Top 15 NJ Arts Events of the Week: ‘The Nutracker Rocks,’ Mark O’Connor, Steve Aoki, more

nutcracker rocks


Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater will present “The Nutcracker Rocks” in Deal, Dec. 11-12, 15 and 17-19.

A roundup of arts events taking place around the state through Dec. 16:


Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater will present “The Nutcracker Rocks,” 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 — at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal, Dec. 11 and 18 at 2 and 7 p.m.; Dec. 12 and 19 at 11 a.m. and 2 and 5 p.m.; Dec. 15 at 3 p.m.; and Dec. 17 at 17 p.m.

The Peak Performances series will present “Fractales,” a dance/circus pieced written and choreographed by Fanny Soriano and performed by her France-based Cie Libertivore company, Dec. 16-17 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 19 at 3 p.m. at the Kasser Theater at Montclair State University. According to the Peak web site, in “Fractales,” “Circus and danced movement induce a slow metamorphosis of humans and organic matter, as performers confront nature, accompany it, dodge it, collide, and merge with it. Nothing here has a beginning or an end, but is part of a continuum.” (watch video preview below)


• Steve Aoki, along with DJ Camilo and Riggi & Piros, will present an EDM “Amusement Park Takeover” at Nickelodeon Universe at the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. Admission will include access to the park’s rides and other attractions.


Mark O’Connor will present a show titled “An Appalachian Christmas” at Roy’s Hall in Blairstown, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. The show will focus on holiday music and also feature his wife Maggie on violin and vocals, and his son Forrest on mandolin, guitar and vocals. O’Connor has been presenting holiday shows annually since the release of his 2011 album, An Appalachian Christmas. He is mainly known as a violinist but also plays several other instruments. He said in a recent interview that his upcoming Christmas concerts will include a section in the middle where he will do solo instrumental versions of “What Child Is This” on guitar, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” on violin, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” on mandocello and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” on mandolin.

The band Tommy Tutone, best known for their 1981 hit “867-5309/Jenny,” will help radio station 107.1 The Boss kick off its fourth annual Mistletoe Rock Radiothon with a performance, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. at Bar Anticipation in Lake Como. The radiothon will continue through 10 a.m. Dec. 17, with DJs broadcasting from the CentraState Live Broadcast Center at Center Court in the Freehold Raceway Mall. Donations will be accepted for the Michael’s Feat organization, which aids parents caring for seriously ill newborns.


John Rzeznik of The Goo Goo Dolls, who lives in Westfield, will perform at a benefit for the Emergency Relief Fund of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey that will take place at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. A Brian Kirk Trio (featuring the Brian Kirk & the Jirks frontman) and singer-songwriter Lindsay Jordan will also perform, and comedian and actor Lenny Clarke, best known for playing Uncle Teddy on the TV series “Rescue Me,” will host. The fund supports fire and EMS professionals, and their families.

• Fantastic Cat — a new four-man band featuring Mike Montali of the group Hollis Brown and singer-songwriters Anthony D’Amato, Brian Dunne and Don DiLego — performs at the Outpost in the Burbs, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. The group has not released an album yet but has put out several singles, including the hopeful new holiday-themed “New Year’s Day.” (For a chance to win a pair of tickets, send an email to by 11 a.m. Dec. 9 with the word “Fantastic” in the subject line.)

Trumpeter Vinnie Cutro, performing with pianist Mitch Schechter, will present a tribute to Duke Ellington and Ellington’s frequent collaborator Billy Strayhorn, Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. at the Summit Library. There is no admission charge.


The Princeton Folk Music Society will present the veteran, Grammy-nominated acoustic blues artist Guy Davis, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. at Christ Congregation Church in Princeton. Davis’ music often combines elements of folk music and blues. “I call it Americana, but I slip a little world music in there, too. When you’re trying to create beautiful music, you don’t think too much about categories,” he has said. (For a chance to win a pair of tickets, send an email to by 11 a.m. Dec. 9 with the word “Davis” in the subject line.)

The Stone Pony in Asbury Park presents “A Very Asbury Holiday Show” at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m., featuring the Pat Roddy Band with Layonne Holmes, Brian Kirk, Lisa Lowell, Patti Maloney, Michele Petri, Eddie Testa and Williams Honor. Proceeds will go to the Asbury Park Music Foundation’s programs teaching music to under-resourced youth, and unwrapped toys for local families in need will be collected.

The Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation will present a fundraising Holiday Party at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park, Dec. 12 at 5:30 p.m., with Jonny B & the Blues Blazers (featuring JT Bowen, Ryan Gregg and Peter Baron), and an opening set by Carlotta Schmidt.

New short plays by John Guare, Caridad Svich, Alex Goldberg, Daniel Gallant, Michael Gardiner, I.M. Gurin and Matt Okin will be featured in a New Works Fest being presented by the Black Box Performing Arts Center in Englewood, Dec. 16-19 at 8 p.m.



Colin Quinn will present “The Last Best Hope,” a new one-man show about the state of the country and life during the pandemic, at The Vogel at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m.


The Mental Health Association in New Jersey will screen the 2020 documentary “Orchestrating Change” — which tells the story of the Me2/Orchestra, whose members are living with mental illness — online, Dec. 9-13. An online panel discussion will follow, Dec. 14 at 6 p.m., featuring the orchestra’s conductor, Ronald Braunstein; its executive director, Caroline Whiddon, who also plays in it; filmmakers Margie Friedman and Barbara Multer-Welli; and MHANJ CEO and president Carolyn Beauchamp.


A new statue of Frank Sinatra will be unveiled at Sinatra Park in the legendary musician and actor’s hometown, Hoboken, at 1 p.m. Dec. 12 (the day also marks the 106th anniversary of Sinatra’s birth). At that time, Joe Piscopo will emcee a ceremony at the site that will include remarks by Sinatra’s daughter Tina, sculptor Carolyn Palmer and others; performances of Sinatra songs by students at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Hoboken; Christopher Macchio singing the national anthem; and more.


“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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