Monday, December 31, 2012
Select Tickets at $13.00 - Code: 13FOR2013
Offer Runs Jan 1 @ 10 AM through Jan 13 @ 11:59 PM
THE LITTLE PRINCE
WHERE: bergenPAC, 30 N. Van Brunt Street, Englewood
BLUES AT THE CROSSROADS
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Paul Taylor Dance Company
Friday, December 28, 2012
Union County Performing Arts Center presents
50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL
WHEN: Sunday, January 13, at 7:30 PM
WHERE: The Mainstage at UC PAC, 1601 Irving St., Rahway
TICKETS: $49.50, $37.50, $27.50 & $19.50
BUY TICKETS HERE
This production contains mature themes.
The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has shattered sales records around the globe with more than 32 million copies sold in the United States alone and a 2013 Universal Pictures feature film release is sure to be a cinematic blockbuster. Now, for the first time, the original parody 50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL is coming to Rahway! A resounding hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with a 4-star review, world-renowned musical comedy ensemble BABY WANTS CANDY delivers the only theatrical incarnation that gives the brand what it really deserves! A sexy, hilarious romp, 50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL is a laugh out loud night of fun that audiences won't want to miss!
50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL opens with a ladies book club deciding to read Fifty Shades of Grey. Through their interpretation of the novel, the audience is lead on a hilarious roller coaster ride of this unlikely bestseller. The show is full of dance numbers, 11 original songs and a live band backing the performance. Original songs include "They Get Nasty," "I Don't Make Love—” I F#*!" and "There's a Hole Inside of Me."
The signature show for BABY WANTS CANDY is the 60-minute improvised musical. And the ensemble take these comedic skills to craft this sidesplitting scripted musical. Like the book series, 50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL is surely not for those under the age of 18, but does not cross boundaries that would make general audiences squirm.
BABY WANTS CANDY has received rave reviews in The New York Times, The Scotsman, The Huffington Post, The Onion, the Chicago Sun-Times, TimeOut Chicago & New York and more. BABY WANTS CANDY has received numerous awards and was the Winner of FringeNYC Outstanding Unique Theatrical Performance, the Best Improv Ensemble by Chicago Magazine, the Best Visiting Comedy Ensemble by TimeOut New York, the recipient of the Ensemble of the Year Award at the Chicago Improv Festival and the Eugene O'Neill Festival Opening Ceremonies. Currently BABY WANTS CANDY performs at the Apollo Theater on the Mainstage following Million Dollar Quartet on Friday evenings. In addition, the group performs in New York City and tours internationally.
The professional chamber choir Kinnara® Ensemble will present a one-hour concert
WHEN: Saturday, January 12, at 8:00 PM
WHERE: All Saints Episcopal Church, 16 All Saints Road, Princeton
WHEN: Sunday, January 13, at 3:00 PM
WHERE: St John’s Lutheran Church, 587 Springfield Ave., Summit
TICKETS: $20 adults, $10 students
Tickets are available at www.KinnaraEnsemble.org and at the door. Performances will be best enjoyed by those over 12 and are being recorded.
Artistic Director J.D. Burnett notes, “Many composers have written pieces that deal with beauty and potentiality in music. The concert will feature works that explore the beauty of music and singing in their texts.” Repertoire will include works by Brahms, Britten and Lassus. An artist reception will follow.
Audiences statewide have recognized the Kinnara® Ensemble for their warmth of sound and musical dexterity. Under the artistic direction of J.D. Burnett, the 26 professional artists have performed as the Kinnara® Ensemble throughout the tri-state area and as individuals throughout the world. A member of the multiple Grammy-nominated group Conspirare, Mr. Burnett is a teaching fellow at the University of Texas, and Assistant Conductor of the Dallas Symphony Chorus.
