Sunday, March 26, 2017

REVIEW: “BAD JEWS” A DELECTABLE DISH @ GEORGE STREET PLAYHOUSE

By Ruth Ross

The death of a beloved relative and the distribution of his or her possessions can wreak havoc on familial relationships, causing ruptures that often fester for decades. The havoc is exacerbated when the possessions include historical artifacts, especially those related to the Holocaust.

If the thought of such squabbling makes you uncomfortable, brace yourself for the antics onstage in George Street Playhouse’s current offering, Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon. Originally produced at the Roundabout Theatre in New York, the play’s title has a double meaning. On one hand, the characters rate their “Jewishness” relative to their investment in and familiarity with the culture and religion; on the other hand, over the course of 90 minutes, we get to witness some very bad behavior in all its awful glory.

The source of contention among the three Haber-Feygenbaum cousins, brothers Liam and Jonah and cousin Daphna, is the gold chai (the Hebrew letters for “life”) necklace worn by “Poppy,” their very recently deceased grandfather for much of his long life. Daphna believes she should get it because she, after all, she the “best” Jew of the three, changing her name from Diana to the Hebrew Daphna, spending time in Israel with plans to wed a man she met there, and able to read and recite the Hebrew prayers. She’s adamant and girded for war. Her nemesis Liam (Hebrew name Shlomo, which he doesn’t care to divulge) is the oldest of the three; he wants the chai to use it to propose to his girlfriend, just as Poppy used it to propose to their grandmother. He’s arrogant, sure that he deserves the necklace—in short, a worthy opponent for Daphna. As for Jonah, he doesn’t want to be involved. He doesn’t claim any rights to the chai and would rather remove himself from the ensuing battle. Watching all this unfold is the blonde shiksa Melody, who is as uncomfortable as we are and a bit bewildered at the verbal assault taking place. (Above: Laura Lapidus and Amos VanderPoel)

Under the taut direction of Jessica Stone (in her debut at GSP), the quartet of very talented young actors moves the action steadily, inexorably to a surprising denouement. Laura Lapidus (Daphna) and Alec Silberblatt (Liam) literally own the stage; their huge personas spill over into the playhouse auditorium, and their quivering outrage makes the rafters shake. They are worthy opponents: Lapidus, perfect as the loud, judgmental, opinionated, motor-mouth, “poorer” middle cousin; Silberblatt as the entitled, narcissistic, equally obnoxious scion of the extended family, who steamrolls the others, especially his younger brother. He is a bundle of nerves from the moment he enters the swanky Upper West Side studio apartment (designed by Charlie Corcoran) that serves as the battlefield. Albeit filled with two air mattresses and a pull-out sofa, it is precisely the type of pad purchased by millionaire parents for their offspring (It’s down the hass from the Habers). (Above: Lapidus, Alec Silberblatt and Maddie Jo Landers)

But don’t sell the two quieter characters short. Amos VanderPoel (right, with Silberblatt) portrays Jonah as a schlub of the first order, his mumbling discomfort palpable as he tries to avoid being drawn into the whirlwind around him. Physically, he looks as though he’d rather be anywhere else but here, often shrinking into a corner or lurking near the door to the hallway as though he’d like to escape. As Melody, collateral damage in this brawl, Maddie Jo Landers’ cluelessness is rather endearing. Wide-eyed, spilling personal details (unwittingly giving Daphna ammo to use against Liam), naive, her character is clearly out of her element; her exchange with Daphna over her ethnic origins is a tour de force of naiveté vs. wily snarkiness. And when called upon to sing something “operatic to” calm Daphna, her failure may be epic (think Florence Foster Jenkins), but our sympathy for her increases with each note!

Lest you think Bad Jews is one long, relentless rant, there are some funny and tender moments when the cousins reveal their love for each other and their family. They know so well the story of the chai’s survival through Poppy’s internment in Auschwitz that they can finish each others’ sentences. And recalling a disastrous family dinner at Mt. Fuji Restaurant sends the three into uncontrollable gales of laughter accompanied by lots of rolling on the floor in glee, as Melody looks on, mystified (above).

