Top 12 Arts Events of the Week: Sarah Brightman, ‘A Jolly Holiday,’ ‘It’s Only a Play,’ more

sarah brightman symphony tour nj

Sarah Brightman performs at NJPAC in Newark, Nov. 27, and Ovation Hall in Atlantic City, Dec. 4.

A roundup of arts events taking place around the state through Dec. 2:


Sarah Brightman, who presented a livestream concert titled “A Christmas Symphony” last year, is taking a similar approach on her holiday season tour, titled A Christmas Symphony. She’ll be accompanied by an orchestra and a choir, and sing, according to a press release, “renditions of classics from the Christmas canon, along with personal holiday and fan favorites.”

The tour comes to Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark, Nov. 27 at 8 p.m.; and Ovation Hall at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m.

The tour was originally scheduled for 2020 and titled “Hymn,” but the tour name changed when the dates were postponed and Brightman changed her musical approach; tickets for the original shows will be honored.

The Montclair-based group Nefesh Mountain had been scheduled to present a “Hanukkah Holiday Concert” at the South Orange Performing Arts Center (the eight-day holiday starts on Nov. 28). But since that venue is still recovering from Tropical Storm Ida damage, the show has been moved to Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange, Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Nefesh Mountain is a bluegrass/Americana band and, on their web site, they claim to be “among the first to truly give voice and openly represent Jewish American culture, tradition, values and spirituality in the world of American roots music.” Listen, below, to their “Oseh Shalom,” a prayer for peace sung in both Hebrew and English and featuring progressive-bluegrass luminaries Sam Bush (mandolin), Jerry Douglas (dobro) and Tony Trischka (banjo).

• Jonathan Antoine, a classically trained tenor who gained an ardent international fan base following his 2012 appearances on the “Britain’s Got Talent” television series — he and Charlotte Jaconelli, who performed as a duo, finished second — released a holiday album, ChristmasLand, this year, and will bring his ChristmasLand Live! tour to the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m.



The Paper Mill Playhouse will begin previews of “A Jolly Holiday: Celebrating Disney’s Broadway Hits,” Dec. 1, with the official opening night on Dec. 5 and the last show on Jan. 2. The show is a revue featuring songs from “The Lion King,” “Tarzan,” “Mary Poppins,” “Aladdin,” “Hercules,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Newsies,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aida,” “High School Musical” and “Frozen,” and the cast includes actors who have appeared in Broadway productions of “The Lion King,” “Aladdin,” “Newsies,” “Ain’t Too Proud” and “Mean Girls.” Kara Lindsay, for instance, played the female lead, Katherine, in the original cast of “Newsies,” and Major Attaway played the Genie in “Aladdin” for several years.

The George Street Playhouse, which presented an online production of Terrence McNally’s very funny 1982 showbiz farce “It’s Only a Play” this summer, will produce a version of it for live audiences at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, with previews beginning Nov. 30, the official opening night on Dec. 3 and the last show on Dec. 19. Three of the actors will be the same; four will be different.

“Elliot & Me,” a musical comedy based on the lives of songwriter Elliot Willensky and his brother, Steven, will be presented by Hudson Theatre Works in Weehawken, Dec. 2-5 and 9-12. Elliot Willensky, a Bayonne native who was best known for writing the Michael Jackson hit “Got to Be There,” died in 2010 at the age of 66. “Elliot & Me” features his music along with a book by Steven Willensky and Scott Coulter.


American Repertory Ballet‘s 2021 series of “The Nutcracker” presentations begins at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, Nov. 28-28, with later shows at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, Dec. 3 and 4; the Patriots Theatre at the War Memorial in Trenton, Dec. 11; and the State Theatre in New Brunswick, Dec. 17-19. Gillian Murphy will dance with ARB at the 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27 show.


Carl Wallnau plays Scrooge in the Centenary Stage company’s “A Christmas Carol.”


The Centenary Stage Company will present its production of “A Christmas Carol” (which is adapted from the Charles Dickens novella by actor and playwright Stephen Temperley, and which it debuted last year) at the Sitnik Theatre at Lackland Performing Arts Center, Hackettstown, Nov. 26-28 and Dec. 1-5 and 8-12, as well as at the Fellowship Cultural Arts Center in Basking Ridge, Dec. 18-19.

Temperley created the play for the Centenary Stage Company and says on his web site, “I love the story, played Scrooge myself for four seasons at the McCarter theater in Princeton, and wanted to make an adaptation that paid more attention to the social realities of the time. … I’ve also added a new ending, because what does happen when a person’s life is turned upside down? What precisely does Scrooge do with his new-found humanity?”

The Growing Stage in Netcong returns to in-person production for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic with “The Story of the Nutcracker,” which it will present Nov. 26-28 and Dec. 3-5, 10-12 and 17-19. This is not a ballet but a theatrical presentation (with some of Tchaikovsky’s famous music) of the story, with a book co-written by Growing Stage founder Stephen L. Fredericks and Growing Stage artist-in-residence Perry Arthur Kroeger.

“The SpongeBob Musical,” which ran on Broadway in 2017 and 2018, features characters from the popular animated TV series “SpongeBob SquarePants” and songs written by stylistically wide range of musicians, including The Flaming Lips, They Might Be Giants, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Cyndi Lauper, Yolanda Adams, Sara Bareilles, Lady Antebellum, Plain White T’s and T.I. The Axelrod Performing Arts Academy will present it at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal from Nov. 27 to Dec. 5.


The Village at SOPAC theater in South Orange is offering a Not So Holiday Film Series in November and December, which includes movies that are set at least partially during holiday season but aren’t necessarily thought of as holiday fare. Upcoming offerings will include “Gremlins,” Nov. 24 and 28; “Lethal Weapon,” Dec. 1 and 5; “Scrooged,” Dec. 8 and 12; “Friday After Next,” Dec. 15 and 10; and “Love Actually,” Dec. 22.

nj spoken word events



Neil deGrasse Tyson — the scientist, author, television personality and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York — will give an interactive lecture on “The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries,” Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark.


“1+1” at Black Box Performing Arts Center, Englewood. (Through Dec. 5)

“Color Riot! How Color Changed Navajo Textiles” at Montclair Art Museum. (Through Jan. 2)

“Doug Herren: Color-Forms/Ceramic Structures” at Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton. (Through Jan. 9)

“On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey” at Morris Museum, Morris Township. (Through Feb. 27)

“Bruce Springsteen Live!” at Grammy Museum Experience Prudential Center, Newark. (Through March 20)

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