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Plano Symphony Orchestra presents "Fiesta!" with Mariachi Vargas

Plano Symphony Orchestra presents "Fiesta!"

Photo courtesy of Javier Vela

Considered the gold standard in mariachi music, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán has thrived for five generations and has become one of the most internationally celebrated ensembles in Mexican music history, boasting the title of “World’s Best Mariachi” since the 1950s and spurring national pride for what is recognized as Mexico’s classic sound.

Photo courtesy of Plano Symphony Orchestra

Plano Symphony Orchestra presents "Hector and Friends"

Plano Symphony Orchestra presents "Hector and Friends"

Taking the stage with a few of his best friends in performance, Maestro Hector Guzman and the Plano Symphony Orchestra’s fifth concert of the season features Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni, Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Bloch’s Schelomo: Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra, and de Falla’s The Three Cornered Hat, Suites 1 & 2.

Guest artists will include cellist Christopher Adkins and pianist Jorge Federico Osorio.

Photo courtesy of Fela

Plano Symphony Orchestra presents "Home for the Holidays"

Plano Symphony Orchestra presents "Home for the Holidays"

With over 150 musicians, “Home for the Holidays” includes seasonal favorites for orchestra, vocalist, and chorus, the popular audience sing-along, visitors from the North Pole, humor, and surprises. Joining the Plano Symphony Orchestra will be Fela (Hector Guzman’s niece) and the Plano Civic Chorus. Fela, a singer and actress, came to prominence performing alongside Mexican superstar Alejandro Fernandez. She later led Big Band Jazz de México and starred as Nala in the Mexican production of the hit musical The Lion King.

The performance on December 17 will be at Frisco High School, and the performances on December 18 will be at Christ United Methodist Church in Plano.

Photo courtesy of Sammons Center for the Arts

Sammons Center for the Arts presents Making Spirits Bright with Linda & Larry Petty and Friends

Sammons Center for the Arts presents Making Spirits Bright with Linda & Larry Petty and Friends

Sammons Center for the Arts will present Linda and Larry Petty for a magical evening with nostalgic melodies and audience sing-alongs. Other highlights include seasonal treats and appearances by some of their talented friends and maybe a special visitor from the North Pole.

Photo by Luis Perez

Sammons Center for the Arts presents 88 Keys: Artistic Director’s Concert

Sammons Center for the Arts presents 88 Keys: Artistic Director’s Concert

Sammons Jazz Artistic Director and Steinway Artist Arlington Jones will play classical music, followed by his arrangements of the same compositions. Jones fills the second half with music from some of his friends and influences who are no longer around, including keyboardists Bernard Wright and George Duke.

Photo courtesy of Dallas Symphony Orchestra

These are the 15 best things to do in Dallas this weekend

Weekend event planner

It's officially December, so naturally this weekend is dominated by holiday-themed events, including five local theater productions, two concerts, another Nutcracker, and celebrations in Dallas Arts District. There will also be two non-holiday theater productions, a concert by a YouTube sensation, a visit from a famous actress/comedian, and a stand-up comedy event.

Below are the best ways to spend your precious free time this weekend. Want more options? Lucky for you, we have a much longer list of the city's best events.

Thursday, December 1

Vocal Majority presents A Blue Suede Christmas
Vocal Majority's A Blue Suede Christmas will transport audiences to Las Vegas for a fun journey of harmony, smiles, and memories. The first act will feature some treasured Vegas icons, and maybe even a sighting of Elfis Presley. In the second act, the mood changes as Vocal Majority inspires the audience with beloved and sacred Christmas songs. There will be four performances through Sunday at Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson.

WaterTower Theatre presents Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesus Christ Superstar, the iconic rock opera featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, is set against the backdrop of an extraordinary series of events during the final weeks in the life of Jesus Christ as seen through the eyes of Judas. Reflecting the rock roots that defined a generation, the legendary score includes "I Don’t Know How to Love Him," "Gethsemane," and "Superstar." The production runs through December 11 at WaterTower Theatre in Addison.

The Firehouse Theatre presents Disney's Beauty and the Beast
This “Tale as Old as Time” centers around Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped under the spell of an enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed into his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity. The production runs through December 18 at The Firehouse Theatre in Farmers Branch.

Bishop Arts Theatre Center presents Black Nativity
Black Nativity, returning to the Bishop Arts Theatre Center stage for its 18th anniversary, is a hand-clapping, toe-tapping, finger-snapping theatrical wonderment, inspired by Langston Hughes's retelling of the Nativity story. The production runs through December 18 at the Oak Cliff theater.

