Top 10 NJ Arts Events of Week: La Bamba’s Holiday Hurrah, ‘The Nutcracker,’ Darren Criss, more

labamba holiday hurrah preview


Here is a roundup of arts events taking place around the state, through Dec. 15.


The stage is going to be very crowded at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m., at LaBamba’s annual Holiday Hurrah, benefiting the Fulfill food bank and the Asbury Park Little League. Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg — well known to New Jersey rock fans as a former member of the Asbury Jukes and the Max Weinberg 7, a Bruce Springsteen sideman, and the leader of his own LaBamba & the Hubcaps — has put together a big band for this event, featuring a 13-member horn section (many of them past or present Jukes). And guests including John Cafferty, Robert Randolph, Glen Burtnik and Bobby Bandiera will be featured on holiday songs and other material.

The Water Gap Jazz Orchestra, a 17-piece big band, will perform Duke Ellington’s The Nutcracker Suite and the new Grinch Suite — based on “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and composed by WGJO director Matt Vashlishan — Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. at The Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum in Morris Township. Singer Nancy Reed will perform with the orchestra, and Edward Ellington II, Duke Ellington’s grandson, will read a short version of the Nutcracker story between the Nutcracker Suite movements.

The Morris Choral Society will present a “Holiday/Favorites” program at United Methodist Church on the Green, Morristown, Dec. 10 at 3 p.m. The program will include Handel’s Messiah, John Rutter’s Magnificat, Stephen Sondheim Choral Celebration (a medley featuring some of the late composer’s best known songs) and more.


Darren Criss first became well known as a cast member of television’s “Glee,” and has subsequently taken on a wide variety of roles — musical and dramatic, on stage and on television and film — and won an Emmy for his work in 2018’s FX series, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.” Criss released his debut full-length solo album, A Very Darren Crissmas, last year, and will present a show of the same name at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m.

The Harmonium Choral Society‘s concerts at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 3 p.m., will feature Matthew Harris’ setting of Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” for chorus and chamber orchestra, and works by former Sweet Honey in the Rock member Ysaÿe Barnwell, Ralph Vaughan Williams and others. Harris’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” was commissioned by HCS 20 years ago.

Newark-based Trilogy: An Opera Company will present “Fannie Lou, I’m Sick and Tired” — based on the life of Civil Rights Movement leader Fannie Lou Hamer, Dec. 11 at 4 p.m. at the Victoria Theater at NJPAC in Newark. This piece was composed by Richard Thompson with libretto by Cassandra Medley; this production with be directed by Bianca Laverne Jones, with Leslie B. Dunner conducting.


Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater will present “The Nutcracker Rocks” in Deal.


This week’s performances of the classic ballet “The Nutcracker” — and modern variations on it — include:

“Jersey City Nutcracker,” presented by Nimbus Dance at Nimbus Arts Center, Jersey City, Dec. 9-11, 16-18 and 21-23 at 7 p.m., and Dec. 10-11, 17-18 and 23 at 3 p.m.

“The Nutcracker,” presented by Ballet for Young Audiences at Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College, Toms River, Dec. 10 at 1 and 4 p.m.

“The Nutcracker,” presented by Atlantic City Ballet at Stockton University Performing Arts Center, Galloway, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 10 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

“The Nutcracker Rocks,” presented by Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater at Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m., Dec. 10 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 1 and 5 p.m.

“The Nutcracker,” presented by Company of Dance Arts at Count Basie Center for the Arts, Red Bank,” Dec. 9 at 7 p.m., Dec. 10 at 1 and 5 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 1 p.m.

“The Nutcracker,” presented by BalletArts and Adelphi Orchestra at River Dell High School, Oradell, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 2 p.m.

“The Nutcracker,” presented by American Repertory Ballet and Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey at Patriots Theater at War Memorial, Trenton, Dec. 11 at 3 p.m.

“The Nutcracker,” presented by New Jersey Ballet at Levoy Theatre, Millville,” Dec. 11 at 1 and 5 p.m.



• Astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose latest book is titled “Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization,” will give a talk titled “The Cosmic Perspective,” Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark. According to the venue’s website, Tyson will discuss “how having a ‘cosmic perspective’ profoundly influences what we think and feel about science, culture, politics and life itself.”

Allan Kozinn and Adrian Sinclair‘s book “The McCartney Legacy (Vol. 1: 1969-73),” which launches a projected series about Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles career, will be published on Dec. 13. And Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m., the co-authors will talk about it with Beatles expert Kenneth Womack at the Grammy Museum Experience Prudential Center in Newark, in conjunction with the venue’s “Ladies and Gentlemen … The Beatles!” exhibition.

• Postponed from Dec. 4: Actor Michael Imperioli — who played mobster Christopher Moltisanti in “The Sopranos” and has another high-profile role at the moment, playing sex-addicted movie producer Dominic Di Grasso in the HBO series “White Lotus” — will sign copies of his novel “The Perfume Burned His Eyes” at Bookends Bookstore in Ridgewood, Dec. 11 at 1 p.m. (Lou Reed fans may recognize the novel’s title as a line from Reed’s song “Romeo Had Juliette”; Reed appears as a character in the novel, which is set in New York in the 1970s.)


“Beneath the Surface: Northeast Feltmakers Guild Juried Exhibition” at Center for Contemporary Art, Bedminster. (Through Dec. 9).

“The Play About the Baby” at Black Box Performing Arts Center, Englewood. (Through Dec. 10)

“A Christmas Story: The Musical” at Algonquin Arts Theatre, Manasquan. (Through Dec. 18)

“Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” at Mile Square Theatre, Hoboken. (Through Dec. 24)

“American Stories: Gifts From the Jersey City Museum Collection” at Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick. (Through Dec. 30)

“Thread Hijack” at the Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton. (Through Jan. 8)

“RetroBlakesberg: Captured on Film, 1978-2008,” works by rock photographer Jay Blakesberg at Morris Museum, Morris Township. (Through Feb. 5)

“New Jersey Arts Annual: Reemergence” at State Museum, Trenton. (Through April 30)

“Ladies and Gentlemen … The Beatles!” at Grammy Museum Experience Prudential Center, Newark. (Through June 25)

“George Inness: Visionary Landscapes” at Montclair Art Museum. (Through June 30, 2024)


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