Production values are, once again, top notch. Sarah Laux has appropriately dressed the actors as typical twenty-somethings; J. Jared Janas’ wig and hair design strikes the right note between the two women. Christopher J. Bailey’s lighting conveys the passage of time, and Drew Levy’s use of music fittingly takes us from Hassidic nigun at the beginning to a more contemporary Israeli song at the end. Gerardo Rodriguez is to be commended on his fight direction; the physical altercation in the penultimate scene looks real—and vicious.

Good Jew? Super Jew? Uber Jew or Bad Jew—which cousin fills the bill? To be sure, there’s a plethora of bad behavior in Bad Jews, but notice, the title is plural, so the verdict is not clear-cut. Just trying to figure out who’s who will make your head spin, but the ending (no spoiler) will hit you in the gut and leave you thinking (and talking) as you leave the theater. With their interplay of comedy and tragedy, family interactions offer fresh meat for playwrights looking to entertain us—even as they provoke us to think. Joshua Harmon and the folks at George Street Playhouse have cooked up a splendid dish in Bad Jews. Now, come; eat a little. You won’t go away hungry.

Bad Jews will be performed at the George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, through April 9. For information and tickets, call the box office at 732.246.7717 or visit www.GSPonline.com

Photos by T. Charles Erickson.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

“NJ MUSICAL THEATRE COMPOSERS SHOWCASE” @ 4TH WALL FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY!

WHEN: April 1, 2017 at 7:30 pm
WHERE:
Westminster Arts Center @ Bloomfield College, 449 Franklin Street, Bloomfield, NJ  07003
TICKETS: $16 – $23
BUY NOW
FOR MORE INFO, CHECK OUR WEBSITE

One Night Only!

4th Wall is excited and proud to bring you some of New Jersey's best and brightest new Musical Theatre composers.

This concert will feature the new works of Gonzalo Valencia and Michael Campbell, Lawrence Dandridge, David Maglione and Tom Dziuba, Kevin M. Lynch, Wendy Feaver, Max Silverman and Ellington Berg, Clint Edwards and Jon Provan.

Their songs, both stand-alone pieces and songs from their complete musicals, will be performed by instrumentalists and singers from all over New Jersey and from the 4th Wall family.

Best of all, you will get to hear a couple of new musical "pitches," in which composing teams will present a segment of one of their latest new works-in-progress, and you will get to be among the first audiences to respond with your feedback!

PLEASE NOTE: The showcase may include some adult language.

PERFORMERS INCLUDE:
Christopher Dylan Herbert, Greta Kleckner, Rusty Reynolds, Alexa Canelos, Madeline Chandler, Jessica Phipps, Chris Traina, Chris Frazier, Trey McCoy, Ellie Kallay, Brynn Owen, Madeline Fansler, Jeff Sundheim, Julie Galorenzo, Todd Shumpert, Fia Fusco, Luke Surretsky, Izzy Figueroa, Spencer Kiely,    Erin Long, Alex Carr, Blane Pressler, Sharmelle Hunte,
Jeanel Leblanc, Alneesha Harris, Kayla Stewart, Seychelle Folson,
Ashley Leone, Mimi B. Francis, Mariah Ralph, Erica Philpot,
Marcel Ringold, Martin Carpenter, George Johnson, Jacquis Smith,
Robert Marerro, Marcus Beckett, Johnathan Douglas, Kirk Jasen Lambert,
Roy Graquitena, Christian Stewart, and Travis Prol.

Friday, March 24, 2017

THINK: FREE TIX FOR TEACHERS @ THE THEATER PROJECT, APRIL 7 ONLY

Friday, April 7 Show ONLY: Free Tix for Teachers with ID
First come, first served, OR  may be reserved on line with $2 service charge.
Educator-led discussions after each Friday night performance.


Audio described performance for the sight-impaired:
Thursday, April 6, 8 PM
Call Box Office 908-809-8865.

Follow us on FB at Facebook.com/TheTheaterProject or Twitter @TheTheaterProj
Maplewood Parking Information

DON’T MISS THIS FILM WHEN IT APPEARS IN A THEATER NEAR YOU!