Formed in 2008, the ensemble is a non-profit tax exempt organization, dedicated to bringing the finest choral music to NJ and providing new opportunity for the young professional choral singer. Http://www.KinnaraEnsemble.org
WHEN: Friday, January 11, 2013
5:00 PM, Mead Hall
7:00 PM, Korn Gallery, Dorothy Young Center for the Arts
7:30 PM, Concert Hall, Dorothy Young Center for the Arts
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana. His upbringing in the racially charged South and his tour in Vietnam in the 1970s prove to be the focal point of much of his poetry. Komunyakaa attended the University of Colorado when he returned to the States and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and sociology in 1975. Continuing his studies, he earned a master’s degree in creative writing from Colorado State University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California, Irvine.
Khaled Mattawa was born in Benghazi, Libya where he had his primary education. In 1979 he emigrated to the United States. He lived in the South for many years, finishing high school in Louisiana and completing bachelors degrees in political science and economics at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He went on to earn an MA in English and an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University where he taught creative writing and won an Academy of American Poets award. A professor of English and Creative Writing at California State University, Northridge, he has published poems in Poetry, The Kenyon Review, Crazyhorse, New England Review, Callaloo, Poetry East, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Iowa Review, Black Warrior Review and The Pushcart Prize anthology.
Please note that parking is available in the Admissions Office Lot or the Tilghman House Lot off of Lancaster Road.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Sunday, December 23, 2012
WHEN: FRIDAY, JANUARY 11, at 8 PM, AND SATURDAY, JANUARY 12, at 8 PM
WHERE: THE WESTMINSTER ARTS THEATRE, BLOOMFIELD COLLEGE, 449 Franklin Street, Bloomfield, NJ
TICKETS: $15 for adults and $12 for students. For more information and tickets, please call 973.566.9700. Tickets are available online CLICK HERE
Teen musical "spells" a lot of fun for everyone! New Jersey School of Dramatic Arts (NJSDA) presents THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE, a one-act musical comedy conceived by Rebecca Feldman with music and lyrics by William Finn, a book by Rachel Sheinkin and additional material by Jay Reiss. The show centers around a fictional spelling bee set in a geographically ambiguous Putnam Valley Middle School. The show is performed by a very talented cast of teenaged pros from NJSDA's ENCORE! Musical Theater Project. THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE is a wonderful musical for both young and old.
THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE features 18 kids from local towns. The cast includes Amber Smith of Bloomfield; Lauren Barr and Dean Schansinger of Montclair; Lilly Baldassare, Maddy Broderick, and Aleah Colon-Alfonso of Glen Ridge; Angelina and Kira Mocera of Clifton; Darius Smith and Rashid Carter of East Orange; Kevin Bergen of Hawthorne; Rebecca Atschul of Cedar Grove; Brandon Bennett of Butler; Aliana Kilmer-Setrakian of Towaco; Gerardo Mastrolia of North Haledon; Miriam Sapoznikov of Fair Lawn; Elizabeth Short of Fords; and Quinn Surdez of Aberdeen.
(Above: Left to right, standing, Rasheed Carter, Darius Smith, Brandon Bennett, Amber Smith, Lilly Baldassare, Dean Schansinger, Maddy Broderick, Quinn Surdez, Kevin Bergen, Lauren Barr, and Aliana Kilmer. Kneeling: Kira Mocera, Miriam Sapoznikov, Aleah Coln-Alfonso, Elizabeth Short, and Angelia Mocera. Photo by Ted Wrigley, New Jersey School of Dramatic Arts)
Founded in 2004, the New Jersey School of Dramatic Arts (www.njactors.org) in Bloomfield, NJ has provided comprehensive professional acting training for adults, teens and children. More than 1,200 students, some of whom have gone on to pursue professional acting careers, have taken classes at the school since it opened its doors eight years ago.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Look! The New Jersey Arts Maven (us!) is mentioned in the e-mail ad for A Wind in the Willows Christmas!
Thursday, December 20, 2012
One-day winter classes by popular demand...
Get your comedy groove on while gaining confidence and having FUN!
GREAT OPPORTUNITY to try improv comedy in this two-hour workshop taught by professional improv master Dave Maulbeck.
