Top 15 NJ Arts Events of Week: Darlene Love, Pipes of Christmas, ‘The Nutcracker,’ more

darlene love nj preview 2023


Here is a roundup of arts events taking place around New Jersey, through Dec. 21.


• Darlene Love — who has recorded, this year, a new version of her holiday classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home” with Cher — will present holiday shows at The Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania, Dec. 14 at 8 p.m.; The Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m.; The Tarrytown Music Hall, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m.; and The Newton Theatre, Dec. 22 at 8 p.m.

Cher, who sang backing vocals on Love’s original 1963 version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” included the new duet version on her album Christmas. You can listen to it below.

This 25th edition of the annual Pipes of Christmas concert — featuring holiday music with traditional Celtic instrumentation, and readings — will take place Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, as well as Dec. 17 at 2 and 7 p.m. at Central Presbyterian Church in Summit. Both 2 p.m. shows are sold out.

The Kevin Ray Blandford Memorial Pipe Band will perform, as will The Solid Brass Ensemble, and musicians such as guitarist Steve Gibb, harpist Rachel Clemente and cellist Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf. Mezzo-soprano Cynthian Knight will be the featured vocal soloist, and actors James Robinson and Andrew Weir — both featured in the 1995 movie “Braveheart” — will read passages written by Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns.

From Dec. 22 to Dec. 31, highlights will be available on-demand (visit

• “Charlie Loves Our Band: The Story of From Good Homes” — a documentary about the Jersey-based roots-rock band, will be shown at The Williams Center in Rutherford, Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m., with a Q&A session with band members and a performance following.

From Good Homes will also perform at The Newton Theatre, Dec. 16 at 8 p.m.

The band was most active in the ’90s, though it has continued to reunite occasionally since then. Since the ’90s, frontman Todd Sheaffer co-founded the band Railroad Earth, bassist Brady Rymer became a Grammy-nominated children’s artist, drummer Patrick Fitzsimmons has toured and recorded as a singer-songwriter, and saxophonist Dan Myers and multi-instrumentalist Jamie Coan have remained busy with a number of musical projects.


Former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, actress and recording artist Ana Gasteyer will perform at Enlow Recital Hall at Kean University in Hillside, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. Gasteyer released a sometimes humorous, sometimes serious holiday album, Sugar and Booze, in 2019, as well as a related audiobook, “Holiday Greetings From Sugar and Booze,” featuring Maya Rudolph, Patti LuPone, Rachel Dratch and others.

• 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 more than 30 years. The group also performs at benefit concerts that allow it to fulfill its philanthropic mission; one will take place at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Tommy Byrne & the Christmas Coal Miners will perform their new holiday song “Coal for Christmas” (whose recorded version features a guest vocal by Gary U.S. Bonds) at the “A Very Jersey Christmas” show at The Headliner in Neptune, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. Other performers will include Pat Roddy, JoBonanno, Trish Mata and Paul Anthony (of Big Bang Baby), Eddie Testa and Ray Andersen.

New Jersey Opera Theater will present Gian Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. at The Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, with Jestin Pieper conducting. This 1951 one-act opera, commissioned for a live television broadcast, is about a disabled boy who is miraculously healed when the Three Kings stop at his house on their way to Bethlehem to bring gifts to the newly born Jesus Christ.


Low Cut Connie’s Adam Weiner.

• Low Cut Connie will present two different kinds of shows at Asbury Lanes, Dec. 21-22. Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m., the band’s new concert film “Art Dealers” will be shown, with a solo performance by the band’s singer-pianist Adam Weiner following. Dec. 22 at 8:30 p.m., the full band will perform, with Will Dailey opening.

You can watch the trailer for “Art Dealers” below.

Singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, who has released 26 albums of insightful and frequently autobiographical songs since the early ’70s, will perform at the Outpost in the Burbs at the First Congregational Church in Montclair, Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. In an interview with last year, he said of his then-new album Lifetime Achievementalbum, “I wanted it to be 50 minutes or thereabouts of a sonic experience that will affect people, not necessarily change them but move them one way or another, amuse them or make them think, make them remember something in their own lives.”