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH TRAILER

Thursday, March 23, 2017

“IN THE HEIGHTS” EXTENDED DUE TO POPULAR DEMAND!

IN THE HEIGHTS
By Lin-Manuel Miranda
Directed and Choreographed by Luis Salgado
With a Cast of 24 Up-and-Coming NY Actors

WHEN: SAT. APRIL 1 AT 2 PM and 8 PM!
WHERE:
Axelrod Performing Arts Center, 100 Grant Ave., Deal Park
TICKETS: $25, $36
CLICK HERE TO RESERVE TICKETS

CLICK FOR BROADWAYWORLD ARTICLE

Working closely with “Hamilton” and “Heights” Tony Award-winning choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, Luis Salgado was the Latin dance choreographer for the Broadway production and also created the role of Jose in the original cast. “My very first journey with this show was an explosion of pride through its movement as I worked next to Andy Blankenbuehler enhancing the choreographic authenticity in numbers like 'Carnaval' and the 'Club' among others.”

Considered one of the foremost Latin dance specialists in the country, Salgado, working with a cast of 24 up-and-coming young professional actors, has been exploring the musical from the ground up. “Working with this cast is a very rewarding adventure…Not only have we explored and built this passionate musical but we have done it in a way where ‘the process’ has been the priority on every step of the journey, allowing a unique ownership of the character and community moments in the show.”

Leading the cast is Jonathan Mousset portraying Usnavi de la Vega. Born of Venezuelan parents in Tampa, Fla., Mousset has been preparing to play the Lin-Manuel role for nearly a decade. “At the beginning I felt immense pressure in playing a role created by one of the most influential people of our generation. I've honestly been preparing for this moment since the cast recording came out in 2008, so the challenge has been letting go of this idea I've had of the character for so long and sincerely drawing from my own experiences, because this character IS me!”

The female lead, Elizabeth Ritacco, grew up in Toms River, NJ, and will be playing Nina Rosario. Like the other 23 members of the cast, Ritacco is making her APAC debut in “In the Heights” and has been loving the experience. “Within the first month of rehearsal, I had found that Luis has challenged me to find things within me that I never knew I was capable of. He encourages us all to embrace failure, to explore the humanity of every character and their relationships and to never stop connecting and playing with each other.… I've grown ten feet as a performer and as a person, and I have Luis and his huge heart to thank for all of it.”

Salgado, a Puerto Rican American who lives in Manhattan, was honored to be a part of the original Broadway production team and cast and is thrilled to be sharing his own authentic vision of the show with NJ audiences. “For me, ‘In the Heights’ has always been a project of the heart. It elevates my spirit to know that a show honors my Latino community in a pure celebration of the people and heritage.” Working with the APAC cast has enabled him to find new resonances in the story, the music and the dance. “It's in so many ways an ensemble dream piece the same way it was when I first experienced it. I really invite people to come take part of all the growth these actors are bringing with honesty to the stage.”

Salgado’s team includes assistant director-choreographer John Alix and associate director Valeria Cossu, musical director Walter “Bobby” McCoy, associate musical director David Maglione, production consultant Heather Hogan, set designer Andrew D’Agostino, lighting designer Robert Rutt, sound designer Gerry Gironda, costume designers Fred Mayo and Debra Thime and properties manager Susan Bloir. In addition to Jonathan Mousset (Usnavi) and Elizabeth Ritacco (Nina), the cast includes: Maité Uzal (Abuela Claudia), Laura Lebron (Vanessa), Jordan J. Adams (Benny), Matthew Oster (Sonny), Shadia Fairuz (Camila Rosario), José Fernando (Kevin Rosario), Tanya DeLeón (Daniela), Danelle Rivera (Carla), Joomin Hwang (Graffiti Pete) and Roberto Araujo (Piragua Guy) and ensemble members Joelle Anderson, Adam Bourque, Aaron Cobos, Miguel Flores, Myriam Gadri, Andre Malcolm, Marcel March, Bryan Ernesto Menjivar, Amaya Perea, Jenna Perez, Nathalia Raigosa and Susan Ramirez.