The teen class is for grades 7 - 12.
Tuition & Registration
Note: enrollment is limited and is on a first come, first served basis
CLICK HERE TO BUY(link on graphic will not work)
CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS use code PLTR55 for $55 tickets!
The following is an e-mail I received from John Schreiber, President of NJPAC. I think it deserves the attention of everyone who loves the arts:
WE NEED YOUR VOICE:
TELL CONGRESS TO PRESERVE
If you have been following all of the conversations about the "fiscal cliff" going on in Washington, you may know that the ongoing deductibility of charitable contributions is in jeopardy.
As a faithful supporter of NJPAC, you know that just under half of the Arts Center's annual operating budget comes from philanthropic donations. This is a hugely serious issue that will have lasting impact on many of your favorite charities and nonprofit organizations.
We urge you to take action as outlined below. The national nonprofit community is working as one to let Congress know that continuing deductibility is critical to the survival of the sector and it all it provides to the quality of our collective lives.
Tell Congress To Preserve Charitable Donations
As Congress debates how to avoid the looming “fiscal cliff,” the deductibility of charitable contributions hangs in the balance. Policymakers are considering a wide range of proposals to reduce the tax incentive for charitable giving—including capping the dollar amount allowable for all itemized tax deductions, or reducing the rate of deductibility—in an effort to generate new federal revenue. Your participation is needed to help Congress understand that limiting the charitable deduction would harm nonprofit services in communities nationwide.
We Need Your Voice
Please contact your Members of Congress today to urge them to preserve charitable giving incentives as the tax reform debates continue. Tell them how charitable contributions support the unique, essential services your favorite nonprofit organization provides in your community.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
WHEN: Wednesday, January 9, at 8 PM
WHERE: bergenPAC, 30 North Van Brunt Street, Englewood
TICKETS: $109, $69, $59, $49, $39
Tickets available at: www.ticketmaster.com or www.bergenpac.org or Box Office 201.227.1030
Now a major artist in his own right, performing worldwide, selling more than three million albums, he has found a form of creative expression that begins in jazz and expands beyond the limits of any single genre. With Impressions and the albums that preceded it, Chris Botti has thoroughly established himself as one of the important, innovative figures of the contemporary music world. Botti was nominated for two Grammy awards including Best Pop Instrumental Album.
Impressions, trumpeter Chris Botti’s new Sony CD, is the latest in a stellar parade of albums—starting with 2004’s When I Fall In Love and continuing with To Love Again, Italia and the CD/DVD Chris Botti In Boston -- that have firmly established him as the world’s largest selling jazz instrumentalist. Add to that a cluster of Grammy nominations and three #1 albums on Billboard’s Jazz Albums listings.
Botti seemed destined to become a musician—and even to become the kind of musician he is today—almost from the very beginning. Born in Portland, Oregon, he was encouraged to pursue music by his mother, a concert pianist. He also had an early taste of the international world that would become his primary territory as a successful performing artist. His father, who is Italian, taught English and Italian languages, and he took the family to live in Italy for several years, beginning when Botti was in the first grade.
His early career was spent crafting his skills in settings reaching from the Buddy Rich Big Band and Frank Sinatra to Natalie Cole and Joni Mitchell. Throughout the ‘90s and into the new century, Botti played extensively with Paul Simon, and had an especially creative association with Sting.
Those gigs—and those relationships—were, he says, powerful learning experiences.
“Watching artists like Sting and Paul and Joni Mitchell,” explains Botti, “how they get in and out of songs, how they introduce people, whether they would do this or that sort of thing, what they would say about one of their players. All that was a huge asset for me. I wouldn’t be the performer I am today without that background.”
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEEMusic and Lyrics by William Finn
Book by Rachel Sheinkin
Directed by Brian Swasey
Musical Direction by Jeffrey Campos
WHEN: Wednesday, December 19, at 7 PM; Thursday, December 20, at 7 PM; Call backs Sunday December 23, at 7 PM
WHERE: Summit Playhouse, 10 New England Ave, Summit, NJ (directions: http://summitplayhouse.org/auditions.html).