Friday, December 2

Dallas Symphony Orchestra presents "Christmas Pops"
The tradition of Christmas Pops continues with the Dallas Symphony Chorus performing transcendent anthems, classical holiday favorites and sing-along carols. Favorite holiday vocalists join the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Dallas Symphony Chorus to bring a bit of Christmas magic to Meyerson Symphony Center through December 11. There will also be two "Family Christmas Pops" concerts on December 3 and 10, a special one-hour long family-friendly performance featuring the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas.

Theatre Arlington presents Hooray for Holidays
Theatre Arlington is bringing back Hooray for Holidays, a hilarious Christmas musical that features special guests at each performance. The production features The Callahan Kids TV Christmas Reunion special. Everyone is excited about the former child stars’ return to television until they realize that as grown-ups, they are no longer cute and their talent is lacking. The only thing that can save the show is a Christmas miracle. The production runs through December 18.

Sandra Bernhard: Bern it Down
Sandra Bernhard is an actress/performer/comedian whose career now stretches more than 40 years, having succeeded in films, on TV, and on stage. Her first big break was at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, and she'll return to her roots with this night of comedy and music at Granada Theater as part of her Bern It Down tour.

Richardson Theatre Centre presents A Hometown Holiday Radio Show
Richardson Theatre Centre's A Hometown Holiday Radio Show is an evening of music and merriment for the entire family, featuring a recreation of old-time radio classics, live songs, and just plain holiday fun. The production runs through December 18.

Theatre Coppell presents A Little House Christmas
The Ingalls family is warm and happy in their little house by Plum Creek, just outside the town of Walnut Grove. It’s time for the Christmas holidays, and everyone is keeping secrets about the presents they have to give. All the characters are there: Laura, Mary, Carrie, Ma, Pa, Mr. and Mrs. Olsen, and Nellie, and there are surprises all around on Christmas Day that remind us that love is the greatest gift of all. The production runs through December 18 at Coppell Arts Center.

The Piano Guys in concert
The Piano Guys are four dads who became an Internet sensation by way of their series of self-made music videos, including One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” and “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen. It’s the Guys’ highly original blend of classical music with pop that has led to over 500 million YouTube views. They'll perform at McFarlin Auditorium.

Uptown Players presents Head Over Heels
Head Over Heels is a laugh-out-loud love story set to the music of the iconic 1980s all-female rock band The Go-Go’s. An inspired mash-up of posh and punk, the production is an unpredictable Elizabethan romp about a royal family that must prevent an oracle’s prophecy of doom. In order to save their beloved kingdom, the family embarks on an extravagant journey where they are faced with mistaken identities, love triangles, sexual awakening, and self-discovery. The production runs through December 18 at Kalita Humphreys Theater.

Saturday, December 3

Wait Wait Stand-Up Tour
The Wait Wait Stand-Up Tour is a night of stand-up-comedy featuring some of Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me’s funniest panelists. They answer questions on Wait, Wait, but there they're subject to FCC limitations. This a chance to enjoy a full evening of their unfiltered stand-up comedy. The host is veteran stand-up and Wait, Wait regular Alonzo Bodden. He'll be joined by Adam Burke, Negin Farsad, and Maz Jobrani. They'll perform at Majestic Theatre.

Ballet Ensemble of Texas presents The Nutcracker
Ballet Ensemble of Texas will present The Nutcracker to kick off their new season. The production will feature Breanne Granlund and Nathan Vendt, both dancers with American Ballet Theatre, and BET alumni. Over 200 young dancers from the Ballet Academy of Texas will join BET in this production. There will be four performances through Sunday at Irving Arts Center.

Klyde Warren Park presents Tree Lighting Celebration
After starting the day at the Dallas Holiday Parade downtown, head to Klyde Warren Park's Tree Lighting Celebration, where Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson will join Santa to light the iconic holiday symbol. The free annual tradition includes a festive day of activities and entertainment, photos with Santa, story time with Mrs. Claus, face painting, crafts, games, and snow flurries. The day culminates with a live show featuring performances of holiday music, visits from Santa’s friends Frosty and Rudolph, and the Christmas tree lighting. The Salty Donut and Andy's Frozen Custard will also both be making their Klyde Warren Park debut in time for the festivities. Immediately following the tree lighting will be...

Reliant Lights Your Holidays
Reliant Lights Your Holidays, taking place at Sammons Park within the AT&T Performing Arts Center, will feature the illumination of hundreds of thousands of dazzling LED lights, with live performances by Selena tribute band Bidi Bidi Banda, and Vinyl Countdown: A Tribute To Arena Rock. There will also be a Christmas-themed drone show, a wintery snow playground, kids craft area, photos with Santa, and miniature golf on the Reliant Putting Green. For more spectacular Christmas light displays and events around DFW, go here.

