Top 15 Arts Events of the Week: ‘The Nutcracker Rocks,’ ‘The Sound of Music,’ The Smithereens, more

nutcracker rocks 2022

Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater will present “The Nutcracker Rocks” in Deal, Dec. 2-4 and 9-11.

Here is a roundup of arts events taking place around the state, through Dec. 8.


Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater will present “The Nutcracker Rocks,” a reimagining of the story in a contemporary setting — conceived, choreographed and directed by AXCBT artistic director Gabriel Chajnik and featuring a rock-flavored take on Tchaikovsky’s famous score, created in collaboration with Alex Rosamilia and Alex Levine of the band The Gaslight Anthem — at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal, Dec. 2-3 and 9-10 at 7 p.m., Dec. 3 and 10 at 2 p.m., and Dec. 4 and 11 at 1 and 5 p.m. Josh Canfield, who competed on television’s “Survivor” in 2014 and has appeared on Broadway in “Doctor Zhivago” and “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” will play the lead role of Uncle Drosselmeyer.

Other, more traditional productions of “The Nutcracker,” this week, will be presented by New Jersey Ballet at BergenPAC in Englewood, Dec. 3-4 at 1 and 4:30 p.m.; by Roxey Ballet at the Villa Victoria Theater in Ewing, Dec. 3-4 at 2 p.m.; and by the Moving Youth Dance Company at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m.

From left, Jim Babjak, Dennis Diken, Marshall Crenshaw and Mike Mesaros.


The Smithereens members Jim Babjak, Mike Mesaros and Dennis Diken, who first met while growing up in Carteret, will perform with Marshall Crenshaw (singing lead vocals and playing guitar in place of band co-founder Pat DiNizio, who grew up in Scotch Plains and died in 2017) at the band’s second annual homecoming concert at the URSB Carteret Performing Arts and Events Center, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m.

There will be some holiday material in the show, as well as some songs from The Lost Album, a collection of songs recorded with DiNizio in 1993 but unreleased until this year.

Hugh Wolff, New Jersey Symphony‘s music director from 1985 to 1992, will return as part of the orchestra’s centennial season to conduct it at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. The program will include Beethoven’s Egmont Overture; Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25; Aaron Jay Kernis’ Symphony No. 2; and Ravel’s La valse.

• The Beach Boys, whose 1964 album The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album was a Top 10 hit and remains enduringly popular (via songs such as “Little Saint Nick,” “Merry Christmas, Baby” and “The Man With All the Toys”) will perform with their Holiday Vibrations Orchestra at the Etess Arena at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m.

White Eagle Hall in Jersey City will present “Don’t Lie to Me! Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Big Star’s #1 Record,” Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. Performers will include Big Star drummer Jody Stephens along with Mike Mills of R.E.M., Chris Stamey of The dB’s, Jon Auer of The Posies and Pat Sansone of Wilco.

The Memphis-based band Big Star had little commercial success with its three ’70s albums but became legendary after it broke up, and has been extremely influential on many indie-rock musicians from the ’80s on. It was a quartet at the time of #1 Record and Stephens is the only surviving member.

• Steve Hackett, who played guitar for Genesis from 1971 to 1977, will perform that band’s 1977 double live album Seconds Out in its entirety, as well as songs from his solo career, at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m.



• “The Sound of Music” is best known as the 1965 Julie Andrews movie, but it began life as a 1959 Broadway musical, and will be produced at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn from Dec. 2 to Jan. 1. The last musical from the famed team of Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II, “The Sound of Music” is full of well known songs, including “My Favorite Things,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Edelweiss” and the title song.

Ashley Blanchet, who played the title role in “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” at the Paper Mill in 2019 and has also appeared in Broadway musicals including “Waitress,” “Frozen” and “Beautiful,” will play the main character, Maria Rainer.

For the first time since before the pandemic, in 2019, the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton will present its lavish annual production of “A Christmas Carol” again, from Dec. 7 to Dec. 24. There is a new twist, though: For the first time at the McCarter, the role of Scrooge will be played by a woman, Dee Pelletier.

The George Street Playhouse will present a new musical, “Joy,” from Dec. 7 to Dec. 30 at The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. Erika Henningsen, who has performed on Broadway in “Mean Girls” and “Les Misérables,” will play the title character, who is based on inventor and author Joy Mangano. Music and lyrics are by AnnMarie Milazzo, who co-wrote the songs for “A Walk on the Moon,” which was produced by George Street Playhouse earlier this year.


The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey will close its 2022 season with “Twelfth Night,” Shakespeare’s comedy about twins separated in a shipwreck — and ensuing complications involving mistaken identity — from Dec. 7 to Jan. 1 at Drew University in Madison. Robert Cuccioli, Tony-nominated for “Jekyll & Hyde” in 1997, will play the haughty Malvolio, with STNJ veterans such as Jon Barker, Jeffrey M. Bender, Patrick Toon and Billie Wyatt in other roles.

Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken presents Tom Mula’s “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” from Dec. 1 to Feb. 24. This play tells Dickens’ familiar story from the point of view of Marley — Scrooge’s deceased business partner, who participates in the story as a ghost. HST artistic director Kevin R. Free has described the play as “something traditional with a dark twist.”

The Two River Theater in Red Bank presents a “Little Shakespeare” production of “Romeo and Juliet,” Dec. 2-4 and 9-11. This is a 75-minute adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. As in previous “Little Shakespeare” offerings, it will be directed and designed by theater professionals and performed and supported backstage by high school students.

The Somerset Valley Playhouse in Hillsborough presents “A Wicked Christmas Carol” — basically a retelling of “A Christmas Carol” with The Wicked Witch of The West as the Scrooge-like figure and other Oz characters in supporting roles — from Dec. 2 to Dec. 18.

And in yet another different take on “A Christmas Carol” The Shawnee Playhouse in Shawnee on Delaware, Pa. (on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border) will present Michael DeMaio’s musical version of the story, from Dec. 2 to Dec. 18.



• 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. 4 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.)


“The Play About the Baby” at Black Box Performing Arts Center, Englewood. (Through Dec. 4)

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

“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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