Production Dates: April 26-May11, 2013
Rehearsals to begin the week of March 10, 2013.
Please come prepared with one musical song to perform. Please bring sheet music.
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE is a hilarious tale of overachiever's angst chronicling the experience of six adolescent outsiders vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime. The show's Tony Award winning creative team has created the unlikeliest of hit musicals about the unlikeliest of heros: a quirky yet charming cast of outsiders for whom a spelling bee is the one place where they can stand out and fit in at the same time. Six young people in the throes of puberty, overseen by grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves, learn that winning isn't everything and that losing doesn't necessarily make you a loser.
CHIP TOLENTINO/JESUS CHRIST: An athletic, social, boy scout and champion of the Twenty-Fourth Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, he returns to defend his title, but he finds puberty hitting at an inopportune moment.
DOUGLAS PANCH: The Vice Principle. Frustrated with his life, he finds the drive of the young spellers alien to him. After five years' absence from the Bee, Panch returns as judge. There was an "incident" at the Twentieth Annual Bee, but he claims to be in "a better place" now, thanks to a high-fiber diet and Jungian analysis. He is infatuated with Rona Lisa Peretti, but she does not return his affections.
LEAF CONEYBEAR/CARL’S DAD: The second runner-up in his district, Leaf gets into the competition on a lark and finds everything about the bee incredibly amusing. He is home-schooled and comes from a large family of former hippies. He has severe Attention Deficit Disorder and spells words correctly while in a trance.
LOGAINNE SCHWARTZANDGRUNENIERRE (SCHWARTZY): Logainne is the youngest and most politically aware speller, often making comments about current political figures. She is driven by internal and external pressure, but above all by a desire to win to make her two fathers proud. She is somewhat of a neat freak, speaks with a lisp, and will be back next year.
MARCY PARK: A recent transfer from Virginia, Marcy placed ninth in last year’s nationals. She speaks six languages, is a member of all-American hockey, a championship rugby player, plays Chopin and Mozart on multiple instruments, sleeps only three hours a night, hides in the bathroom cabinet, and is getting very tired of always winning. She is the poster child for the Over-Achieving Asian, and attends a Catholic school called "Our Lady of Intermittent Sorrows." She is also not allowed to cry.
MITCH MAHONEY/DAN’S DAD/OLIVE’S DAD: The Official Comfort Counselor. An ex-convict, Mitch is performing his community service with the Bee, and hands out juice boxes to losing students. He has no idea how to offer comfort, but does find himself wishing he could find a way to make the kids feel better.
OLIVE OSTROVSKY: A young newcomer to competitive spelling. Her mother is in an ashram in India, and her father is working late, as usual, but he is trying to come sometime during the bee. Having found comfort in its words and vastness, Olive made friends with her dictionary at a very young age, helping her to make it to the competition. She starts enormously shy, and shyly blossoms.
RONA LISA PERETTI/OLIVE’S MOM: The number-one realtor in Putnam County, a former Putnam County Spelling Bee Champion herself, and the returning moderator. She is a sweet woman who loves children, but she can be very stern when it comes to dealing with Vice Principal Panch and his feelings for her. Her interest in the competition is unflagging and drives it forward.
WILLIAM BARFEE: A Putnam County Spelling Bee finalist last year, he was eliminated because of an allergic reaction to peanuts and is back for vindication. His famous “Magic Foot” method of spelling has boosted him to spelling glory, even though he only has one working nostril and a touchy, bullying personality. He develops a crush on Olive.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Finding a show to produce for the holiday season that will appeal to both children and their parents is so a daunting task that many theaters abandon the search and go with the familiar Christmas stories. Not Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst of the Two River Theater Company in Red Bank. To solve the perennial problem, the theater commissioned composer Mike Reid, lyricist Sarah Schlesinger and book writer Mindy Dickstein to write an original musical, A Wind in the Willows Christmas, a charming and inventive gift for theater patrons aged 5 to 105.
