Top 15 NJ Arts Events of Week: The Smithereens, ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales,’ Jane Lynch, more

smithereens carteret

From left, Marshall Crenshaw, Dennis Diken, Jim Babjak, Mike Mesaros and Robin Wilson.

A roundup of arts events taking place around the state through Dec. 9:


• The Smithereens will perform at the new URSB Carteret Performing Arts and Events Center, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. It is a special occasion for the band: Three of its four co-founders (Jim Babjak, Dennis Diken and Mike Mesaros) grew up together in Carteret. Since the death of Pat DiNizio in 2017, the group has been performing with either Robin Wilson (of The Gin Blossoms) or Marshall Crenshaw singing lead and playing guitar, but for this night, they will be joined, for the first time, by both.

This won’t be the first show at the new arts center, but if will be the official grand opening, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon and public tours of the venue from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Marc Muller — who has backed artists ranging from Bruce Springsteen (he’s on the Western Stars album) to Shania Twain in addition to playing in the Grateful Dead tribute band Dead On Live and other groups — has put together a unique show for The Vogel at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. “Sideman Center Stage” will feature him and four other artists playing their own music and music from artists they’ve worked with, and telling stories. The show will end with “a spontaneous, no-holds-barred jam session,” according to the Basie web site.

Joining Muller will be Bob Dylan’s longtime bassist, Tony Garnier; Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes keyboardist and music director Jeff Kazee; Jon Herington, who has toured and recorded with Steely Dan for 20 years and has also backed Bette Midler, Madeleine Peyroux and others; and drummer Josh Dion, who has worked with jazz artists such as John Scofield, Chuck Loeb and Spyro Gyra.

Jane Lynch, center, with Tim Davis and Kate Flannery.

Actress Jane Lynch (“Glee,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Best in Show”) will present “A Swingin’ Little Christmas” at the Victoria Theater at NJPAC in Newark, Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m., singing new and old Christmas songs with Kate Flannery (best known as an actress on “The Office”), Tim Davis and The Tony Guerrero Quintet. The same performers were featured on Lynch’s 2016 album A Swingin’ Little Christmas!; listen to their “A Swingin’ Little Christmas Time” below.

• Hot Tuna will perform as a trio — featuring original Jefferson Airplane members Jorma Kaukonen, on guitar and vocals, Jack Casady, on bass, along with Justin Guip on drums — at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m., with the David Bromberg Quintet opening.

Tad Schaefer & The Troublemakers, The Incinerators, The Lew Gatewood Band and The Chuck Lambert Band will perform at a benefit for EarthShare NJ, supporting 19 environmental nonprofit organizations in the state, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Stanhope House. Tom Kaminski of WCBS Newsradio 880 will serve as the master of ceremonies.

For those who can’t attend, donations can be made here.



The eloquent singer-songwriter Dar Williams — whose latest album, I’ll Meet You Here, was delayed by the pandemic but came out in October — performs at the Outpost in the Burbs at 8 p.m. Dec. 3. “At some point,” she says, “you have to meet life where it meets you. … I think what the songs all have in common is the willingness to meet life as it arrives.” One of the album’s tracks is “You’re Aging Well,” a re-recording of a song that was on her 1993 debut album, The Honesty Room. The show is at the First Congregational Church at 40 S. Fullerton Ave. in Montclair.

The New Jersey Folk Festival — which organizes a free, annual outdoor fest in New Brunswick (the next one will be on April 30) — will present its first in-person event since the start of the pandemic, Dec. 5 at 3 p.m. at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. New Directions in Folk, a fundraising concert, will feature Spooky Handy and Pete McDonough along with up-and-coming artists Paul Lewis and Yeimy Gamez Castillo,

Bassist and singer Casey Abrams brings his trio to the Berrie Center for the Arts at Ramapo College in Mahwah, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. Abrams was a contestant on “American Idol” in 2011, and later performed with Postmodern Jukebox. His trio features two other Postmodern Jukebox members, drummer Dave Tedeschi and pianist Jesse Elder.


The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at Drew University in Madison will return to live, indoor performances for the first time since the start of the pandemic with “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” based on the nostalgic story by Dylan Thomas, and adapted for the stage by Jeremy Brooks and Adrian Mitchell. It will run from Dec. 8 to Jan. 2.

The McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton presents “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Dec. 7-12. The play — which is Tony-nominated and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalist, and ran on Broadway in 2019 — was written by Heidi Schreck and features autobiographical monologues and discussions of the Constitution. Cassie Beck stars in this production, with direction by the play’s original director, Oliver Butler.

Cape May Stage presents “Adopt A Sailor: The Holiday Edition” from Dec. 8 to Dec. 30. The play, about a New York couple whose lives are changed when a Navy sailor from Arkansas stays with them, is adapted from Charles Evered’s play “Adopt a Sailor,” which was produced off-Broadway in 2005 and made into a 2008 movie co-starring Bebe Neuwirth and Peter Coyote.

New Jersey Ballet will present “The Nutcracker” in Englewood, Dec. 4-5.


Unsurprisingly, “The Nutcracker” is dominating December’s dance offerings. Presentations this weekend will include productions by New Jersey Ballet at BergenPAC in Englewood, Dec. 4-5 at 1 and 4:30 p.m., and by American Repertory Ballet at Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 5 at 1 p.m. (The Dec. 5 performance in Rahway will be a sensory friendly show for children with autism and similar sensory sensitivity.)

After selling out its 3 p.m. Dec. 5 show at the Madison Community Arts Center, the Union-based Carolyn Dorfman Dance company has added a show at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4. The show is titled “Backstage Pass – A Joyous Return to Live Dance” and includes three pieces choreographed by Dorfman: “Prima!,” featuring the music of Swing and Big Band Era titan Louis Prima; “Pastorale Pause”; and “Cat’s Cradle,” a work about connection and memory. (For a chance to win a pair of tickets to the Dec. 4 show, send an email to by 11 a.m. Dec. 2 with the word “Dorfman” in the subject line.)


“Jackass” group member and standup comedian Steve-O will bring his adults-only Bucket List Tour at the Stress Factory in New Brunswick, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., and the Levoy Theatre in Millville, Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. According to publicity material, “Every idea on Steve-O’s bucket list was so ill-advised, he never expected to go through with any of them. Until it was time to prepare for this tour. Not only are the stunts more ridiculous than what you already know Steve-O for, he did them all, and made a multimedia comedy show out of them. Not for kids, or the faint of heart.”



Cary Elwes — who co-starred in the 1987 movie “The Princess Bride” and wrote the 2014 book, “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride” — will be featured in “The Princess Bride: An Inconceivable Evening with Cary Elwes,” Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark. After the movie is shown, Elwes will participate in a moderated conversation about it.


Graham Nash will talk about his new book, “A Life in Focus: The Photography of Graham Nash,” with veteran New York area disk jockey Dan Neer, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Women’s Club of Ridgewood. According to a press release, “Many of his photographs depict intimate moments with family and friends, among them Joni Mitchell, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young … (and) capture quiet moments backstage, landscapes, still life, and street photography, and also create poignant paintings and collages.” Nash also writes about his own memories and reflections among the photos.


“1+1” at Black Box Performing Arts Center, Englewood. (Through Dec. 5)

“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)


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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