Top 15 NJ arts events of the week: Holiday Express, Hip Hop Nutcracker, more

Tim McLoone will perform with Holiday Express at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, Dec. 19-20.

A guide to notable arts events taking place in New Jersey, through Dec. 20:

Franke Previte, who won an Academy Award for co-writing “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” for the movie “Dirty Dancing,” will be one of the performers, as well as one of the honorees, at the 94th anniversary gala of the Strand Center for the Artsin Lakewood, Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. (with a dinner and cocktail party at 6 p.m.). At the event, titled “A Very BIG RoaD Christmas!,” the BIG RoaD All-Star Band — featuring Previte as well as musicians such as Bobby Bandiera,JT Bowen, Lisa Sherman, Jillian Rhys McCoy, Eddie Testa, JoBonanno, Killer Joe, Joe Bellia, Arne Wendt and Tommy Labella— will perform, and Previte, Lakewood Township Committeeman Michael D’Elia, Windmill Restaurants owner Steven Levin and Bar Anticipation owner and attorneyThomas Jannarone will be honored.

• Country-pop hitmaker Kenny Rogers, 78, says his current tour will be his last. It will come to BergenPAC in Englewood, Dec. 15 at 8 p.m., and the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m. Both shows are billed as “Christmas and Hits.”

•NiCori Studios and Productions, which co-produces shows at the Westminster Arts Center at Bloomfield College, will present a “Winter Gala” at the venue itself Dec. 16 at 7p.m., with entertainmentby Broadway performersBeth Fowler,DC Anderson and Kelli Rabke, cabaret singers Corinna Sowers Adler andStearns Matthews, and singer-songwriter Ilene Angel. There will be a reception with the artists afterwards at theOakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center.


• Stewart Goodyear will play Tchaikovsky’s music for “The Nutcracker,” arranged by Tchaikovsky himself for solo piano, at the Berlind Theatre at the McCarter Theatre Center, Dec. 16 at 8 p.m.

Richard Barone, who memorably covered David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” on his 1997 Cool Blue Halo album, will serve as the musical director and one of the performers at“Sound + Vision: The Music of David Bowie,” a tribute concerttaking place at the Outpost in the Burbsin Montclair, Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. The show comes nearly a year after Bowie died of liver cancer, at the age of 69.Other performers will includeJeffrey Gaines, Elvis Perkins, Wes Stace (also known as John Wesley Harding) and the Burnt Sugar Arkestra, and the house band of the School of Rock in Montclair will open. (NOTE: For a chance to win two tickets, send an email to by midnight Dec. 13 with the word “Bowie” in the subject line.)

The Paul Robeson Center for the Arts in Princeton will present an alternative take on “A Christmas Carol” — Charles Evered’s comedy “AnActor’s Carol,”about an actor tired of having to play Scrooge every holiday season —Dec. 16 at 8 p.m.

The Montclair State University Singers and members of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra team up for performances ofHandel’s Messiah,Dec. 16at 7:30 p.m. at the Richardson Auditorium in Princeton, and Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. at Prudential Hall of NJPAC in Newark.

• Forces of Nature Dance Theatre — which combines elements of modern and West African dance, ballet, hip-hop and martial arts —will perform, with music by the Afro-French jazz vocal duo Les Nubians, Dec. 17 at 2 and 8 at the Victoria Theater of NJPAC in Newark Also on Dec. 17, from noon to 5 p.m., NJPAC will present a free Kwanzaa Children’s Festival, with workshops and activities in dance, drumming and other forms of art, at its Center for Arts Education (at 24 Rector St.).

“The Muppet Christmas Carol” will be shown in Jersey City on Dec. 17.

The New York-based organization Rooftop Films branches out to New Jersey withtwo free filmscreenings at the Harborside Atrium in Jersey City, Dec. 17. “The Muppet Christmas Carol” will be shown at 2 p.m., following face painting and crafts for children from 1 to 2 p.m. Then, the indie drama “I, Daniel Blake” will be shown at 8 p.m., after a set by the band Howth at 7:30 p.m. At both shows, unwrapped presents will be collected for distribution to needy Jersey City children.

OnStage at Stevens, a new arts series at the DeBaun Auditorium at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, kicks off with a concert, Dec. 17 at 8 p.m., featuring members of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in a program of Vivaldi, Piazzolla, Copland and Respighi, plusa medley of traditional holiday songs. Details on future concerts in the series are TBA.

More than 30 pieces of art made entirely from Lego pieces will be displayed in “Engineering Brick Art,” an exhibit opening at the Morris Museum in Morris Township Dec. 17 and running through Feb. 26.

A holiday classic gets a modern spin, with rap great Kurtis Blow serving as guest MC, at the “Hip Hop Nutcracker,” taking place at Prudential Hall at NJPACin Newark, Dec. 17 at 3 p.m.(see video below)

• Kings of Chaos, a rock supergroup with an ever-changing lineup, performs at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. Musicians will include singer-guitarist Billy Gibbons (of ZZ Top), singers Corey Taylor (of Slipknot) and Chester Bennington (of Linkin Park), guitarists Steve Stevens (of Billy Idol’s band) and Billy Duffy (of The Cult), bassist Robert DeLeo (of Stone Temple Pilots) and drummer Matt Sorum (of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver); the show will consist of songs from their individual bands, plus other rock classics.

Hoboken’s annualHoliday Banding Concerttakes placeat Maxwell’s Tavern,Dec. 18, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. A large cast of New Jersey musicians will perform holiday songs, including Jack Skuller, Dave Lambert, Jon and Deena of The Cucumbers, Abbe Rivers, Mike Daly and the Planets, Bianca Bob, the Sensational Country Blues Wonders and Tom Vincent and the Hoboken Holiday House Band. Proceeds will go to the city’s free summertime movie series.

This holiday season, Holiday Express will bring high-spirited holiday music to 90homeless shelters, psychiatric hospitals, developmental centers and other places where live music is seldom heard. The organization, which is led by Tim McLoone and is now in its 24th year, will raise money to help support its annual effort to make the holidays brighter with benefit concerts at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, Dec. 19-20 at 7:30 p.m. Each show will feature holiday standards such as “White Christmas,” “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” andChuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run,” plus visits by Frosty the Snowman, the Grinch and Santa.

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