Top 10 NJ Arts Events of Week: McDonald’s Gospelfest, Les Paul tribute, Camp Jam in the Pines, more

by JAY LUSTIG
McDonald's Gospelfest 2023 PREVIEW

HEZEKIAH WALKER

Here is a roundup of arts events taking place around the state, through May 18.

MUSIC

The annual McDonald’s Gospelfest, which missed 2020 and went virtual in 2021 and 2022 because of the pandemic, will return to a live concert setting for its 40th annual edition, May 13 at the Prudential Center in Newark. Hezekiah Walker & the Love Fellowship Choir, Stephanie Mills, Vickie Winans, Byron Cage and The Clark Sisters will be among the performers, and Cissy Houston will receive the McDonald’s Gospelfest Lifetime Achievement Award. The show — which represents New Jersey’s biggest annual gospel event as well as one of the biggest gospel events in the country — will begin with a talent competition featuring aspiring gospel performers at 5 p.m., with Walker, Mills, The Clark Sisters and others performing later.

Bobby Bandiera will lead the house band at“The Les Paul Experience,” a tribute concert honoring the great guitarist and inventor (who died in 2009) taking place at the Pollak Theatre at Monmouth University in West Long Branch. Among those joining him will be Jim Babjak of The Smithereens, Sonny Kenn, longtime Patti Smith collaborator Lenny Kaye, Williams Honor singer Reagan Richards, former Spin Doctors member Anthony Krizan, and Billy Hector, with the house band also featuring Layonne Holmes, Tony Perruso, John Pittas, Kevin Bregande, Muddy Shews, Tommy LaBella and Jillian Rhys McCoy. The event will be presented in association with The Les Paul Foundation and will include a Q&A session with friends and colleagues of Paul. It is being presented in conjunction with an exhibition of photos, “Les Paul: Thru the Lens,” that will be at the university’s Pollak Gallery through May 31.

The Camp Jam in the Pines takes place May 18-21 at the Salem County Fairgrounds in Woodstown, with music by Remember Jones, Nik Greeley & the Operators, Veronica Lewis, the Billy Dalton Band, Entrain, Caitlyn & the Broadcast, Rees Shad & the Conversations, Suburban Sensi and many others, and attractions including food and crafts vendors; children’s activities; a cornhole tournament; and yoga, hula-hoop, tie-dye and juggling workshops.

ERIC RYAN ANDERSON

From left, Kanene Donehey, Zach Williams and Brian Elmquist of The Lone Bellow.

The group The Lone Bellow — Zach Williams, Kanene Donehey Pipkin and Brian Elmquist — recorded their 2022 album, Love Songs for Losers, with longtime bassist Jason Pipkin (Kanene’s husband) and drummer Julian Dorio, but are performing as a trio on their Love Songs for Losers Tour, which comes to the Outpost in the Burbs at the First Congregational Church in Montclair, May 18 at 8 p.m. Lindsay Lou will open.

​“One of the reasons we went with Love Songs for Losers as the album title is that I’ve always seen myself as a loser in love — I’ve never been able to get it completely right,” Williams has said. “The songs are looking at bad relationships and wonderful relationships and all the in-between, sometimes with a good deal of levity. It’s us just trying to encapsulate the whole gamut of experience that we all go through as human beings.”

(For a chance to win two tickets, send an email with “Bellow” in the subject line to njartscontest@gmail.com by 11 a.m. May 15.)

The Doug Hall Trio & Friends will host Music Against Hunger, a fundraiser for the food ministry Toni’s Kitchen, May 12 at 8 p.m. at Tierney’s Tavern in Montclair. The trio — composed of Hall on keyboards and vocals, David Goldman on djembe and Bill Meyer on bass — performs regularly, with various guests artists, at Montclair’s MC Hotel. They will be joined at this show by other groups such as Big Mamou, The Reticents, Ira Siegel & Lenie Colacino, and The TriSonics.

NJArts.net is the event’s media sponsor.

PAUL KOLNIK

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will present “Survivors” and other pieces at NJPAC in Newark.

DANCE

• Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will perform at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark, May 12-13 at 8 p.m. and May 14 at 3 p.m., with a 12:30 p.m. May 12 performance for school groups only. The 8 p.m. May 12 and 3 p.m. May 14 programs will include the Ailey classic “Revelations” as well as the New Jersey premieres of Kyle Abraham’s “Are You in Your Feelings?” (described as “a celebration of Black culture, Black music, and the youthful spirit that perseveres in us all” featuring music by Drake, Lauryn Hill, Kendrick Lamar and others) and Jamar Roberts’ “In a Sentimental Mood” (an “exploration of love and desire” featuring music by Duke Ellington and others). The May 13 program will include “Revelations” plus a new production of “Survivors” (Ailey’s tribute to Nelson and Winnie Mandela) and two Ailey pieces set to Ellington music, “Reflections in D” and “Night Creature.”

FILM/MUSIC

• “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” — the 1980 film that was the second in the series to be released — will be screened with the New Jersey Symphony playing John Williams’ Oscar-nominated score at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, May 18 at 7:30 p.m.; the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, May 19 at 8 p.m.; Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark, May 20 at 8 p.m.; and the State Theatre in New Brunswick, May 21 at 3 p.m. Constantine Kitsopoulos will conduct.

The Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway will show “School of Rock,” May 18.

Scenes from the 2003 Jack Black comedy “School of Rock” were filmed at the Union County Performing Arts Center and, in celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary, it will be screened at the Rahway theater, May 18 at 8 p.m., after a 7 p.m. set of live music by the house band of the School of Rock’s Clark location.

WORDS

• Kerry Butler — who has starred in many Broadway shows and was nominated for a Tony for her work in “Xanadu,” in 2008 — will be interviewed by actor and singer Robert Bannon in “The Broadway Lecture Series” at StageWorks at Studio 237, Pompton Lakes, May 13 at 3 p.m.

Andrew McCartney — who starred in ’80s films such as “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Pretty in Pink” and “Less than Zero” but has been working more as a TV director in recent years, on series such as “Orange Is the New Black,” “Gossip Girl” and “The Blacklist” — will sign copies of his new travel memoir, “Walking With Sam: A Father, a Son, and Five Hundred Miles Across Spain,” and meet fans, May 13 at 4 p.m. at Words bookstore in Maplewood and May 13 at 7 p.m. at Little City Books in Hoboken.

REVIEWS

“Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express” at Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn. (Through May 14)

“Two Elizas” at Luna Stage, West Orange. (Through May 14)

“Tales From the Guttenberg Bible,” presented by George Street Playhouse at New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. (Through May 21)

“Balloonacy” at Mile Square Theatre, Hoboken. (Through May 21)

“Shelley” at Hudson Theatre Works, Weehawken. (Through May 21)

 “Traces” at The Gallery Space, Rahway. (Through May 21)

“Jairo Alfonso: Objectscapes” at Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, Summit. (Through June 4)

“vanessa german: … please imagine all the things i cannot say …” at Montclair Art Museum. (Through June 25)

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

“Komar and Melamid: A Lesson in History” at Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick. (Through July 16)

“Each One Teach One: Preserving Legacy in Perpetuity” at Morris Museum, Morris Township. (Through Aug. 27)

“Spiral Q: The Parade” at Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton. (Through Jan. 7)

“Local Voices: Memories, Stories and Portraits” at Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton. (Through Jan. 7)

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

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