Top 15 NJ Arts Events of the Week: Montclair Literary Festival, Arlo Guthrie, Frankie Valli, more

chita rivera montclair


Here is a roundup of arts events taking place around the state, through May 4.


The Montclair Literary Festival takes place from May 3 to May 11, with both free and ticketed events at various Montclair venues. Participants will include Chita Rivera (author of “Chita: A Memoir”), Warren Zanes (author of “Deliver Me From Nowhere: The Making of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska”), Joyce Maynard (author of the novel, “The Bird Hotel”) and others. Rivera’s appearance will be on May 4; and Zanes’ and Maynard’s, both on May 5. Most of the events, though — including appearances by Kwame Alexander, Margo Jefferson, Mary Louise Kelly and Deb Perelman — are scheduled for May 6. For the complete schedule, visit

The festival, launched in 2017, promotes literacy for all and raises funds and awareness for the work of Succeed2gether, a nonprofit organization that addresses unequal access to educational resources by providing free enrichment classes and one-on-one tutoring and post-high-school resources to children in need from Essex County.

In October 2020, veteran singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie announced that, due to health issues, he was retiring from touring. But he will return with a limited series of appearances titled “What’s Left of Me: A Conversation With Robert Santelli.” One will take place at the Pollak Theatre at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, April 28 at 8 p.m. The shows will feature video footage and an opportunity for attendees to ask questions, in addition to the interview.

It’s possible that there may be some live music, too. In an interview with Billboard, Guthrie said “It’s a conversation between two people with maybe some music included.”

Santelli is the executive director of the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth University.

frankie valli preview newark



Newark native Frankie Valli will perform with the current version of his band The Four Seasons at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark, April 28 at 8 p.m., after receiving a hometown honor in an April 27 ceremony: a street dedication at the corner of Stephen Crane Plaza and Franklin Avenue. The location is on the west side of Branch Brook Park.

Valli, who had a string of huge hits in ’60s and ’70s as both the lead singer of The Four Seasons and a solo artist, will turn 89 on May 3.

• “New Directions in Folk” will be the theme of the New Jersey Folk Festival, taking place outdoors at the Eagleton Institute of Politics on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, April 29 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no admission charge. Performers will include Jackson Pines, Heathmonger, Medukha, the Sean Tobin Trio, Yeimy Gamez Castillo, Laki Bali and others, with other attractions including a tribute to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and a Lifetime Achievement presentation to — and performance by — Rik Palieri.

Django a Gogo, an annual series of concerts, jam sessions and workshops celebrating the music of jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, takes place at various venues in Maplewood and New York from May 2 to May 7. Django a Gogo was founded and is led by Stephane Wrembel, a Reinhardt-influenced guitarist who lives in Maplewood. The biggest event of Django a Gogo will be a May 6 concert at Town Hall in Manhattan — also a release party for Wrembel’s new album Django New Orleans, which, according to the Django a Gogo website, “blends the traditional sounds of New Orleans with the voices of gypsy jazz guitars performing traditional NOLA songs with a Reinhardt touch, and traditional Gypsy songs with NOLA sounds.” (For a chance to win two tickets to the Town Hall concert, send an email to by 10 a.m. May 2 with the word “Django” in the subject line.)

Gemma New will conduct the New Jersey Symphony in Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, April 29 at 8 p.m. at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank; and April 30 at 3 p.m. at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown. (There also was an afternoon concert at NJPAC in Newark, April 27.) The program also will include Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, featuring pianist George Li; and Sarah Gibson’s warp & weft.

Teresa Williams and Larry Campbell.

The husband-and-wife duo of Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, who have performed together since the ’80s, will appear in a double bill with singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky at the Outpost in the Burbs at the First Congregational Church in Montclair, April 29 at 8 p.m. Their most recent album, Live at Levon’s!, was recorded over two nights in 2019 in the studio and concert space that Levon Helm created, and that has continued to present Midnight Ramble concerts since his death in 2012. Campbell and Williams were both longtime members of Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band.

Multi-instrumentalist Marc Muller — a solo artist, the leader of the Grateful Dead cover band Dead On Live and a session musician for Bruce Springsteen, Shania Twain and others — will perform a set of “rootsy Americana instrumental music” with bassist Tony Garnier (Bob Dylan’s longtime touring bassist, who just completed a series of shows with Dylan in Japan) and drummer John Kimock (who has played with Oteil & Friends and others) at Transparent Clinch Gallery in Asbury Park, April 29 at 4 p.m.