Photo courtesy of Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Dallas Symphony Orchestra presents "Christmas Pops" at Meyerson Symphony Center, December 2-11.

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Santa Claus comes to town for a fight in Violent Night

Movie Review

When it comes to movies themed around Christmas, there are an infinite number of heartwarming films and a surprising number of horror movies. But, unless you are among those who count Die Hard as a Christmas movie, there are almost no holiday action films, and even fewer where Santa Claus is the hero at the center of it.

That makes Violent Night a unicorn of a film, one in which Santa (David Harbour) is a disillusioned, drink-addled mess whom we first meet downing beers in a bar on Christmas Eve. After stumbling through house after house, complaining all the while about kids’ obsession with video games, he makes his way to the estate of Gertrude Lightstone (Beverly D’Angelo).

Instead of seeing a happy family, he encounters two jealous siblings and their families, and a coordinated attack by an outside group led by a man nicknamed Scrooge (John Leguizamo) looking to steal $300 million in cash. Somewhat reluctantly, Santa uses his holiday magic – and long untapped military experience – to take on the bad guys and ensure a merry Christmas for those who deserve it.

Written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller (the team behind the two Sonic the Hedgehog movies) and directed by Tommy Wirkola, the film more than lives up to its title, splattering much of its running time with enough blood to satisfy any hardcore action fan. The creative ways in which villains are killed or maimed are numerous, including a fantastic final death and an homage to Home Alone that’s only slightly more graphic than the sequences in that classic kids movie.

Photo by Allen Fraser/Universal Pictures

David Harbour in Violent Night.

It’s surprisingly easy to accept Santa Claus as a vengeance-seeking action hero. Harbour is clearly having a ball in the role, and because he plays Saint Nick as grizzled and grumpy, there’s no disconnect between the kindly version we know and love and this more intense one. He also gets the majority of the laugh lines in the film, with a good number (though less than expected) giving a fun twist on holiday clichés.

The problem with the film is that it can’t sustain the momentum of the Santa mayhem scenes. The filmmakers try to have it both ways, pairing ultra-violence with a (dysfunctional) family story, using a cute girl who still believes in Santa as the bond between the two tones. The lack of attention paid to the dialogue of the Lightstone family is glaringly evident, especially since all of their roles, with the exception of D’Angelo, are filled by relatively unknown actors.

Anytime Santa Claus is on the screen – which is less than you might think – the film works. But any other time, it’s clear that they’re just trying to come up with something – anything – for the characters to do until they can get back to Santa kicking ass. And most of the time, what they’ve come up with is so eye-rollingly stupid or poorly written that you wonder why they included it in the first place.

Harbour is the glue that keeps the film watchable, committing himself 100 percent to the idea of the role. He doesn’t go overboard with the typical Santa elements, and the fact that he looks different from your typical Santa Claus also helps with the believability factor. Almost no one else is worth mentioning, save for maybe Leah Brady, the aforementioned cute girl who shines amid the depravity.

The potential for an alternative holiday classic was there with Violent Night, but the filmmakers focused too much on balancing the film instead of delivering on what the concept promised. If there is a next time, they should just let go of the reins and let Santa Claus go completely loose.

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Violent Night opens in theaters on December 2.

Emmy-winning actress inspires Dallas luncheon to raise $560,000 for critical cause

Maximum impact

What: New Friends New Life Luncheon

Where: Hyatt Regency Dallas

The 411: Co-Chairs Katherine Wynne, Kristi Sherrill Hoyl, and Melissa Sherrill Martin — along with honorary co-chairs Matrice Ellis-Kirk and former Dallas mayor, Ambassador Ron Kirk — welcomed 800 supporters to the beloved fall luncheon November 4.

The official mission of New Friends New Life is to restore and empower trafficked and sexually exploited teen girls, women, and their children, and drive awareness of the issue and its prevalence. Emcee Shelly Slater, CEO Bianca Davis, and several inspiring presentations and speakers underscored the importance of that aim.

Martin highlighted the work of NFNL’s Youth Resource Center, which has provided hope for nearly 550 girls, and recognized top sponsors Nancy Ann and Ray Hunt, Tracey Nash-Huntley and David Huntley, Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, Southwest Airlines, and the Jensen Project as well as Nancy and Randy Best and Carolyn and David Miller.