Based on the beloved children's classic by Kenneth Grahame, A Wind in the Willows, the tale follows the adventures of the story’s beloved characters—Mole, the Water Rat, Dr. Badger and Mr. Toad—as they discover that home (and Christmas) is "best shared with the ones you love," in this case your friends, a truth that is never too trivial for all of us to absorb. Reid and Schlesinger have written beautiful melodies and clever lyrics that not only move the action along but reflect the personalities of the actors who sing them. Dickstein's book is funny yet sophisticated. The kids in the opening night audience certainly laughed loudly as they "got" the jokes. (Below: Rat and Mole “mess around in boats.”)
Philip Witcomb has transformed the stage of the Rechnitz Theater into a veritable riverscape, complete with plants and what looks like water. The entire scene is set in motion by a revolving turntable and a spiraling wooden pier that winds up to the home of Dr. Badger and later, Toad Hall, the most magnificent house in the Wild Wood and home to the flamboyant Toad, lover of flashy, fast sport cars! There are plenty of dark spaces for monsters to lurk (shades of Where the Wild Things Are) and weasels to sneak. And the passage of the seasons from Spring to Winter is marked by shifting light, falling leaves and snow. Witcomb has also designed the costumes, none of which turn the actors into animal-like figures. Instead, they wear people clothes that suggest the animal: the wise Dr. Badger wears a three-piece tweed suit; geeky Mole wears black-rimmed glasses and a pinched facial expression; the Water Rat, a poet, is dressed in a whitish suit and porkpie hat; and Toad sports a bright green suit sure to attract attention. (Below L-R: Tom Deckman as Mole, Titus Burgess as Toad and Nick Choksi as Rat)
The talented cast has a field day with the material. Nick Choksi is charming as Water Rat, scribbling poems whenever he isn't serving as the wood's Commissioner of Complaints. Tom Deckman is an endearing Mole, intelligent yet suffering low self-esteem, whose search for a place he can call home drives the play's action. Farah Alvin is a perky Mrs. Otter who is stumped when her son, Little Portly (Dana Steingold), announces that he wants to be a cook instead of becoming a fisherman like his father. John Jellison's Dr. Badger may be a pompous know-it-all, but his warm attitude toward Mole, his desire to break Toad's obsession with buying stuff and his love of words redeem him. And Titus Burgess's Toad comes across as a real "operator," especially when he extols his love of "things." Kathy Connolly and John Garry do double duty as Rabbits and Weasels, as the former, talking like surfer "dudes" and bullying Mole and as the latter, dressed in black suits and bowler hats (right) as they lurk around Toad Hall with an eye to robbery.
Amanda Dehnert's taut direction makes the action move smoothly and quickly without feeling rushed. The pace is important for an audience of children whose ability to sit for long stretches is unpredictable. The actors' delivery is natural and convincing; they never try to impersonate animals, but we are made aware of each character's unique personality.
A Wind in the Willows Christmas is a worthy addition to the dramatic and musical canon of plays appropriate for the holiday season. Other theaters would do well to pick up the show to produce in the future so that audiences all over the state—nay, the country—can have as wonderful an experience as those who come to Two Rivers Theater this month. Don't miss this clever, inventive, whimsical show.
Note: there are pre-performance activities including a free photo station, coloring tables, and boutique with merchandise for purchase in the lobby prior to every performance. Every performance will include a post-show opportunity for children in the audience to ask questions of the cast.
A Wind in the Willows Christmas will be performed at the Two River Theater Company, 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, through December 30. Tickets are available from 732.345.1400 or www.trtc.org. Tickets are $25 for patrons under age 18; ticket prices for adults are $50-$55. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.
Photos by T. Charles Erickson.
