Top 15 Arts Events of Week: ‘The Nutcracker,’ LaBamba’s Holiday Hurrah, Pipes of Christmas, more

by JAY LUSTIG
Nutcracker Morristown 2021

VAM/VISUAL ARTS MASTERS

New Jersey Ballet and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will present “The Nutcracker” at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown through Dec. 26.

“The Nutcracker” will be presented in various different ways, this week, all over New Jersey. Here is a roundup, with links:

Dec. 17 at 7 p.m., Dec. 18 at noon and 5 p.m., Dec. 19 at 3 p.m.: “The Nutcracker,” presented by New Jersey Civic Youth Ballet at Sitnik Theatre at Lackland Performing Arts Center, Hackettstown.
Dec. 17 at 7 p.m., Dec. 18-19 at 1 and 4 p.m.: “The Nutcracker,” presented by The Dance Connection at Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College, West Windsor.
Dec. 17 at 7 p.m., Dec. 18 at 2 and 7 p.m., Dec. 19 at 2 and 5 p.m.: “The Nutcracker Rocks” at Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal. Presented by Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater. A reimagining of the story in a contemporary setting — and with a rock-flavored take on Tchaikovsky’s famous score, created in collaboration with Alex Rosamilia and Alex Levine of the band The Gaslight Anthem.
Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 18 at 2 and 7 p.m., Dec. 19 at 1 and 5 p.m.: “The Nutcracker,” presented by American Repertory Ballet at State Theatre, New Brunswick. These will be the only ARB “Nutcracker” shows of the season to feature a live orchestra.
Dec. 17 and 22 at 7 p.m., Dec. 18-19 and 23 at 3 and 7 p.m.: “Jersey City Nutcracker,” presented by Nimbus Dance at Nimbus Arts Center, Jersey City. A “Nutcracker” set in Jersey City itself, with choreography by Samuel Pott and featuring animated scene projections — of streets, parks, City Hall and so on — by Jersey City-based video artists Laia Cabrera and Isabelle Duverger.
Dec. 17 and 22-23 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 18-19 and 26 and 1 and 6 p.m., Dec. 24 at 1 p.m.: “The Nutcracker,” presented by New Jersey Ballet with New Jersey Symphony Orchestra at Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown. New Jersey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” is the longest-running production in the state: This year marks its 50th anniversary. The Dec. 22 performance will be livestreamed.

The “Hip-Hop Nutcracker” will be presented in Newark and New Brunswick.

Dec. 18 at 2 and 8 p.m.: “The Hip-Hop Nutcracker” at Prudential Hall at NJPAC, Newark. A version of the classic with hip-hop break-dancing and contemporary music, with contributions from rapper Kurtis Blow. (“The Hip-Hop Nutcracker” will also be presented at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, Jan. 2 at 4 p.m.)
Dec. 18 at 1 and 4 p.m.: “The Nutcracker,” presented by The Ballet for Young Audiences at Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College, Toms River.
Dec. 18 at 7 p.m.: “The Nutcracker,” presented by Atlantic City Ballet at Strand Center for the Arts, Lakewood.
Dec. 18 at 1 and 6 p.m., Dec. 19 at 2 p.m.: “The Duke Ellington Nutcracker,” presented by Metuchen Dance Centre at Brook Arts Center, Bound Brook. Tchaikovsky’s music, arranged by jazz masters Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, was released in album form as The Nutcracker Suite in 1960.
Dec. 19 at 5 p.m.: “The Nutcracker,” presented by Atlantic City Ballet at Caesars, Atlantic City.

Also coming up this week:

RICHIE “LaBAMBA” ROSENBERG

MUSIC

Trombonist and singer Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg — well known to New Jersey audiences as a member of Southside Johnny’s Asbury Jukes and the Max Weinberg 7, as well as the leader of his own LaBamba & the Hubcaps group and LaBamba’s Big Band — has enlisted Southside Johnny himself plus various current and former Jukes (including Billy Rush, Mark Pender, Eddie Manion, Glenn Alexander and Neal Pawley) as well as Steve Forbert and others, to join him at LaBamba’s Holiday Hurrah, Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. Proceeds will benefit the Fulfill FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties and the Asbury Park Kiwanis Club toy drive; new unwrapped toys and non-perishable food donations will be accepted.

