Top 12 NJ Arts Events of the Week: Champagne Jam, Holiday Express, more

Front Bottoms Manchester Orchestra

The Front Bottoms co-headline the Champagne Jam at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, Dec. 16.

A roundup of arts events taking place around the state, through Dec. 18:


The Front Bottoms are currently on a co-headlining tour with Manchester Orchestra, so both bands will perform at The Front Bottoms’ annual “Champagne Jam,” Dec. 16 at 5 p.m. at Convention Hall in Asbury Park. Also on the bill are SWMRS, Remo Drive, Beach Bunny, Shannen Moser, The Moms and Mandancing. The Front Bottoms and Manchester Orchestra recently released a haunting collaborative single, “Allentown” (see video below).

• 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 the last 26 years. The group also performs at benefit concerts that allow it to fulfill its philanthropic mission; two will take place at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, Dec. 17-18 at 7:30 p.m.

Over the last two decades, the annual Pipes of Christmas concerts — devoted, mostly, to traditional takes on holiday classics — have become a tradition of their own, as well as a comforting, uplifting New Jersey institution. The show features bagpipes — and other instruments such as drums, harp, fiddles and organ — on holiday favorites such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Joy to the World” and “Amazing Grace,” with readings from Celtic literature interspersed between the musical numbers. This year’s shows will take place at the Central Presbyterian Church in Summit, Dec. 16 at 2 and 7 p.m., as well as at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m.

Holiday Banding, an annual benefit for Hoboken’s free Movies Under the Stars program, takes place Dec. 16 at Hoboken’s Elks Lodge. The show will feature holiday songs by Tom Vincent, The Skullers, Julio Fernandez, Gene D. Plumber, The Sensational Country Blues Wonders, Jon and Deena of The Cucumbers, Jim Testa, Abbe Rivers, Lloyd United, Bianca Bob, John Keim, Emily Turonis and The Fuzzy Lemons. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.


The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will bring its annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah to the Richard Auditorium at Princeton University, Dec. 14 at 8 p.m.; and Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. Patrick Dupré Quigley will conduct, and the vocals will be handled by Margot Rood, soprano; Reginald Mobley, countertenor; Steven Soph, tenor; Charles Wesley Evans, baritone; and the Montclair State University Singers (conducted by Heather J. Buchanan).

“The Hip-Hop Nutcracker” will be presented in Asbury Park, Dec. 13, and Newark, Dec. 14.


The following performances of “The Nutcracker” are scheduled for this week:

Dec. 13: “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” featuring Kurtis Blow at Paramount Theatre, Asbury Park.
Dec. 14: “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” featuring Kurtis Blow at Prudential Hall at NJPAC, Newark.
Dec. 14: “The Nutcracker,” abridged and fully narrated at Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community Theatre, West Windsor.
Dec. 14-16: “The Nutcracker,” presented by American Repertory Ballet at Two River Theater, Red Bank.
Dec. 14-16: “The Nutcracker,” presented by New York Civic Youth Ballet at Sitnik Theatre at Lackland Performing Arts Center, Hackettstown.
Dec. 14-16, 21-24 and 26-27: “The Nutcracker,” presented by New Jersey Ballet with New Jersey Symphony Orchestra at Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown.
Dec. 15-16: “The Nutcracker,” presented by Atlantic City Ballet at Caesars, Atlantic City.
Dec. 16: “The Nutcracker,” presented by State Ballet Theatre of Russia at Prudential Hall at NJPAC, Newark.


“Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” will be screened, with a live performance of Danny Elfman’s score by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Thiago Tiberio), at Prudential Hall at NJPAC, Dec. 15 at 2 and 7:30 p.m.


The Kwanzaa Festival and Marketplace at NJPAC in Newark features a Kwanzaa Artisan Marketplace in the venue’s lobby, Dec. 14 from 6 to 10 p.m., Dec. 15 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Dec. 16 from noon to 10 p.m.; a free family festival with dancing, music, storytelling, arts and crafts, face painting and more in the lobby, Dec. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and performances by Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, in collaboration with the a cappella vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock, Dec. 15 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. in the Victoria Theater.

• “Common Ground: A Holiday Musical Celebration of Community,” a joint production of New Brunswick’s State Theatre and the Crossroads Theatre Company that takes place at the State Theatre, Dec. 16 at 3 p.m., is a multi-cultural event celebrating the holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Diwali. Performers will include singer-actress Shanice Williams; the Jew Directions teen choir of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick; R.A.D.I.C.A.L., the hip-hop dance troupe from Abundant Life Family Worship Church in New Brunswick; the JP Stevens South Asian Dance Troupe; Rutgers Liberated Gospel Choir; and students from the Body & Music School in Piscataway.

The avant-garde circus/juggling troupe, Gandini Juggling, presents its “Smashed” — featuring nine jugglers, 80 apples and four crockery sets— at the Kasser Theater at Montclair State University, Dec. 13-14 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. The shows are part of the university’s Peak Performances series.

Actress Loretta Swit (of “M*A*S*H” fame) will sign copies of her book, “SwitHeart: The Watercolor Artistry and Animal Activism of Loretta Swit,” Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. at Books and Greetings in Northvale.

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