Top 15 NJ Arts Events of the Week: McDonald’s Gospelfest, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, more

McDonald's Gospelfest 2019


A roundup of arts events taking place around the state, through May 12:


This year’s edition of the annual and dependably high-spirited McDonald’s Gospelfest will pay tribute to the late Aretha Franklin (who performed at the event herself, in 2013) and feature performances by Yolanda Adams, Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Shirley Caesar, Tamar Braxton, Fred Hammond and others. It takes place at the Prudential Center in Newark, May 11 at 5 p.m., and will start, as it always does, with a competition spotlighting up-and-coming artists in many categories such as solo singer, group, choir, gospel rap and praise dance.

Steven Van Zandt & the Disciples of Soul released a buoyant new retro-rock album, Summer of Sorcery, on May 3, and will celebrate it with a concert at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, May 8 at 8 p.m. The band put out a comeback album, Soulfire, in 2017, but unlike that release, this one is devoted almost exclusively to new songs, previously unreleased in any form. On the album, Van Zandt said in a press release, “I wanted to capture the excitement of that first summer of consciousness. That one special summer where you first fall in love with life, that thrill of just being alive.”

• Pete Kennedy of the folk duo The Kennedys has written a book, “Tone, Twang and Taste: A Guitar Memoir,” and Little City Books in Hoboken will host a book launch for it, May 12 at 6 p.m., featuring music by The Kennedys, readings from the book, and an introduction by its publisher, Michael Roney of Highpoint Life Books.


• The Blasters will bring their American Music 40th Anniversary Tour — marking the four decades since their debut album, American Music, was released — to The Woodland in Maplewood, May 10 at 8 p.m. The show, which will feature an opening set by Marry the Sea, is part of the long-running Rent Party series, which raises money to fight hunger in the community. The band uses the term “American Music” to describe its open-minded blend of various genres (including blues, rock, rockabilly, country and R&B). Its current lineup includes co-founders Phil Alvin (guitar, vocals), Bill Bateman (drums) and John Bazz (bass), along with Keith Wyatt (guitar). (For a chance to win two tickets, send an email to by midnight May 8 with the word “Blasters” in the subject line.)

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will present family concerts at the Victoria Theater at NJPAC, May 11 at 2 and 3:30 p.m. The theme of the show is “The Sound of Stories,” and the program will include excerpts from “The Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake,” “Romeo and Juliet,” the Harry Potter film series and more. Edwin Outwater will conduct the orchestra,and Samantha Ferrara will narrate and host.

Tamer Pinarbasi, Ismail Lumanovski and Ara Dinkjian form The Secret Trio, which plays both traditional and original material combining elements of Middle Eastern and Balkan music as well as jazz, rock and classical. They will perform at the Margaret Williams Theatre at New Jersey City University in Jersey City, May 9 at 7:30 p.m.

The Adelphi Orchestra will present a program titled “The Great Romantics” at the auditorium of the River Dell Middle School in River Edge, May 10 at 7:30. Richard Owen will conduct and Bryan Cheng will be featured on cello. Selections will include Rossini’s Overture to La Gazza Ladra; Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme and Pezzo Capriccioso; and Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite, No. 1 and 2. Proceeds will benefit the orchestra’s young artists program.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will celebrate its 60th anniversary at NJPAC.


• Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will celebrate its 60th anniversary with performances at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark, May 10-11 at 8 p.m. and May 12 at 3 p.m. The May 10-11 shows will feature the New Jersey premiere of “Lazarus” (choreographed by Rennie Harris, and inspired by Ailey’s career and life) as well as Ailey’s signature work, “Revelations.” On May 12, the company will perform “Revelations” as well as excerpts from 13 other Ailey works.


A stage version of the 1999 movie “Cruel Intentions,” titled “Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical,” will be presented at the Victoria Theater at NJPAC in Newark, May 9 at 7 p.m. A jukebox musical that has been presented off-Broadway and elsewhere, this show tells the “Cruel Intentions” story while featuring pop hits of the era such as Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle,” TLC’s “No Scrubs” and the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.”

Italian writer-director Romeo Castellucci’s “Democracy in America” will make its United States debut at the Kasser Theater at Montclair State University, May 9-10 at 7:30 p.m., May 11 at 8 p.m. and May 12 at 3 p.m., as part of the Peak Performances series. The work, “freely inspired” by the Alexis de Tocqueville book of the same name, is “propelled more by movement, sound, and light than traditional theatrical text … (and) conjures majorettes who stir the crowd’s enthusiasm for democracy in America, colonial settlers who confound Native Americans, and the Puritan couple, driven to desperation as they struggle to farm the land,” according to a press release. Following the May 11 performance, audience members will be invited to share their reactions to the piece with Castelluccio.

Nicholas Hoult plays the title character in “Tolkien.”


New Jersey’s biggest film festival, the Montclair Film Festival, began last weekend and continues through May 12. Among the most notable offerings still to come, in chronological order, are:

A screening of “Tolkien,” about “Lord of the Rings” writer J.R.R. Tolkien, followed by a Q&A session with actors Nicholas Hoult (who plays the young Tolkien), Lily Collins (who plays his future wife Edith Bratt) and director Dome Karukoski. Colbert will moderate the discussion, which will be broadcast live to theaters across the country via Fathom Events. May 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Wellmont Theater. (see trailer below)

• “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,” with a pre-screening performance by students in the Montclair-based Jazz House Kids program, and a post-screening Q&A session with director Stanley Nelson. May 10 at 7 p.m. at the Wellmont Theater.

“A Winding Road: A Ramble With Richard Thompson,” a documentary loosely following a day in the life of the acclaimed singer-songwriter, followed by a question-and-answer session with Thompson. May 11 at 5 p.m. at Cinema505. And then Thompson will give a concert at 8 p.m. at the Outpost in the Burbs at the First Congregational Church, with Antje Duvekot opening. (Both the screening and the concert are sold out.)

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ documentary, “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.” Greenfield-Sanders will participate in a Q&A session. May 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Wellmont Theater.

• “Blinded by the Light,” based on a true story about a Pakistani-British Bruce Springsteen superfan. May 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Montclair Kimberley Academy Upper School, with a Q&A session with director/co-writer/co-producer Gurinder Chadha following.


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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