Top 12 NJ Arts Events of Week: ‘Matilda’ with NJ Symphony; Nicki Minaj, ‘Spiritrials,’ more

by JAY LUSTIG
matilda preview nj

Danny DeVito with Mara Wilson, center, and Rhea Perlman in the 1996 film “Matilda.”

Here is a roundup of arts events taking place around New Jersey, through March 28.

FILM/MUSIC

Danny DeVito — who directed, co-produced and co-starred in the 1996 movie “Matilda” — will provide live narration for it when it screens, with live music by the New Jersey Symphony, at The State Theatre in New Brunswick, March 22 at 7:30 p.m. And David Newman, who composed the music, will conduct his own score.

Two actors from the original movie — Rhea Perlman (Mrs. Wormwood) and Mara Wilson (Matilda) — will also make appearances. DeVito played the title character’s father in the film, in addition to serving as its narrator.

This event was originally scheduled for September but was postponed because of the Screen Actors Guild strike.

The movie was based on Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel about a girl with telekinetic powers that also inspired a musical that debuted in England in 2010.

• “Black & White Night,” a “Silent Film Extravaganza” scheduled for The Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, March 28 at 7 p.m., will feature 1920s and 1930s short silent films featuring Laurel & Hardy (“You’re Darn Tootin’,” “Two Tars”), Buster Keaton (“One Week,” “Cops”), Our Gang (“Dog Heaven”) and the cartoon character Felix the Cat (“Woos Whoopee”), with live organ music by Ian Fraser, and free popcorn.

LOURDES DELGADO

KURT ROSENWINKEL

MUSIC

• The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by Wynton Marsalis, will perform at The Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, March 24 at 7 p.m., with guest guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, who will perform in the New Jersey premiere of his Jazz at Lincoln Center-commissioned suite.

AJ McLean of The Backstreet Boys and Joey Fatone of NSYNC are teaming up for a tour that is titled “Joey Fatone and AJ McLean: A Legendary Night” and will include an 8 p.m. March 23 concert at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark. A seven-piece band will back the two vocalists on the tour, which is described in promotional material as “a nostalgic journey through hits that defined an era.”

Having recently released his first album in six years, Gardens Old, Flowers New, veteran singer-songwriter Tom Rush will perform at the At the Tabernacle series at the Mt. Tabor Tabernacle in Parsippany, March 22 at 7:30 p.m., with Cheryl Wheeler opening.

Rush, whose career stretches back to the 1960s — when he released his best-known song, the bittersweet ballad “No Regrets,” and helped popularize the work of then-little-known singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and James Taylor — will be backed by Matt Nakoa, who wasn’t even born in that era. Nakoa, a singer-songwriter in his own right, produced Gardens Old, Flowers New. And he will perform a few of his own songs in Parsippany, in addition to backing Rush.

NICKI MINAJ

• Nicki Minaj — who received the lifetime achievement award known as the Video Vanguard Award at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards at The Prudential Center in Newark, and hosted the 2023 VMAs there (after co-hosting in ’22) — will return to the Newark arena for a show at 8 p.m. March 28. Monica will open.

The show is part of Minaj’s Pink Friday 2 World Tour, which began earlier this month and follows the release of her fifth studio album, Pink Friday 2, in December.

Singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier — whose 2018 album Rifles & Rosary Beads, written in collaboration with military veterans and their relatives, was nominated for a Grammy in the Folk Album category — will perform at the Outpost in the Burbs series at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Montclair, March 28 at 8 p.m.; and The Pollak Theater at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, March 30 at 8 p.m. Gauthier’s songs have been covered by Jimmy Buffett, Tim McGraw, Amy Helm, Bettye LaVette, Kathy Mattea, Blake Shelton, Boy George and others.

Jaimee Harris — Gauthier’s partner, who contributed as a co-songwriter, backing vocalist and guitarist to Gauthier’s 2022 album, Dark Enough to See the Stars — will join her at the show as a “special guest.”

For a chance to win two tickets to the Outpost show, send an email to njartscontest@gmail.com by noon March 25 with “Gauthier” in the subject line.

DAHLAK BRATHWAITE

THEATER

The Vanguard Theater in Montclair will present Dahlak Brathwaite’s “Spiritrials” — described in a press release as a “hip-hop theater experience (that) intertwines beats, rhymes, and spoken word, offering a unique meditation on the convergence of musical expression and historical struggle” — March 22 at 1 p.m., March 23 at 2 and 8 p.m., and March 24 at 3 p.m.

“ERNXST, or the Importance of Being” will be presented at The Music Mountain Theatre in Lambertville, March 24-25 at 8 p.m. This is a new musical, featuring a book by Justin Elizabeth Sayre, lyrics by Kait Kerrigan, and music by Bree Lowdermilk. According to promotional material, it is an “adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ (that) maintains the original’s manners and misgivings in the search for love, but adds to Wilde’s vision by breaking down boundaries around gender and identity, reminding us all of the importance of being exactly who we are.”

FAMILY

The Sieminski Theater in Basking Ridge will present The Great DuBois, billed as a two-person circus, March 23 at 7:30 p.m. and March 24 at 2:30 p.m. According to the Sieminski website, the show will include “incredible feats of juggling, hula hoops, unicycle, aerial, circus stunts, contortion, magic and audience interaction all wrapped up in a blanket of comedy.” (see video below)

GEORGE JOHNSON

WORDS

George M. Johnson, author of the acclaimed but frequently banned book “All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto,” will take part in a panel discussion titled “Critical Conversation: Book Banning and the Freedom of Expression,” March 23 at 6:30 p.m. at The Vogel at Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank. Other participants will include Tina Marie Doody, director of the Glen Ridge Public Library (who refused to remove “All Boys Aren’t Blue” from the library’s shelves when there was a call to do so, last year); and Zaneta Rago-Craft (director of Monmouth University’s Intercultural Center). Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education programs at PEN America, will moderate.

FILM

The New Jersey Jewish Film Festival at JCC MetroWest in West Orange will launch on March 28 and run through April 14. The first screening, March 28 at 7 p.m., will be of “Seven Blessings,” by Israeli director Ayelet Menahemi, and be followed by a post-screening Zoom question-and-answer session with co-writer and actress Eleanor Sela and producer Ronen Ben Tal.

“Seven Blessings,” a family comedy-drama, won Best Picture and nine other awards at the 2023 Ophir Awards (Israel’s equivalent of The Oscars). You can watch the trailer below.

REVIEWS

“Dreamgirls” at McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton. (Through March 24)

“A Little Night Music,” presented by American Theater Group at Hamilton Stage at Union County Performing Arts Center, Rahway. (Through March 24)

“Sunday in the Park With George” at Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal. (Through March 24)

Edward Fausty: Refuge at Watchung Arts Center. (Through March 24)

“Rabbit Summer” at Mile Square Theatre, Hoboken. (Through March 30)

“A Trojan Woman” at Luna Stage, West Orange. (Through March 31)

“Caroline Burton: Way Finding” at New Jersey State Museum, Trenton. (Through March 31)

“Night Forms” at Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton. (Through April 7)

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

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