Top 10 NJ Arts Events of the Week: La Bamba’s Holiday Hurrah, Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ more

LaBamba, Morristown


A roundup of arts events taking place around the state, through Dec. 25:


• “LaBamba’s Holiday Hurrah” —taking place at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. — is a holiday show with a huge supporting cast including Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg’s former Asbury Jukes boss Southside Johnny and a long list of current and former Jukes, including Mark Pender, Bobby Bandiera, Glenn Alexander, Jeff Kazee, John Isley, Billy Walton, Neal Pawley and Chris Anderson. Trombonist and singer LaBamba will lead a 15(!)-piece horn section. The event will support the Fulfill NJ food bank and the Asbury Park Toy Drive.

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra‘s annual holiday-season performances of Handel’s Messiah will take place, this year, at the Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University, Dec. 20 at 8 p.m., and the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. Roderick Cox will conduct, and featured vocalists will include Sarah Shafer, soprano; J’Nai Bridges, mezzo-soprano; Frederick Ballentine, tenor; Douglas Williams, bass-baritone; and the Montclair State University Singers (conducted by Heather J. Buchanan).

• Monmouth Civic Chorus will also present a Messiah-themed concert, titled “Messiah and More” and also featuring other holiday season classics, at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Dec. 22 at 4 p.m.


When violinist Yevgeny Kutik was 5 years old, his family left the Soviet Union with just two suitcases, one of which was filled with sheet music from his family’s collection. He later recorded some of those pieces on a 2014 album titled Music From the Suitcase: A Collection of Russian Miniatures. The selections “began to organize themselves into a distinct array of moods and themes … Russian folklore, fantasy, and poetry,” he has said. “It reminds me of what we went through and how far we have come.” Accompanied by pianist Randall Hodgkinson, Kutik will present “Music From the Suitcase” concerts at the Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum in Morris Township, Dec. 21-22 at 2 p.m. He’ll perform two works from the album – Prokofiev’s “Waltz” from Cinderella and Rubinstein’s Romance — as well as Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 94b.


New Jersey Ballet’s lavish annual production of “The Nutcracker,” featuring music by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, will be presented at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 21-22 and 27 at 1 and 6 p.m.; Dec. 24 at 1 p.m. and Dec. 26 at 3 p.m.

NJPAC in Newark will present its “Hip-Hop Nutcracker,” Dec. 20-21.

Also, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark will present its annual “Hip-Hop Nutcracker” shows, featuring rapper Kurtis Blow as well as breakdancers, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 21 at 2 p.m., at Prudential Hall.

Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater will put a different, contemporary spin on the classic with its “The Nutcracker Rocks,” featuring a reimagined score by Alex Rosamilia and Alex Levine of the Jersey rock band The Gaslight Anthem and presented by Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal, Dec. 20 at 8 p.m., Dec. 21 at 1, 4 and 8 p.m., and Dec. 22 at 1 and 4 p.m.

Productions of “The Nutcracker” will also be presented by …
New Jersey Civic Youth Ballet at the Sitnik Theatre at the Lackland Performing Arts Center in Hackettstown, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m., Dec. 21 at noon and 5 p.m., and Dec. 22 at 3 p.m.
South Jersey Ballet at the Voorhees School Theatre, Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 21 at 1 and 4:30 p.m., and Dec. 22 at 2:30 p.m.
American Repertory Ballet at the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton, Dec. 21 at 2 p.m.
… Atlantic City Ballet and the Garden State Philharmonic at the Strand Center for the Arts in Lakewood, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m.
… Atlantic City Ballet at Caesars in Atlantic City, Dec. 22 at 4 p.m.


NJPAC in Newark will offer a Kwanzaa Family Festival, Dec. 21 from 1 a.m. to 1 p.m., with West African dance and drumming, a Kwanzaa ceremony, storytelling, arts and crafts and more; as well as a Kwanzaa Marketplace, Dec. 20 from 6 to 10 p.m. and Dec. 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Roxy & Dukes Roadhouse in Dunellen will open its doors, Christmas Day from 4 to 8 p.m., offering a free dinner for those who have no one to spend Christmas with, or are financially challenged.

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