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Top Five Things to Do This Weekend: Bond and Beyond, Love Goes to Press, Bill O'Reilly & Dennis Miller and more

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Start your weekend with a little bonding time on Friday when vocalist Debbie Gravitte, a Broadway favorite and Tony Award winner, joins the Houston Symphony for Bond and Beyond. A program of signature tunes from the James Bond film franchise, Bond and Beyond features Adele's chart topping single from Skyfall, the latest film in the now 50-year-old spy series. Also on the program are classics such as Shirley Bassey's 1964 "Goldfinger" (her opening "Gooold-fingahhhhhh" set the performance standard for divas ever since), Bassey's 1971 "Diamonds Are Forever," laded with sexual innuendo, and Garbage's 1999 "The World is Not Enough." While the concert is made up of mostly Bond music, there are also a few tunes from Inspector Clouseau and Dick Tracy films. The Houston Symphony's Principal Pops Conductor Michael Krajewski, now in his 13th season with the orchestra, will be at the podium.

See Bond and Beyond at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, visit the symphony website or call 713-224-7575 $29 to $123.

Say good-bye to Houston Ballet principal dancer Amy Fote during The Nutcracker which starts performances on Friday. Fote is retiring at the end of this season and her performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the annual holiday classic will mark her final appearance with the company. (Mireille Hassenboehler, Melody Mennite and Sara Webb will share the role with Fote; check the website for cast notes.)

Set to the music of Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara, a young girl who receives a magic nutcracker from her godfather at a Christmas party. During the night, the nutcracker comes to life and takes Clara on a magical journey to worlds full of strange characters amid a Christmas tree that "grows" to 40 feet, hundreds of pounds of falling snow and cannon fire onstage.

The 2012 production is the 40th anniversary of the company's first performance of The Nutcracker, and the 25th anniversary of Ben Stevenson's production of the show. Stevenson's production has a unique charm, particularly in the Christmas party scene. Houston Ballet's Public Relations Associate Manager Sarah Lam tells us, "In Ben's production, each character on stage -- no matter how small -- has [his or her] own motivations and story lines, which makes the party scene very fun to watch."

The Nutcracker is performed at various times and dates. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For a full schedule, visit the Houston Ballet website or call 713‑227-2787. $25 to $110.

Martha Gellhorn and Virginia Cowles were two of the best war correspondents of their era. Between them, they covered every major world conflict during their highly respected careers, from the Spanish Civil War to the blitz of London, the D-Day invasion and the liberation of Dachau concentration camp to the Six-Day War and later, the invasion of Panama. Friends off the battlefield, they teamed up once and wrote the rarely performed little gem Love Goes to Press (1946), which is being performed on Saturday as part of its month-long run. Think of the classic screwball movie His Girl Friday (you know, the mile-a-minute newspaper romp with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell). Now set that on the Italian battlefield in WW II and make both main characters women who are falling in love with soldiers, and you'd have something like Love Goes to Press. Grounded with the touch of real history, the story follows two independent women, crackin' wise, getting the scoop and falling in love. During the performance, you might get the feeling that one of the men bears a suspicious resemblance to Ernest Hemingway. That's because Papa Hemingway was once married to Gellhorn.

Love Goes to Press at 7:30 pm. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Through December 23. Main Street Theater, 2540 Times Boulevard. For information, visit the theater's website or call 713-524-6706.

Dennis Miller and Bill O'Reilly aren't hitting a whole lot of cities on their Bolder and Fresher tour, but thankfully they are stopping off in Houston on Saturday. Whether you agree with Miller's politics these days or not, the 58-year-old rant king with the lightning fast delivery, rapier wit and ready cache of sarcastic one-liners, is still at the top of his game. O'Reilly admittedly isn't as consummate a showman as Miller, but he's interviewed almost every major Republican politician and pundit, and crossed swords with most of them. Both men will take questions from the audience following the performance.

See Dennis Miller and Bill O'Reilly at 3 and 8 p.m. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, visit the center's website or call 713-315-2400. $65 to $125.

Former company member John Feltch has returned to the Alley Theatre to play Jacob Marley's ghost (and Mrs. Dilber) in the Alley's production of A Christmas Carol -- A Ghost Story of Christmas, including a Sunday performance. He promises to scare the bejesus out of the kids in the audience as he comes up through the floor clanking his chains. He also says that, of course, there will be no question about whether they'll be doing the perennial favorite in British or American accents. "British. I mean, this ain't the Dickens from Marfa." Under the direction of James Black, he'll be joined by Jeffrey Bean reprising his role as the miserly, bad-tempered curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge, intent on ruining the holidays for everyone around him. Elizabeth Bunch plays the Spirit of Christmas Past and David Rainey is the Spirit of Christmas Present, with more than 20 child actors from the area. Why do audiences keep coming back for more? "It's a great, great story. It reminds us all in such a compact, potent way that we need to keep our priorities straight and that forgiveness and redemption are always possible. Love matters most," Feltch says.

The ghosts of Christmas haunt Scrooge at various times and dates. Through December 24. For a full schedule, visit the theatre's website or call 713-220-5700. $25 to $125.

Margaret Downing, D.L. Groover, Alex Randall and Jef With One F contributed to this post.

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