Top 15 NJ Arts Events of the Week: Dark Star Orchestra, ‘Land of Hope and Dreams,’ more

dark star orchestra nj

Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra performs in Augusta, April 30 and May 1.

Here is a roundup of arts events taking place around the state, through May 4. (NOTE: ran Top NJ Arts Events of the Week columns regularly until the start of the pandemic in March 2020. With this column, more than a year later, we’ll begin doing them again, including both live and virtual events.)


The “Sussex County Live” drive-in concert series at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta, which was started in response to the pandemic last year, will kick off its 2021 edition with shows by the Grateful Dead tribute band, Dark Star Orchestra, April 30 and May 1 at 6 p.m. As of today (April 27), May 1 is sold out but tickets remain for April 30. The series continues May 14-15 with The Disco Biscuits.


Albert Music Hall in Waretown is resuming its regular Saturday night shows, May 1 at 6:30 p.m., with five country and bluegrass acts performing outdoors: Singing for Supper, Church Street Revival, Redbird Flying Solo, Lonesome Turnpike Ramblers and Basement Musicians.

Bernard Purdie, left, and Chuck Rainey.


Drummer Bernard Purdie — who has played with a stunning array of musical luminaries since the ’60s, including Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, B.B. King and Steely Dan — leads a quartet at Shanghai Jazz in Madison, April 30 at 5:45 and 8 p.m.

Purdie will also appear in a conversation with bassist Chuck Rainey, titled “The Rhythm of the Stars” and hosted by Christian McBride, April 27 at 7 p.m., in NJPAC’s online “In Your Living Room” series.

Jazz House Kids (Inside) The Jazz Note series continues with an online tribute to the late Billy Taylor, April 28 at 6:30 p.m., hosted by Christian McBride and featuring drummer Winard Harper, a member of Taylor’s trio before Taylor’s death in 2010. According to the Jazz House Kids website, the series represents an opportunity “to learn from some of the world’s preeminent Jazz artists. Open to all ages and levels, each class has a thematic focus, while incorporating live interaction with students.” Register at

Pianist James Austin Jr. will perform music from his Stevie Wonder tribute album, Songs in the Key of Wonder, and other songs, April 29 at 6:30 and 8 p.m. at Shanghai Jazz in Madison. (see video below)


The George Street Playhouse‘s virtual season continues with a filmed production of “Tiny Beautiful Things,” based on Cheryl Strayed’s book “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar,” adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos (of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” fame) and co-starring GSP veterans John Bolger, Kelly Dulin, Ryan George and Laiona Michelle. It will stream from May 4 to May 23.

The Black Box Performing Arts Center in Englewood presents Nicky Silver’s dark — and, as it has sometimes been described, disturbing — comedy “Fat Men in Skirts,” in a live production for limited-capacity, masked audiences, April 29-30 and May 1-2, 6-9 and 13-16 at 8 p.m.


The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s “Shakespeare Live!” company will present “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Florham Park, May 1-2.


The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey‘s Shakespeare Live! company will present family-oriented, abridged versions of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” May 1-2 at 11 a.m., and Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” May 1-2 at 2 p.m., at the theater’s Back Yard Stage in Florham Park.


The South Orange Performing Arts Center will present “Capturing the Moment,” a virtual showcase of New Jersey Council on the Arts Choreographer Fellows, April 30 and May 1. The featured choreographers are Erin Carlisle Norton, Oluwadamilare (Dare) Ayorinde and Pallavi Degwekar-Shaikh, April 30; and Tsai Hsi Hung, Robert Mark Burke, Barkha Patel and Nai-Ni Chen, May 1.

These streams, which will feature performances and interviews with the choreographers by journalist (and contributor) Robert Johnson, will begin at 7:30 p.m. and are free, but registration is required. Visit

New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble will present “¡Balli di Primavera! The Dances of the Spring,” May 1 at 2 and 5 p.m. and May 2 at 3 p.m. at NJDTE Studios in Summit, with a virtual performance May 2 at 7 p.m. Among the numbers on the program will be Paul Taylor’s “Cloven Kingdom.”


The newly reopened Brook Arts Center in Bound Brook will present “Chicago” — the original, Cecil B. DeMille-produced 1927 silent movie, not the Oscar-winning 2002 version — with live organ music by Bernie Anderson, May 2 at 3 p.m.



• “Land of Hope and Dreams,” an online series of discussions and webinars billed as “A Celebration of Dave Marsh’s Work and Vision,” takes place from April 30 to May 8, with Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, Jackson Browne, Pete Townshend and Dion among the participants. Marsh is a veteran rock journalist who written extensively about Springsteen since the ’70s, and he and other prominent rock journalists will be participating in the talks. They are free, though pre-registration is required at

As part of NJPAC’s American Songbook virtual series, Stephen Schwartz — the composer and lyricist for “Wicked,” “Pippin,” “Godspell” and other musicals — will participate in an Zoom discussion with cabaret singer Scott Coulter, May 1 at 7 p.m., titled “Stephen Schwartz in Conversation: The Wizard and I.” The event is free; click here to register.

Rock drummer Corky Laing, best known as a member of the group Mountain, will sign copies of his autobiography “Letters to Sarah,” May 1 at 2 p.m. at Blue Raven’s Rock Art Revival in Frenchtown.


Since launching in September 2014,, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


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