in honor of ONCE the Musical touring in Dallas…

I thought I would post about my initial experience with ONCE when I saw it in the West End over a year and a half ago now with a dear friend. From the moment I walked in the house, ticket in hand (only 25 pounds!), I was immersed into the world of the play. Before the show even started, the cast got onstage, playing traditional Irish songs and interacting with us. We were even invited onstage to get a drink since the show is set in a pub (I bought an Irish beer of course). When the lights dimmed, I didn’t blink until curtain call, when I was sobbing of course).

What’s most striking about the show, besides its beautiful narrative, is the music and execution thereof. It is incredible that all of the actors do not only tell a wonderful story each night, but they also play (and dance with!) their instruments and play them seamlessly! During one of the songs in the show, the lead male character (“Guy”) accidentally broke a string on his guitar. Oh, the magic of live theatre.

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Seeing it at the Pantages when I was home in August wasn’t as magical as the experience that I had with the show in London (but how could it be?!). It was still WONDERFUL and it was interesting to see it in a bigger venue. Being a 1920s-40s song and tap gal myself, I still am incredulous that I consider it to be one of my favorite musicals…but it is a timeless story with real-life characters and beautiful music – what’s not to love? I am looking forward to hearing Dallas’ response to the show.

Twelve Days at Night – In a brand-new exhibit, the Dallas Arboretum makes the famous song “12 Days of Christmas” come to life!

By Ally Van Deuren

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On the first day of Christmas, what did the Dallas Arboretum give to Dallasites? Twelve Days of Christmas, the first annual Christmas spectacular at the gardens that brings the well-loved song “12 Days of Christmas” to life.

Sponsored by the Amegy Bank of Texas, this $2 million exhibit opened on Nov. 16, 2014 and will remain open until Jan. 4, 2015, so don’t miss out while it is here!

Patrons can enjoy a three-quarter mile walk through the Dallas Arboretum while viewing the elaborate collection of 25-foot Victorian gazebos. Each gazebo is filled with the characters and animals from the dearly loved Christmas carol “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

“Every dress, hat and costume has lavish attention to detail that is amazing. This extraordinary creation is over the top,” said Brian Shivers, Dallas Arboretum board chairman. “Each gazebo is encased in glass to both protect it from the elements and to lend an almost ‘music box’ quality to the exhibition.”

Most of the twelve gazebos have mechanical animation that brings the story to life. For instance, in the “Nine Ladies Dancing” exhibit, the ladies swirl around with dance cards and in “10 Lords-A-Leaping,” it seems as if the 10 men ice skating on the rink are leaping so much that they may fall over. Each scarf, bowtie and mustache serves a specific purpose in each of the 12 exhibits throughout the garden, which makes it clear that skilled designer Tommy Bourgeois and the employees at Dallas Stage Scenery have a knack for detail and finesse.

“Any great work like this we don’t do alone,” says Terry Lendecker, VP of advertising and promotions at the Dallas Arboretum. “This is the work of a lot of great partnerships.”
What ties the ribbon on the package? Carolers dressed in traditional Victorian-era clothing adorn the streets and sing your favorite Christmas jingles. Their diverse repertoire varies from selections such as “Here We Come a Caroling” to “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.”

“This event is the perfect event to kick off the holiday spirit,” says Dakota Warde-Levie, a Dallas resident who was visiting the Arboretum for the first time. “The carolers, lights and decorations capture the perfect amount of holiday cheer. It is a unique experience that Dallas has to offer.”

Don’t miss this exhibit, which will close Jan. 4, 2015. But don’t show any sign of a “bah humbug” when it is over; the Dallas Arboretum plans to feature this exhibit every year for the next five years.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is located on the southeastern shore of White Rock Lake at 8525 Garland Road, Dallas, Texas 75218. The Dallas Arboretum is also the home of the internationally acclaimed Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. The Arboretum is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

All Stars Project in Dallas

I was lucky enough to go to the  Dallas Building Bridges Talent Show Saturday evening, where youth from South Dallas, West Dallas, and Oak Cliff gathered to share their talents with the community. For more information, check out the story I wrote for Meadows on the All Stars Project of Dallas and Kelly Zitka’s work specifically, with support and funding from SMU’s Caswell Leadership Fellowship.

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All Stars Project of Dallas participants, SMU students, members of First Presbyterian Church Dallas, and the Dallas community gathered together for the Dallas Building Bridges Talent Show Nov. 8, 2014. There were so many unique collaborations between students of all ages that were performed downtown at First Presbyterian Church Dallas- 1835 Young Street.
Stay tuned for photos and a more in-depth analysis of the immensely talented performers I was able to watch last night. I look forward to more performances of the kind!