Top 12 NJ Arts Events of Week: Tribute to Sinatra and Peggy Lee, Beatles symposium, more

by JAY LUSTIG
sinatra tribute njpac

Participants in the “Celebrating Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra & Friends” concert at NJPAC will include, clockwise from top left, Aloe Blacc, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Paula Cole, Bettye LaVette, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Rachael Price and Christian McBride.

Here is a roundup of arts events taking place around New Jersey, through Feb. 8.

MUSIC

NJPAC has assembled a great lineup for its “Celebrating Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra & Friends: A Tribute in Song” concert that will take place in its Prudential Hall, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Christian McBride will serve as musical director, with his Christian McBride Big Band backing Dee Dee Bridgewater, Bettye LaVette, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Aloe Blacc, Rachael Price (of Lake Street Dive) and Paula Cole.

Among the songs to be performed will be duets that were sung together by Sinatra (1915-1998) and Lee (1920-2002), including “Our Love Is Here to Stay” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” (see video below)

The Beatles in 1964.

In honor of the 60th anniversary of the arrival of The Beatles in the United States, The Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music at Monmouth University in West Long Branch will present an all-day symposium, Feb. 3, titled “Get Back … to 1964,” with panel discussions, interviews, book signings and performances of early Beatles songs. It will be held at the university’s Great Hall.

Participants will include authors Kenneth Womack (“Living the Beatles Legend: The Untold Story of Mal Evans,” “John Lennon 1980: The Last Days in the Life”) and Bruce Spizer (“The Beatles Album Series”); DJs Dennis Elsas (WFUV, SiriusXM) and Tom Frangione (SiriusXM); and Jim Babjak of The Smithereens. And the Feb. 9, 1964 edition of television’s “The Ed Sullivan Show,” on which The Beatles made a legendary appearance, will be shown in its entirety.

A concert being presented at The Bickford Theatre at The Morris Museum in Morris Township, Feb. 4 at 3 p.m., will have a strong visual component. Dan Tepfer’s “Natural Machines,” co-presented by Music in the Somerset Hills, will use computer technology to provide visual projections that will complement the music that jazz-classical pianist Tepfer is playing.

Tepfer said, in a press release, that the show “is a project where I explore the intersection, in music, between natural and mechanical processes. I improvise at the piano, and programs I’ve written on my computer interact with me in real-time as I’m playing, both musically and visually … The visualizations I’ve made are intended to reveal the underlying musical structure of each piece. They’re generated in real time as I play. Everything on the screen is a direct representation of some aspect of the music: pitch, dynamics, rhythm, harmony.”

FOY VANCE

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of his breakthrough album, 2013’s Joy of Nothing, Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance launched, last year, his Regarding the Joy of Nothing Tour, which is continuing into 2024. Dates will include one at The Outpost in the Burbs at The First Congregational Church in Montclair, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m., with Bonnie Bishop opening.

Ed Sheeran and Bonnie Raitt made guest appearances on Joy of Nothing, and in 2015, Vance signed to Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man Records label.

New Jersey Symphony will present its annual “Lunar New Year Celebration,” welcoming the Year of the Dragon, at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m., with conductor Yue Bao, pianist Tony Siqi Yun, The Peking University Alumni Chorus, and The Edison Chinese School Lion Dance Team.

The program will include Li Huanzhi’s Spring Festival Overture; Xinghai’s “Yellow River Boatmen’s Song” from Yellow River Concerto; Ravel’s “Allegramente” from Piano Concerto in G; Huang Ruo’s Selections from Folk Songs for Orchestra; Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance No. 8, Op. 46; Verdi’s “Va Pensiero” from Nabucco; the traditional Jasmine Flower Song; and Zhou Tian’s Gift.

The Passage Theatre Company will present “Ghetto Gods in Divineland,” Feb. 8-25.

THEATER

The Passage Theatre Company will present the world premiere of Richard Bradford and Anthony Martinez-Briggs’ “Ghetto Gods in Divineland” — described as a work of “Experimental Afrofuturism” and featuring the music of the Trenton-based ’90s hip-hop group Poor Righteous Teachers — at The Mill Hill Playhouse in Trenton, Feb. 8-11, 15-18 and 22-25.

In another world premiere, The Two River Theater in Red Bank will present “The Scarlet Letter,” a new take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic 1850 novel, Feb. 3-4, 7-11, 14-18 and 21-25.

Kate Hamill — who has previously brought works of literature by Jane Austen, Bram Stoker, Louisa May Alcott and others to the stage — did the adaptation.

And in this week’s third world premiere, Luna Stage in West Orange will offer Gabriel Jason Dean’s “RIFT, or White Lies,” Feb. 8-11, 15-18, 22-25 and 29 and March 1-3.

The plot is described this way on the theater’s web site: “Two brothers — one a progressive novelist, the other a convicted murderer and high-ranking member of a white supremacist prison gang — are united through their traumatic childhood. Now adults, these men navigate the edges of their brotherly bond. Are they truly so different? Is it possible to love someone whose beliefs you hate?”

Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater will present “The Jungle Book,” Feb. 2-4 and 9-11.

DANCE

Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater will present its innovative “East Meets West” take on Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale of a boy raised in the wild, “The Jungle Book,” at The Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal, Feb. 2-4 and 9-11.

This production, which debuted in 2019, features a percussive score and elaborate headpieces, and is choreographed by Sudha Shekhar Devulapalli and AXCBT artistic director Gabriel Chajnik, who utilize a variety of elements from contemporary dance, hip-hop, ballet, classical Indian dance and Bollywood dance.

Dance New Jersey will present DNJFest ’24 — featuring classes, professional development workshops, auditions, community roundtables and a wellness-centered vendors market — Feb. 3 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, a landmark that was reached in August, hip-hop dance pioneer Rennie Harris and Run-DMC rapper Darryl “DMC” McDaniels will be among the participants.

The cover of Odie Henderson’s book, “Black Caesars and Foxy Cleopatras: A History of Blaxploitation Cinema.”

OTHER

Odie Henderson will discuss his new book “Black Caesars and Foxy Cleopatras: A History of Blaxploitation Cinema” following a screening of the classic 1971 blaxploitation film “Shaft,” Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. at The Clairidge in Montclair.

The Hamilton Stage at The Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway — which suffered major damage in Tropical Storm Ida in September 2021 and has been closed since then — will celebrate its reopening with an Open House Weekend, Feb. 3-4. All events are free, though advance registration is required for some.

Feb. 3 events will include a talk by theater critic Peter Filichia, performances by New Jersey Opera Theater and The Rahway High School Marching Band, and a hip-hop choreography workshop.

Offerings on Feb. 4 will include a children’s ballet performance by Rahway Dance theater, and preview performances of “Disney Magic” and the new musical “Merilee Mannerly.”

REVIEWS

“Ibsen’s Ghost,” presented by George Street Playhouse at New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. (Through Feb. 4)

“From Flame to Flower: The Art of Paul J. Stankard” at Morris Museum, Morris Township. (Through Feb. 4)

“Elana Herzog: Ripped, Tangled, and Frayed” at The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, Summit. (Through Feb. 4)

“Afrofuturism: 100 Years After the Harlem Renaissance” at The Gallery at Paper Mill, Millburn. (Through Feb. 26)

“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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