THIS WEEKEND @ WILLIAM PATERSON U’S SHEA CENTER

The WP Music Department presents

I Want My 80's Back: The Best of MTV's Early Years 

WHEN: FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 7:30 PM
WHERE:
Shea Center, William Paterson University, 300 Pompton Road, Wayne
TICKETS:  $25 General Admission; $20 William Paterson faculty, staff, alumni, and senior citizens; $10 All Students

Featuring special guests Darryl McDaniels of Run DMC and original MTV VJ Mark Goodman.  Music Director: Grammy Award winner (with Lady Gaga) & WP alumnus Rob Fusari

Experience the 1980s in this tribute to the early years of MTV, featuring performances by WP music students, along with McDaniels and Fusari. Re-live the music of Whitney Houston, Run DMC, Prince, Toto, Bruce Springsteen, Journey, Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, and many more in this fundraiser for WP music scholarships.

A Special Message from DMC

CLICK HERE FOR A SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM DMC


Girls, Guns, and Glory

WHEN: SATURDAY, MARCH 25, 8:00 PM

WHERE: Shea Center, William Paterson University, 300 Pompton Road, Wayne
TICKETS: $20 General Admission

Playing Country Rock Classics by Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Elvis & Others, Plus Their Own Originals

The group's love for early rock 'n' roll, true country, raw blues and pretty much any kind of authentic American music makes for an electrifying concert. 

"Imagine Lyle Lovett and Chris Isaak paying tribute to classical American rock 'n' roll from Elvis, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison," - The Boston Globe

Songs from their 2017 album Love and Protest that debuted at #25 on the AMA Top 40 chart and presently remains in the Top 40.


Looking for Cajun/Creole style eats before the show? Check out:

Seafood Village
777 Hamburg Tpke., Wayne, NJ 07470  973.832.7738

Find them on Yelp and Facebook

“OF MICE & MEN” OPENS IN HOLMDEL THIS FRIDAY!

Holmdel Theatre Company presents
Of Mice and Men
The American Classic by John Steinbeck
Directed by Michael Kroll

WHEN: March 24, 25, 31 April, 1, 7, 8 at 8:00 pm, March, 26, April 2 at 2:00 pm
WHERE:
36 Crawfords Corner Rd, Holmdel, NJ 07733
TICKETS: Students $15, Seniors $20, Adult $25
CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS
Please note all online order are subject to a $3 Processing fee.
At door orders are subject to a $1 Facility Fee
For more info contact info@holmdeltheatrecompany.org

John Steinbeck's heartbreaking American classic comes to life in his own stage adaptation. Lennie and George, farm workers in Depression-era California, are trying to scrape together enough money to buy a house of their own. When Lennie stirs up trouble on the job, George must choose between protecting his friend or staying the course toward his version of the American dream.

Featuring:
Dave Duncan as George Milton
Brian Craig as Lennie Small
Roberto Forero as Curley
Ava Serene Portman as Curley’s Wife
Jeff Caplan as Slim
Dave Harris as Boss
Paul Caliendo as Candy
Arthur Gregory Pugh as Crooks
Steve Bartlow as Carlson
Tristan Takacs as Whit

 

Produced by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service.

LISTEN TO JAZZ EVERY THURSDAY IN MARCH IN EDGEWATER


www.mitchellsfishmarket.com

 

“Ellen’s lovely, expressive and compelling voice, splendidly rhythmic and with laser-accurate intonation.” ‒Grady Harp

“A solidly swinging date that gives you all you want and more.” ‒Chris Spector

www.ellenlafurn.com

CYNTHIA HILTS & LYRIC FURY, HER ADVENTUROUS JAZZ OCTET CELEBRATE CD RELEASE

CYNTHIA HILTS & LYRIC FURY
CELEBRATE CD RELEASE
WHEN:
 MARCH 25TH, Sets at 8 & 10pm
WHERE: TRUMPETS JAZZ CLUB, 6 DEPOT SQUARE, MONTCLAIR NJ
ADMISSION:  $20 cover
973-744-2600
http://www.trumpetsjazz.com
Tickets are also available online at http://www.trumpetsjazz.com/shop/
https://www.facebook.com/events/376542756064981/

