his favorite Christmas stories for well over a decade.
"He's incredibly gifted at distilling broad cultural tendencies into witty anecdotes from his own life, all the while maintaining a deep respect for the people he's poking fun at," Bob Keller wrote in the TC Daily Planet after seeing the Guthrie performance.
"As Minnesotans we pride ourselves on being earnest without taking ourselves too seriously, and Kling represents this attitude wholeheartedly."
Kling is best known for his popular commentaries on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and his storytelling stage shows.
"His autobiographical tales are as enchanted as they are true to life," Sheldon officials said — "hopping freight trains, getting hit by lightning... growing up in Minnesota, and eating things before knowing what they are."
The Minneapolis resident grew up in the suburbs and earned a bachelor's degree in theater from Gustavus Adolphus College. His storytelling started when a theater friend asked him to perform his tales.
Since then the humorist and playwright has been awarded numerous arts grants and fellowships — including being honored in 2014 as "Minneapolis Story Laureate."
Kling was born with a congenital birth defect affecting his left arm and hand, and lost the use of his right arm in a 2001 motorcycle accident.
None of that has slowed him down perceptibly. He continues to write plays and stories, travel around the globe to storytelling festivals and residencies, and release compact disc collections and books.
He frequently appears with musicians including Chouinard and Perrin.
Chouinard, who also creates radio and stage shows, regularly shares the stage with Ann Reed, Peter Ostroushko, Vocalessence and Prudence Johnson, plus Kling. Perrin, who is praised for her sultry voice as well as her soulful accordion, appeared with Kling this past season in Stockholm, Wis. All have performed at other local venues as well, including Zumbrota's State Theatre.
Bryan Ferry, reviewing "Tales from the Charred Underbelly" following a St. Paul performance, said he had seen it more than 10 times but still laughs at all the jokes, "even though I know the punch lines."
Actually, Ferry said, the show has changed over the years, "as Kling adds some new parts and removes others," but the core of it remains the same — Christmas morning memories, family quirks, joie de vivre.
"There is something magical about Kling's storytelling. He invites you in, paints a picture, and you can see it in your mind," Ferry said. "He is more than just a funny storyteller; there is a heart to his stories that makes them so memorable."
Tickets to "Tales of the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log" are $25-$30, or $13 for students. It is a Kids Play Free event sponsored by Noontime Kiwanis, which means admission is free for a child under 14 with the purchase of a regular price adult ticket.
For reservations, visit the box office, call 651-388-8700 or go online to www.sheldontheater.org.