Top 15 NJ Arts Events of the Week: The Front Bottoms, ‘The Hip-Hop Nutcracker,’ more

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

Here is a guide to notable arts events taking place around the state, through Dec. 19:


After headlining holiday concerts in New York for several years, indie-rockersThe Front Bottoms are moving their “Champagne Jam” to their home state, for a 10-band, two-stage concert at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, Dec. 16 at 4 p.m. Other Performers will include AJJ, The Districts, White Reaper, Delicate Steve, Slaughter Beach, Dog, Big Easy, Weakened Friends and Strange Eclipse.

• 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 25 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. 18-19 at 7:30 p.m.

Two of the big winners in this year’s Fan Decision Jazz Awards by Hot House jazz magazine— Champian Fulton and “King” Solomon Hicks, winners of the Female Jazz Vocalist and Rising Star awards, respectively — will perform at a holiday concert at the Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum in Morris Township, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. Hicks will perform on his own, and also play guitar with Fulton’s quartet, and singer Antoinette Montague will serve as emcee. Clips from the year’s awards ceremony, which took place at the Triad in New York in October, will be shown. (For a chance to win two tickets, send an email to by midnight Dec. 12, with the words “Hot House” in the subject line.)

• Laura Cantrell is a critically acclaimed country-rock singer-songwriter as well as a well-known DJ. In the ’90s and 2000s, she hosted the “Radio Thrift Shop” program on WFMU-FM, and she now has a show devoted to the music of George Harrison, “Dark Horse Radio,” on SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s Beatles channel. She will perform at the Outpost in the Burbs, in the Guild Room at the First Congregational Church at 40 S. Fullerton Ave., Montclair, Dec. 16 at 8 p.m., with Don DiLego opening. (For a chance to win two tickets, send an email to by midnight Dec. 13, with the word “Cantrell” in the subject line.)

The 19th annual “Pipes of Christmas” shows will take place in New York, Dec. 16, and Summit, Dec. 17.

An annual tradition since 1999, the Pipes of Christmas concert offers a unique, uncommercialized way to celebrate the holiday, with beloved, traditional songs played on bagpipes (and other instruments as well), plus readings from Celtic literature. A new addition this year will the premiere of “Beautiful Things,” written by harpist Cormac de Barra to commemorate John Curry’s 1879 vision of the Virgin Mary at the Knock Parish Church in Knock, Ireland. There will be shows at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, Dec. 16 at 2 p.m., and at the Central Presbyterian Church in Summit, Dec. 17 at 2 and 7 p.m. (For a chance to win two tickets to the 7 p.m. Dec. 17 show, send an email to by midnight Dec. 13, with the word “Pipes” in the subject line.)

In her second year as the New Jersey Symphony’s music director, Xian Zhang will conduct members of the orchestra in Handel’s Messiah for the first time, Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University, and Dec. 17 at 3 p.m. at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark. Featured singers will include Erin Wall, soprano; Nancy Maultsby, mezzo-soprano; Miles Mykkanen, tenor; Michael Sumuel, bass-baritone; and the Montclair State University Singers.

New Jersey’s leading banjo master,Tony Trischka, who released a holiday album titled Of a Winter’s Night in 2014, will perform holiday shows of the same name at the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m., and the Hopewell Theater, Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. (see video below)

A show by the veteran country rock band Kinderhook that will take place at Roxy and Dukes in Dunellen, Dec. 15 at 9 p.m. (with singer-songwriter Mike Kosec opening) will double as a food drive, with non-perishable items (as well as socks) collected for distribution to the needy.

Jazz guitar wizard Stanley Jordan presents a rare nightclub show, Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. at Crossroads in Garwood. Guitarist Larry Mitchell will also perform.

Hoboken music scene members will gather Dec. 17 at 6 p.m. at Maxwell’s Tavern, for the annual Holiday Banding concert, an evening of holiday songs to benefit Hoboken’s Movies Under the Stars Outdoor Summer Series. Performers will includeJack Skuller of The Skullers, The Gordys, Bianca Bob, Deena & Jon of The Cucumbers, Lloyd United, Emily Turonis, Jim Testa, Elena Skye & Boo Reiners of The Demolition String Band, Abbe Rivers, the Sensational Country Blues Wonders, Gene D. Plumber, Las Vandelays, Tom Vincent and the Hoboken Holiday Banding House Band (featuring Julio Fernandez, Dave Stengel, Ed Fogarty, John Keim and Gary Frazier).

NJPAC presents “The Hip-Hop Nutcracker,” Dec. 15.


NJPAC in Newark will present a unique update of “The Nutcracker,” with hip-hop choreography and guest emceeing by rapper Kurtis Blow, at its Prudential Hall, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m.

Other “Nutcracker” shows around the state will take place …

Dec. 15 and 22 at 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 16-17 and 23-24 at 1 p.m.; Dec. 16-17 and 23 at 6 the Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown. Presented byNew Jersey Ballet and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 16 at 2 and 7 p.m., Dec. 17 at 1 and 5 p.m. at State Theatre, New Brunswick. Presented by American Repertory Ballet, with a live orchestra and choir.
Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 16-17 at 1 and 4 p.m. at Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College, West Windsor. Presented by New Jersey Youth Ballet.
Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 16-17 at 1 and 5 p.m. at Scottish Rite Auditorium, Collingswood. Presented by Tricia Sloane Dance.
Dec. 15 at 7 p.m., Dec. 16 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Dec. 17 at 3 p.m. at Sitnik Theatre at Lackland Performing Arts Center, Hackettstown. Presented by NJ Civic Youth Ballet.
Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 16 at 1 and 4:30 p.m., Dec. 17 at 2:30 p.m. atVoorhees Middle School Theatre. Presented by South Jersey Ballet Theatre.
Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. at Prudential Hall at NJPAC, Newark. Presentedby the State Ballet Theatre of Russia.
Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 17 at 4 p.m. at Caesars, Atlantic City. Presented by Atlantic City Ballet.
Dec. 16 at 1 and 5 p.m. and Dec. 17 at 2 p.m. at Frank Guarancini Jr. Arts Center at Cumberland County College, Vineland. Presented by Vineland Regional Dance Company.
Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. at Symphony Hall, Newark.“Alfred Gallman’s Nutcracker: A Soulful Christmas,”presented by Gallman’s Newark Dance Theatre.


• “The Santaland Diaries”started out as a humorous essay by David Sedaris about working as an Elf in a department store “Santaland.” It was later adapted into a one-person play. Usually, that person is a man, but the Skyline Theatre Company will present it with a woman,Morgan Billings Smith, Dec. 17 at 3 p.m. at the Fair Lawn Community Center. Note: Due to mature content “The Santaland Diaries” is not recommended for pre-teenaged children.

Steve Martin and Martin Short will appear at The Borgata in Atlantic City, Dec. 15.


•Steve Martin, Martin Shortand the bluegrass groupThe Steep Canyon Rangers will team up for an evening of comedy and music titled, rather self-deprecatingly, “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life,” Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. at the Event Center at Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, Atlantic City.

• Neil deGrasse Tyson — known for hosting TV shows such as “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” and “StarTalk,” and writing bestsellers (including this year’s “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry”)— will present a multimedia show titled“The Search for Life in the Universe,” Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark, and Dec. 158 p.m. at Convention Hall in Asbury Park.

• Scott Ian of the pioneering thrash metal band Anthrax published a memoir, “I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax,” in 2014, and is following it up with another one, “Access All Areas: Stories From a Hard Rock Life,” that he will sign on the day of its release, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m., at theBookendsbookstore in Ridgewood.

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