The 2022 ProtectHER awards honored recipients Lynn McBee, Santander Consumer USA Foundation, Dr. Nissi Hamilton for the impact they make as advocates and volunteers.

The highlight of the afternoon were remarks by Emmy-wining actress and activist Julia Ormond. Ormond is the founder of the nonprofit ASSET Campaign, which works to require major businesses to publicly disclose their policies to prevent human trafficking and forced labor in product supply chains.

She has traveled the world to campaign against human trafficking and child enslavement. She shared from her perspective that “enslavement and forced labor are like the cancer in humanity. With cancer you do chemo to get right to the tumor. With trafficking we also need to take a laser-like approach that gets right to the tumor. We need to understand that when we buy a product from a supply chain, we are supporting value chains, the people who are in forced labor.”

Thanks to impactful words and the inspiration of all the presentations, the luncheon surpassed its goal with $560,000 in net proceeds raised.

Who: Hundreds of supporters and champions of the cause, including Katherine Wynne, Maggie Kipp, Elizabeth Saab, Michael Horne, Marissa Horne, Elizabeth Gambrell, Cheryl Joyner, Beth Thoele, Suzanne Massey, Jeff Waugh, Gail Turner,, Jessica Turner Waugh, Caren Prothro, Robin Bagwell, Wendy Messmann, Diondra Wilcher, and Kaileigh Johnson.

Photo by Tamytha Cameron and Celeste Cass

Julia Ormond, Jenna Quinn

Warm up to winter menus and holiday specials in this Dallas restaurant news

News You Can Eat

December is (almost) here and in the Dallas restaurant world, that means wonderful winter menus and specials for the holidays: Peppermint shakes, pumpkin pasta, boozy hot chocolate, Christmas tamales, spiced horchata, and so much more. There are also a couple of new restaurants opening in the next week, hustling to start serving in time for holiday festivities.

Here's what's happening in Dallas restaurant news, with items culled from press releases, emails, and DM's on social media:

Loro Addison is officially opening on December 14, when they'll be "slinging slushies and frying corn fritters all day long," according to an email. From December 14-18, the first 100 customers every day get a free custom Yeti. This is the second Loro in DFW and is located at 14999 Montfort Dr.

Shake Shack is opening a location in Plano at 5009 W. Park Blvd., at the intersection of Preston Road, on December 5. This is the second Shake Shack in Plano but the first in Texas to feature a drive up window. They'll open with a few limited-time items including the new Hot Ones Burger and Hot Ones Chicken Sandwich, plus seasonal holiday shakes: Christmas Cookie Shake, Chocolate Milk & Cookies Shake, and Chocolate Peppermint Shake. The menu will feature the Lockhart Link Burger, a cheeseburger topped with Kreuz Market jalapeno cheese sausage link, pickles, and ShackSauce.

Freebirds World Burrito celebrates the opening of its new location in Murphy on December 6. The first 25 guests in line receive free burritos for a year. There'll also be food samples, swag giveaways, and yard games. It's at 103 W. FM 544 and is the fifth Freebirds to open in 2022.

Layne's Chicken Fingers has opened a location in Denton at 1200 W. Hickory St. It's from franchisees Scott and Heather Davis, who plan to open five more Layne’s in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, possibly Burleson, Arlington, and Mansfield.

Tipsy Elf, a holiday pop-up bar from Exxir Hospitality, is now open in the little white house at the corner of Bishop & Melba in Bishop Arts, spanning into sibling Mermaid Bar as well as a tented patio. Entertainer Gloria Devine will give nightly readings of letters to Santa, and there are new cocktails including the North Pole Dancer, Secure The Sack, and a salted toffee old fashioned with port spices titled Left Me for The Muffin Man.

Grand Lux Cafe at the Galleria Dallas has a set of new menu items including Fried Provolone Cheese with marinara sauce, Garlicky Shrimp, Pasta Alla Arrabiatta - spaghettini tossed in spicy tomato sauce and topped with ricotta cheese, steak frites with parmesan fries, BLT Benedict with Calabrian Hollandaise on a grilled English muffin, and two drinks: Bluegrass Margarita with Basil Hayden Bourbon, and a Cold Brew Espresso Martini.

Eataly Dallas is carry a selection of pasticcini (bite-sized pastries) from Pasticceria da Guido, a pastry shop by Michelin-starred chef Ugo Alciati. Exclusive to Eataly Dallas, these Michelin-starred Italian sweets are known for quality, simplicity, and tradition. Eataly’s pastry team has worked with Pasticceria da Guido to ensure they're properly prepared. Find Pasticceria da Guido at Eataly’s pastry counter, located on the west side of NorthPark Center, every day this holiday season.