As an antidote to an over-indulgence of Sugar Plum Fairies and Tiny Tims and the bad news about the economy, you might want to mosey over to the Bickford Theatre in Morristown. There, under the direction of John Pietrowski of the Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, the denizens of Greater Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas, prepare to celebrate A Tuna Christmas.
This "companion piece" to Greater Tuna (performed at What Exit? in 2009) presents an affectionate comment on Southern small-town life and attitudes that morphs into mordant satire, skewering everyone who lives there and everything that happens there. Jim Ligon and Michael Irvin Pollard reunite to portray 22 eccentric characters of all ages and genders who inhabit this Bible Belt town where the Lions Club is too liberal and hating anyone who’s different is a contact sport. It's a town that has an elk hunting season and no elk! (Above: Jim Ligon as Joe Bob, community theater director, and Michael Irvin Pollard as waitress Helen Bedd)
In this production, the festivities include a contest for radio station OKKK's Best Christmas Yard Display, a production of A Christmas Carol (by "Charlie" Dickens) that is threatened by an unpaid electric bill, the efforts of The Smut Snatchers of the New Order to censor Christmas carols, and the shenanigans of the elusive Christmas Phantom who is wreaking havoc on those yard displays.
Pietrowski keeps the action moving along so fast that one wonders just how Ligon and Pollard can change costumes so quickly (hint: a great team of dressers behind the scenes accomplish this task). The two actors are transformed from Thurston Wheelis and Arles Struvie, radio show hosts on Radio OKKK, serving the Greater Tuna area, into, among others, Petey Fiske of the Greater Tuna Humane Society; waitresses Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd; and chain-smoking Didi Snavely, purveyor of used weapons who decorates her tree with grenades, and her dimwitted husband R.R. who is consumed with sighting UFOs. (Above L-R: Michael Irvin Pollard as Stanley and Jim Ligon as Pearl Burris)
Ligon is a vision to behold in a green pantsuit as matron Bertha Bumiller (right), long-suffering wife of the absent Hank and mother to her twins, ex-reform school inmate Stanley and Charlene who are both involved in the local community theater production. Pollard plays these two, plus their little brother, dog-loving Jody, nailing teenage angst and rebellion on the nose. Ligon also plays Bertha’s aunt Pearl Burras, who is addicted to killing cardinals with a slingshot. Pollard matches Ligon laugh for laugh, especially as Vera Carp, vice-president of Smut Snatchers and the quintessential town snob.
Kudos to costume designer Ric McAllister for the over-the-top duds he’s cooked up for these characters. Roman Klima's lighting, props gathered by Danielle Pietrowski and Jeff Knapp’s sound (think country music Christmas songs) give an authentic feel to the set designed by James Bazewicz. (Left: Pollard as Vera Carp)
Playwrights Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard poke gentle fun and apply withering satire at the small-town South, in this case Texas. It’s easy to see why since the hilarious antics of these admitted stereotypes will have you holding your sides with laughter. However, to really soar, A Tuna Christmas requires two talented performers like Jim Ligon and Michael Irvin Pollard, whose tour de force performances are a great antidote to the recent spate of bad news. Bring a tissue to wipe your eyes; you’ll be crying from laughter.
Produced as a collaboration between the Bickford Theatre and Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, A Tuna Christmas will be performed at the Bickford Theatre in the Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, through December 30, making a ticket an apt gift for the theater-lovers in your family. For information and tickets, call the box office at 973.971.3706 or visit online at www.bickfordtheatre.org.
(Photos by Tom Kelcec)
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
By Sheila Abrams
Angels of Light, the title of the seasonal concert by the Harmonium Choral Society, seemed unusually appropriate as the harmonies of the Madison-based group sounded other-worldly in a perfect setting. The concert, presented twice last weekend, took place in the beautiful sanctuary of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, and the combination of sound and setting offered listeners an arresting experience.
Harmonium concerts are always fun, a testament to the extraordinary talents (and doubtless hard work) of the group’s artistic director, Dr. Anne Matlack. The love that goes into the music is palpable. This is Matlack’s 25th season with Harmonium, which she calls “hard to believe,” but it takes an almost parental relationship for a director to create the kind of quality evident in this group.