A new series of contemporary jazz concerts at The Woodland in Maplewood continues, Dec. 17, with alto saxophonist Marion Meadows and keyboardist Alex Bugnon, performing together in a band that also features bassist Carl Carter and drummer Poogie Bell. Violionist Jacqueline Lee and her band will open. There will be a wine bar at the venue, with proceeds benefiting the South Orange-based JESPY House, which assists adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Powerhouse singer Darlene Love was one of the featured artists on one of the greatest holiday albums of all time, 1963’s A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer will sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” “Marshmallow World” and other classic material at shows billed as “Darlene Love’s ‘Souled’ Out Christmas” at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. (Pat Guadagno opens); and as “Love for the Holidays” at BergenPAC in Englewood, Dec. 22 at 8 p.m.

• Holiday Express is a group of Shore-based musicians who have been playing holiday music at hospitals, nursing homes, soup kitchens and other places in need of a little seasonal cheer, at no charge, every November and December for the last 29 years. The group also performs at benefit concerts that allow it to fulfill its philanthropic mission; two will take place at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Dec. 21-22 at 7:30 p.m.

NORM LEWIS

Kean Stage will present Norm Lewis, who became the first African-American to play the title role of “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway in 2014 — and whose other Broadway credits include “Porgy and Bess,” “Miss Saigon,” “The Who’s Tommy,” “Les Misérables” and “Side Show” — in concert at Enlow Recital Hall at Kean University in Hillside, Dec. 18 at 7:30 p.m.

The annual Pipes of Christmas concert series, which could not take place in person last year due to the pandemic, is back, with COVID precautions, for its 23rd season, with shows in New Jersey and New York. The 2 p.m. Dec. 19 concert at Central Presbyterian Church in Summit — which will feature holiday music with traditional Celtic instrumentation, and readings — is sold out, but tickets are still available for the 2 p.m. Dec. 18 show at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.

Veterans of past Pipes of Christmas concerts such as the Kevin Ray Blandford Memorial Pipe Band, the Solid Brass ensemble, harp player Rachel Clemente, cellist Sarah Hewitt-Roth and pipes/whistle player Dan Houghton will be featured, along with two new faces: fiddler Caitlin Warbelow (currently performing in “Come From Away” on Broadway) and the Scotland-born and currently New York-based singer Margaret Kelly. Guitarist Steve Gibb will serve as the musical director.

Proceeds from the concerts support cultural programs in New Jersey, Scotland and elsewhere.

• Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem and The Horrible Crowes is presenting a series of sold-out shows at Crossroads in Garwood this month, and will offer a livestream of the last one, scheduled for Dec. 23 at 8 p.m.

The Morris Choral Society will present its annual holiday show, “Tidings of Comfort and Joy,” Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. at United Methodist Church on the Green in Morristown. Music director Wayne Walters will lead the chorus in seasonal selections such as “O Magnum Mysterium” by Tomás Luis De Victoria, “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen,” and the gospel-flavored “Angels Was a-Shoutin’ on Christmas Morn.” The vocal sextet Express Male will also perform “We Three Kings,” “Here We Come a-Wassailing,” “The Cradle Hymn” and more.

REAGAN RICHARDS

Reagan Richards, best known as the dynamic lead vocalist in the Jersey-based country-pop duo Williams Honor, will do something a little different on Dec. 19 at 7 p.m., singing Great American Songbook material in a show titled “with love, reagan” at the Columbian Hall at the Knights of Columbus in South Amboy. The show is dedicated to Richards’ mother Harriet, a former big band singer, who is planning to attend.

The New Jersey Festival Orchestra will present a show titled “The Return of the Holiday Tenors,” with Jonathan Boyd, Brent Reilly Turner and Dane Suarez singing arias and seasonal material, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church in Westfield and Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. at the Concert Hall at Drew University in Madison. David Wroe, the orchestra’s music director, will conduct.

OTHER

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark will celebrate Kwanzaa this year with a free online festival, Dec. 18, with a panel discussion on “The New Renaissance of Black Theatre” at 10 a.m.; workshops exploring various forms of movement (West African, Afrobeat, liturgical and Caribbean dance, as well as the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira) at 11 a.m.; and a panel discussion on “Health and Wellness in the Black Community” at 2:30 p.m.

The Asbury Park Museum will present a free opening reception for “One Voice Is Not Enough: Asbury Park’s Musical Diversity (The First 100 Years),” a pop-up exhibit at the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel in Asbury Park, Dec. 18 from 2 to 4 p.m.The exhibit will explore Asbury Park music from the 1870s through the 1970s with recordings, slide shows and artifacts; it will remain at the hotel until May 31, then move to Monmouth University in West Long Branch.

REVIEWS

“It’s Only a Play,” presented by George Street Playhouse at New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. (Through Dec. 19)

“A Jolly Holiday: Celebrating Disney’s Broadway Hits” at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn. (Through Jan. 2)

“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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