Cynthia Hilts - composer/piano/voice
Jack Walrath - trumpet
Lisa Parrott - soprano & bari sax
Lily White - tenor & alto sax
Stafford Hunter - trombone & conch
Leigh Stuart - cello,
Rene Hart - bass
Scott Neumann – drums

Twenty years ago, Brooklyn-based pianist/composer Cynthia Hilts was seeking to form a band as a vehicle for her brisk, striking originals. Her avant-meets-mainstream writing, as the band name Lyric Fury suggests, is demanding and defined by powerful contrasts.

Hilts and her octet have been honing a sound and a vision ever since, and their brilliant efforts are captured on their first recording together—the eponymous Lyric Fury—released on January 13th by Hilts’s Blond Coyote Records. Lyric Fury boasts a lineup of top-drawer players with highly distinctive “A” games of their own. They include trumpet great and onetime Mingusite Jack Walrath, saxophonists Lisa Parrott and Lily White, trombonist Deborah Weisz, cellist Marika Hughes, bassist Ratzo Harris, and drummer Scott Neumann.

The infectious opening track, “Those Basinites,” was inspired by the quirky residents of Basin, Montana, where Hilts did several residencies. But much of Hilts’s music, for which she writes her own poetic lyrics, responds to situations and events. “Previously a Thing,” a brash invocation that turns Horace Silver-style hard bop on its ear (dig White’s passionate tenor solo), was written after a breakup. The free-gliding “Blues for the Bronchs,” featuring out-of-sorts voicings and a ripping, hard-edged solo by Walrath, had its genesis in an unshakable case of bronchitis.

A seasoned peace activist, Hilts composed the album’s most lyrical and deeply affecting work, “Peace Now,” following the outbreak of the Iraq War. Her vocal—part scat, part chant, part heartfelt plea—is framed by the dark tones of Parrott’s baritone and Hughes’s cello and carried by bright rhythms. “Teacher,” with its delicate piano introduction and South African lilt, is a prayer for a spiritual leader.

ACTIVITIES FOR EVERYONE @ THE PRINCETON UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM

WHERE: Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ
artmuseum.princeton.edu

TEACHERS: STNJ’S STUDENT MATINEE SERIES RETURNS FOR 2017

Illustrations by Scott McKown

BRING THE FAMILY TO SEE “THE MAGIC FLUTE” IN BAYONNE ON SUNDAY!

THE MAGIC FLUTE

WHEN: SUNDAY, MARCH 26, 3 PM
WHERE:
Temple Emanu-El, 735 JFK Boulevard, Bayonne, NJ.
TICKETS: $35/adults, pre-purchase ($40 at the door, day of performance)
$10/children 10 and up; FREE - children under 10
Group sales - $30/ticket for 10 or more
Eventbrite - CLICK HERE
Free parking will be available courtesy of St. Henry's Church, on Avenue C between 28th and 29th Streets, Bayonne (one block away). Temple Emanu-El is also easily accessible via public transportation.

Opera Theatre of Montclair presents Mozart's THE MAGIC FLUTE, abridged, staged and costumed in a family-friendly interactive format. This is the perfect introduction to opera for all ages. Voluntary audience participation and a fun English narration all serve to enhance the beauty of Mozart's music.

The professional singers and Opera Orchestra of Montclair will be conducted by Maestro Robert Butts.

This performance will serve as a fundraiser for the nonprofit Opera Theatre of Montclair and Temple Emanu-El. 

Cast:
Tamino - Alexey Kukharskiy, tenor
Pamina - Patricia Vital, soprano
Papageno - Alan Smulen, baritone
Queen of the Night - Laura Isabella, soprano
Sarastro - Ilberto Lagana, bass
First Lady - Anita Lyons, soprano
Second Lady - Jill Burstein, soprano
Third Lady - Ema Mitrović, mezzo soprano
Papagena - Allison Mion, soprano