The New Jersey Symphony, conducted by Nicholas McGegan, will perform Handel’s Messiah with the Montclair State University Singers (directed by Heather J. Buchanan) at the Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University, Dec. 15 at 8 p.m.; and the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. Singers will include soprano Sherezade Panthaki, countertenor Key’mon Murrah, tenor Thomas Cooley and baritone Tyler Duncan.

The 17-piece, Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania-based Water Gap Jazz Orchestra — joined by singer Nancy Reed and Duke Ellington’s grandson, Edward Ellington II, as narrator — will perform Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite” and its own “Grinch Suite,” Dec. 17 at 3 p.m. at The Bickford Theatre at The Morris Museum in Morris Township. Ellington and his orchestra released their Nutcracker Suite album, featuring Tchaikovsky’s iconic music arranged by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, in 1960.



Freda Payne, best known for her 1970 hit “Band of Gold,” will star in “Ella: A Musical Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald,” which will be presented by the Crossroads Theatre Company at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, Dec. 20-21 at 11 a.m. and Dec. 21-22 at 7 p.m.


Here is a roundup of the remaining performances of “The Nutcracker,” throughout New Jersey.

Dec. 15-17 and 21-23 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 16-17 and 22-23 at 3 p.m.: “Jersey City Nutcracker” at Nimbus Arts Center, Jersey City.
Dec. 15 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. and Dec. 16-17 at 1 and 4 p.m.: “The Nutcracker,” presented by NJ Dance Connection at Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College, West Windsor.
Dec. 15 at 7 p.m., Dec. 16 at noon and 5 p.m. and Dec. 17 at 3 p.m.: “The Nutcracker,” presented by North Jersey Civic Youth Ballet Sitnik Theatre at Lackland Performing Arts Center, Hackettstown.
Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 16 at 2 and 7 p.m., Dec. 17 at 1 and 5 p.m.: “The Nutcracker,” presented by American Repertory Ballet at State Theatre, New Brunswick.
Dec. 15 and 21-22 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 16-17, 23-24 and 26-27 at 1 p.m. and Dec. 16-17, 23 and 26 at 6 p.m.: “The Nutcracker” presented by New Jersey Ballet with New Jersey Symphony at Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown.
Dec. 17 at 3 p.m.: “The Nutcracker,” presented by State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine at Prudential Hall at NJPAC, Newark.
Dec. 23 at 2 and 7:30 p.m.: “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” at Prudential Hall at NJPAC, Newark.
Dec. 29 at 8 p.m.: “The Hip Hop Nutcracker,” featuring Kurtis Blow at State Theatre, New Brunswick.


Actor David Duchovny will sign copies of his novella “The Reservoir,” Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. at Bookends in Ridgewood. “The Reservoir,” which came out in hardcover last year but is now being published in paperback, is set in New York, in the early weeks of the pandemic.

Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”


Chevy Chase, who starred in the hit 1989 holiday comedy “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” will talk about his experiences making the movie, and answer questions, following a screening of it at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark, Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. His wife Jayni will also participate in the conversation.


“Searching for Drama,” works by Allan Gorman at BrassWorks Gallery, Montclair. (Through Dec. 15)

“It’s Not Paint!,” works by Lisa Lackey at Hillside Square Gallery, Montclair. (Through Dec. 15)

“Having Our Say,” presented by George Street Playhouse at New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. (Through Dec. 17)

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” at Vanguard Theater, Montclair. (Through Dec. 17)

“Dead Ringers: Portraits of Abandoned Payphones,” photographs by Amy Becker at Gallery Aferro, Newark. (Through Dec. 21)

“The Brodsky Center at Rutgers University: Three Decades, 1986-2017” at Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick. (Through Dec. 22)

“The Christmas Tree Farm” at Mile Square Theatre, Hoboken. (Through Dec. 23)

“A Midwinter Night’s Dream” at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at Drew University, Madison. (Through Dec. 31)

“Fiddler on the Roof” at Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn. (Through Jan. 7)

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

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

“From Flame to Flower: The Art of Paul J. Stankard” at Morris Museum, Morris Township. (Through Feb. 4)

“Night Forms” at Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton. (Through April 7)

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


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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