The Missouri-based band The HillBenders will present “WhoGrass” — a bluegrass tribute to the music of The Who, and Who singer-songwriter-guitarist Pete Townshend’s solo work — April 28 at 8 p.m. at the Grunin Center for the Arts at Ocean County College, Toms River. (See video below.)


Hudson Theatre Works in Weehawken will present “Shelley”— a new play, by Joanne Hoersch, about poet Percy Shelley and his wife Mary, a novelist whose works include “Frankenstein” — May 4-7, 11-14 and 18-21. A press release sums the play us this way: “Aspiring novelist Mary Godwin runs off to post-Revolutionary France with her lover, Percy Shelley, one of the greatest of the Romantic poets, and her stepsister, Claire Clairmont, seeking adventure and enlightenment, in a new, free country. What they find instead is a decimated, war torn land, and a population desperate for peace. Mary’s creative talent is sparked in a way she could never have imagined, haunting her until an unspeakable tragedy forces her to come face to face with the true nature of what she feels compelled to write.”



• Catapult, the shadow dance company that was a Top 12 Finalist in the 2013 season of television’s “America’s Got Talent,” will present its “Magic Shadows” show at the Berrie Center of Ramapo College in Mahwah, April 30 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. According to a press release, the show “features eight fully-realized stories told through music and shadows and six short shadow dance videos which play between the live dances that are full of humor and emotion. The show is packed with hundreds of shape transformations from a helicopter to a full-size elephant and many more. The dancers move behind a screen to create seemingly impossible dancing shadow silhouettes of shapes from the world around us …”

The Peak Performances series at Montclair State University presents the U.S. premiere of Greek choreographer Tzeni Argyriou’s “ANΩNYMO,” May 4-5 at 7:30 p.m., May 6 at 8 p.m. and May 7 at 3 p.m. at the university’s Kasser Theater. According to the Peak website, the piece “draws on traditional Greek dances from all over the world and reexamines the significance of physical connection in a world consumed by social media. Individual identity is cast aside to reveal community and shared experiences.”


The Newark Museum of Art will present a WBGO Kids Jazz Concert, featuring vibraphonist Stefon Harris, April 29 at 1 p.m. The program is free, though advance registration is required.

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at Drew University in Madison annually presents shortened, family-friendly versions of The Bard’s plays. It is doing so this year with “Macbeth” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which were presented in March, and can also be seen again this month and in May. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be presented April 29 at 11 a.m. as well as May 12 at 7:30 p.m. and May 14 at 2 p.m.; “Macbeth,” April 29 at 2 p.m. as well as May 6 and 13 at 8 p.m.

NJPAC in Newark will present its 15th annual Ailey Day Celebration — featuring classes, talks, projects and more inspired by the legacy of choreographer Alvin Ailey — April 29 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. In a workshop with former Ailey dancers Nasha Thomas and Amos Machanic Jr., attendees can learn the choreography of Ailey’s signature work, “Revelations.”

Dancers of all ages and skill level can attend. There is no admission charge, though advance registration is required.


“Romeo and Juliet” (modern verse translation by Hansol Jung) at Two River Theater, Red Bank. (Through April 30)

“New Jersey Arts Annual: Reemergence” at State Museum, Trenton. (Through April 30)

“Balloonacy” at Mile Square Theatre, Hoboken. (Through May 21)

“Jairo Alfonso: Objectscapes” at Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, Summit. (Through June 4)

“vanessa german: … please imagine all the things i cannot say …” at Montclair Art Museum. (Through June 25)

“Ladies and Gentlemen … The Beatles!” at Grammy Museum Experience Prudential Center, Newark. (Through June 25)

“Komar and Melamid: A Lesson in History” at Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick. (Through July 16)

“Each One Teach One: Preserving Legacy in Perpetuity” at Morris Museum, Morris Township. (Through Aug. 27)

“Spiral Q: The Parade” at Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton. (Through Jan. 7)

“Local Voices: Memories, Stories and Portraits” at Grounds for Sculpture. (Through Jan. 7)

“George Inness: Visionary Landscapes” at Montclair Art Museum. (Through June 30, 2024)

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