Top 10 Arts Events of Week: NJ Lottery Festival of Ballooning; SopranosCon; Rakim; more

Max Weinberg jukebox preview


Here is a roundup of arts events taking place around the state, through July 28.

Max Weinberg’s Jukebox, which features the E Street Band drummer playing audience-requested classic-rock songs with members of The Weeklings, will perform on the first night of the New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning at Solberg Airport in Readington. Their appearance will be July 23 at 8 p.m., with fireworks following. Children’s entertainer Laurie Berkner will appear earlier that day, at 1:30 p.m. Barenaked Ladies will perform on July 24 at 8 p.m., and Styx will help close the festival, July 25 at 3 p.m.

The festival, now in its 38th year, bills itself as the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America, with up to 100 hot air balloons ascending twice each day, other family-oriented activities, and more bands in addition to those listed above.

Also coming up this week:


• Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes will present a free, outdoor concert at Oak Ridge Park in Clark, July 24 at 6 p.m., with opening sets by Ray Andersen & the First Verse, and The Rusty Monks. Blankets or lawn chairs are recommended for the concert, which is organized by the Union County Board of Commissioners, and there will be food trucks on site.

The Prudential Center in Newark will present its first concert since the pandemic began July 24 at 8 p.m., with “De Colombia Para el Mundo” (“From Colombia to the World”), headlined by Nicky Jam and also featuring Jessi Uribe, Francy, Grupo Niche, Farina, Alex Sensation, Los Diablitos and Fruko y sus Tesos.


Rakim, widely considered one of the greatest rappers ever — primarily for his groundbreaking work in the late ’80s and early ’90s in partnership with DJ Eric B. — will perform at the free, outdoor Sounds of the City series at NJPAC in Newark, July 22 at 6 p.m., with an opening performance combining jazz and poetry by NJPAC & Rutgers-Newark’s “City Verses” project and NJPAC Arts Education.

• Nella (see video below), the Venezualan singer who won the Best New Artist award at the Latin Grammys in 2019, will present a free, outdoor concert at Woodbridge High School, July 28 at 7 p.m., as part of the summer-long Woodbridge Wednesday series.

The Montclair Orchestra’s String Sextet (Julia Choi, violin; Letian Cheng, violin; Dov Scheindlin, viola; Jiawei Yan, viola; Julia Bruskin, cello; Isaiah Pennington, cello) will perform outdoors at the Morris Museum in Morris Township, July 25 at 8 p.m. The “Strings of Summer” program will include Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence,” Richard Strauss’s Sextet from Capriccio, and Morristown-Beard School student Kailyn Williams’ work “Silver Bells & Golden Sand,” which won this year’s New Jersey Music Teachers Association composition competition.



Composer, pianist and educator Diane Moser, who died last year, will be honored by a Memorial Concert and Fundraiser at Tierney’s Tavern in Montclair, July 27. Mark Dresser & Friends will perform at 8 p.m., followed by sets by Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band at 9:30 and 10:30. Participants will include multi-instrumentalist Marty Ehrlich, pianist Angelica Sanchez and drummer Michael Sarin.

July 27 marks the 64th anniversary of Moser’s birth.

The Composers Big Band, which performed music written by its members and other contemporary composers, debuted at Tierney’s in 1997 and performed there frequently.

Proceeds from donations will benefit the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund, which provides medical care to musicians.


A reimagining of the classic play “12 Angry Men” — titled “12 Mo’ Angry Men,” written and directed by TaNisha Fordham and produced by Enlightened Visions — will be presented at Mulberry Commons Park (in front of the Prudential Center) in Newark, July 23 and 30 and Aug. 6 and 13 at 7 p.m. According to a press release, “12 Mo’ Angry Men” is “the story of 11 black jurors and 1 white juror, deliberating on the guilt or innocence of a white police officer who shot and killed a black teen.” There is no admission charge, and attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets.

Bergen County’s free Shakespeare in the Park program will include performances at the Overpeck Park Amphitheatre in Ridgefield Park of “Hamlet,” July 23, 25 and 31 and Aug. 6, 8, 12, 14, 20, 26 and 28; and “As You Like It,” July 24 and 30 and Aug. 1, 5, 7, 13, 15, 19, 22, 27 and 29. The shows will be at 8 p.m., with live music from 4 to 6 p.m. on the following dates: Aug. 1 (Divinity & the FAM Band, Melissa Cherie); Aug. 8 (Imina Adonri, Esti Mellul, Ginny Lackey & the Hi-Fi Band); Aug. 15 (Maurice Cobb, Hidden Figures); and Aug. 22 (Amanda Brite, Dan Sheehan’s Rising Seas, Andy Krikun & Jeff Doctorow).



The second SopranosCon convention will take place at Harrah’s on July 24 and 25, simultaneously with MobMovieCon. (The first SopranosCon took place at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus in 2019.)

Actors who are listed as attending this year’s convention on the SopranosCon web site include Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Melfi), Dominic Chianese (Junior Soprano), Federico Castellucio (Furio), Vincent Curatolo (Johnny Sack), David Proval (Richie Aprile), Aida Turturro (Janice) and Jerry Adler (Hesh).

In association with the SopranosCon and MobMovieCon conventions, there will also be a reunion of cast members of the 1996 movie “Gotti” (including Chianese, Armand Assante and William Forsythe) and a Mob Movie Awards ceremony hosted by Ice-T.


Since launching in September 2014,, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


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