Elm & Good at the Kimpton Pittman Hotel is featuring a special dish from executive chef Ben Smallman, with a portion of the sales going to No Kid Hungry: Market Pumpkin and Maple Stracciatella features Kuri squash, stracciatella, sage, maple syrup, and pumpkin seeds, for $17, and can be ordered through December 31, Tuesday-Saturday from 5-10 pm.

Blue Mesa Grill has a new Holiday Fajita Party Pack To-Go, with queso, guacamole, chicken taquitos, steak & chicken fajitas, adobe pie, black beans, coconut lime rice, toppings, tortillas, and brownies with a cajeta swirl. $195 serves 8 people. It's available through December 31; order at bluemesagrill.com.

Blue Goose Cantina is offering its annual homemade Box O’ Tamales in pork, chicken, jalapeño, and cheese options, with three sauces - Salsa Verde, chili con carne, and queso. The boxes are $30, and require a 24-hour minimum advance order on BlueGooseCantina.com. Click ‘Order Now,’ and select the nearest restaurant and date needed.

Greenville Avenue Pizza Company has partnered with Monkey King Noodle Company on the new Dan Dan Pizza, featuring Monkey King’s Dan Dan sausage, GAPCo’s mozzarella blend, chili oil, bok choy, shredded carrots, wonton sauce, and sesame seeds. It's $25 for a 16-inch large, $20 for a 12-inch small, and $8 for a slice, at all three locations: Greenville Avenue, Peavy Road, and Richardson, throughout December.

Snooze an A.M. Eatery has a limited-edition Cranberry Orange Pancake, a buttermilk pancake topped with orange crème anglaise, cranberry coulis, cranberry mascarpone, and almond streusel, available through December 31. Proceeds from the purchase will be donated to World Central Kitchen.

BoomerJack’s Bar and Grill has a new winter menu with $8 items including Brown Bag Burger, Bottomless Soup & Salad, BLT, and a Grilled Chicken Sandwich. The Fat Jack Sampler is a sampler for the table with Boneless Wings, Mozzarella Bites, Brisket Quesadillas, Fried Pickles, and Jack’s Skillet Queso with tortilla chips, for $35. Holiday items include Boozy Hot Chocolate and Tableside S'mores.

The Dolly Llama has a limited-time Christmas Waffle featuring mint-chip ice cream with chocolate sauce, holiday sprinkles and a marshmallow snowman, all in a warm waffle. It's available from December 5-31 and can be purchased as a Bubble Waffle, OG Liege Waffle, or within a cup.

Aw Shucks and Big Shucks Oyster Bar now have whole Key lime pies for preorder only, through the month of December. The pies are made in-house daily and 24-hour minimum notice is required. A 9-inch pie is $30.

Bulla Gastrobar is bringing back Holiday Spiced Horchata, a holiday cocktail with spice-infused coconut cream, rum, and creamy flan foam, for the entire month of December.

Ellie’s Restaurant & Lounge has newly released a new winter cocktail menu with selections that include peppermint espresso martini; "Sweater Weather," with Ketel One, hot apple cider, spiced apple syrup, bitters and graham cracker rim; and Holiday Cheer with Tito’s, cranberry syrup, ginger beer, lemon, cranberries, and rosemary.

Another Round, the indoor mini golf and bar venue in West Dallas, has two new holiday-themed shots: Gingerbread Man with Baileys, Butterscotch Liqueur, Hot Damn Cinnamon Liqueur; and Holiday Spice, with Rumchata and Fireball. Two shots are $12. There’s also a festive cocktail, the Mistletoe Pomegranate Margarita - Exotico Blanco, with Pama Pomegranate Liqueur, lime juice, agave, and red sugar, served in a cup rimmed with green sugar and garnished with pomegranate seeds for $12.

Razzoo’s Cajun Cafe has introduced a new holiday cocktail called the Berry Blitzen, served in a Hurricane glass with Jack Daniels, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, Finest Call Raspberry, honey syrup, and lemonade, topped with a Red Bull. They're also bringing back Angry Balls, a pint of Angry Orchard Hard Cider paired with a shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey.

Sean Rakidzich, real estate entrepreneur and influencer, is hosting a benefit for Harvest Project Food Rescue, a Dallas nonprofit that provides fresh produce to 2000-plus people a week. Food will be provided by Chef Diana Zamora (Nena’s Postreria), and businesses such as José and CocoAndre will provide gift certificates for a raffle benefiting Harvest Project. It's December 1, from 6-10 pm at The Victor building at 3039 Nowitzki Way #4012.