What do Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Janis Joplin and Santa Claus have in common?
They’re all part of the Rock & Roll Christmas Show. For the thirteenth consecutive year, the holiday season will be raucously kicked off when the perennial favorite hits the stage for one show only, Friday December 17 in the Gichi-Ziibi Center for the Arts. The show blasts off at 8 p.m.
As part of the Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center’s Cultural Arts Series, it’s a show that series producer Patrick Spradlin calls “something you have to see to believe.”
“When I was first approached about presenting this show, I was skeptical,” said Spradlin. “I mean, ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ played in the style of the surfer song ‘Wipeout’? I couldn’t imagine it.”
Skepticism was quickly replaced by awe, according to Spradlin, when he saw the show at the Pioneer Place in St. Cloud. “I’d never been to a show where two things that were so familiar to me—Christmas songs and the stylings of particular rock bands—were blended to create something so incredible. I was sold after the third song.”
The show’s creators convinced Spradlin to give the show a try in Brainerd, with immediate success. “It’s one of the shows I will present every year it’s available,” said Spradlin. “I think there’d be a revolt in the streets if I left them off the schedule.”
“This will be the thirteenth appearance for Rock & Roll Christmas, but the show is always different,” said Spradlin. “I spoke with the band and was told audiences could expect a lot of new material, a new opening sequence, a new closer.” The addition of new material really isn’t an issue though, according to Spradlin. “So far, without much advertising, we’ve sold over 750 seats for the show. I expect we’ll be close to selling out.”
This is the first year in which the show will be at the Gichi-Ziibi. “We’ve always sold out the Tornstrom Auditorium and Cragun’s Centre when we’ve presented the show there,” noted Spradlin. “We first presented the show in the Chalberg, which seats only 270. It was soon apparent we needed more seats.” The Gichi-Ziibi has a capacity of 1200. “It’s possible we’ll sell it out,” said Spradlin. “Last year’s show was virtual, streamed to a paying audience. I think there’s a pent-up demand to see this show live and in all its glory.”
Rock & Roll Christmas is the creation of Ted Manderfeld and Paul Diethelm, two talented musicians from the St. Cloud area who bring impressive resumes to the work. They arrived at the idea of the show and set out to find the perfect musicians and singers to make their vision a reality.
Manderfeld is half of Deuces Wild Dueling Pianos, which performs over 120 times a year across the country and Mexico. “We’ve played for corporate clients, casinos, country clubs, and some pretty exclusive night clubs all over the country,” said Manderfeld. He has also spent time in the studio as jingle writer, recording artist and producer. He has performed as an actor and even a game show host, and brings a high energy showmanship to the Rock & Roll Christmas.
Paul Diethelm is a veteran of over 30 years of live performance, studio recording and songwriting. Born and raised in Watertown MN, Paul moved to St Cloud, and in 1989 formed the band Slip Twister. They quickly grew to become a midwestern perennial favorite. As an eight year member of the Jonny Lang Band, Paul toured the world and shared the stage with rock and blues legends including Aerosmith, B.B. King, Sting, and the Rolling Stones. He has made multiple appearances on national T.V. shows including David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Conan O’Brien. Paul is a magnetic performer, a world-class guitarist and has played on two Grammy-nominated recordings, including the platinum selling Jonny Lang album “Wander This World,” for which he also co-wrote the hit single title track, and most recently the “Pinetop Perkins and Friends” album where he appears on tracks with Eric Clapton, BB King & Jimmy Vaughan. Diethelm is a founding member of The Fabulous Armadillos.
Audience members will be required to wear face masks while in the Gichi-Ziibi. “This is a protocol we’ve followed with all of our live events,” said Spradlin. “It’s been widely known the entire season, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Those without masks will be provided one at the door.”
Tickets for Rock & Roll Christmas are available from the CLC Theatre Box Office. Orders can be placed by phone at (218) 855-8199, or can be purchased online at www.clcperformingarts.com
For those who haven’t seen the show but want to know more about it, the web site for Rock & Roll Christmas is www.rrxxrocks.com
The entire CLC Performing Arts Center season is made possible in part by an operating grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.