This holiday concert included a great range of music, mostly but not exclusively Christmas-related, some very traditional and some very modern, some serious and some light-hearted. Matlack also included several pieces accompanied by instrumental performers who added unique sounds.
Perhaps the most unusual (and my personal favorite) was Arma Lucis, by contemporary composer Jackson Berkey. In the extensive program notes is a descriptive statement by the composer, who is the principal keyboardist of Mannheim Steamroller.
He notes that it “combines vocal writing techniques from Gregorian chant to the 20th century,” which includes the haunting a cappella strains of the 14th century (echoing in the eaves of the beautiful church) and the lively, assertive, distinctively modern rhythms of today’s music.
Among the composers whose work was performed were Christopher Tye, William Byrd and Claudio Monteverdi, contemporaries of Shakespeare, Felix Mendelssohn, a master of 19th century Romanticism, and a substantial list of composers who are still living and in fact quite young. What interested me most was the fact that these young choral composers, while presenting new and arresting sounds, are not given to the jarring discord of some of what is called modern music.
A special moment early in the concert was the presentation of a song well-known among Jews, called Shalom Aleichem (Peace Upon You), composed by Israel Goldfarb in 1918 and frequently sung in synagogues during Sabbath services.
Most of the concert was sung by the entire 100-member chorus, but the Harmonium Chamber Singers, a smaller group, presented three pieces, including the gorgeous Ave Regina Coelorum by William Byrd.
The mood was serious but not somber through most of the concert, but lightened up substantially when Matlack invited Harmonium alumni in the audience to join the singers. Several did, to sing Ding Dong Merrily on High. The audience then was invited to join in for a celebration of the second day of Hanukkah with Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages), followed by a setting of two psalms from the Episcopal hymnal, O Praise Ye the Lord.
Probably the most unique piece of music was saved for last. Betelehemu (Bethlehem) is a work by the famous Nigerian drummer and social activist, Babatunde Olatunji, sung in a Nigerian languages, accompanied by percussion solos, some provided by the singers themselves. It was an irresistible song with which to end an absorbing and fascinating program.
We are not sure whether the drumming was recorded, but we do want to mention two instrumentalists, organist Joseph Arndt and cellist Terrence Thornhill, who accompanied the chorus in a number of pieces.
Harmonium’s concerts always seem to offer surprises along with the anticipated great beauty of its vocal harmonies. We are glad that Anne Matlack has shared her talents for 25 years and wish her 25 more to come.
By my count, I have seen the Chatham Community Players' biennial production of Philip Wm. McKinley and Suzanne Buhrer's adaptation of A Christmas Carol about 12 or 13 times, and I never get tired of it! While the music, lyrics and book are the same, each production sports a new look, with redesigned sets and new additions to the large cast, but the lovely melodies and gorgeous costumes are the same. Ditto the nifty special effects, deliberately left here unrevealed, that scare Scrooge—and the audience —whenever the ghosts appear, which will be reassuring to those who have seen the production before, either as children or bringing their own offspring to extend the holiday tradition
Most of the cast is new to the production, except for Alan Semok (above, center), who returns to play Scrooge for the tenth time. Even the director (Jeffrey Fiorello), choreographer (Megan Ferentinos) and musical director (Chris Curcio) are first-timers for this venerable show. Yet while the production is a bit different, it retains the charm of the original without feeling tired and predictable.
In case you're unfamiliar with the play, Dickens’ ghost story involves the old skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge who, in the course of one eventful night, is visited by ghosts who reveal to him his Christmas Past, Present and Future. As a result of these experiences, the emotionally cold and grasping miser is transformed into a warm and loving man.
As Charles Dickens, Gordon Wiener avuncularly guides the audience through Dickens’ tale, drawing connections between the story and his own life and sometimes inserting himself into the action. Semok's Scrooge is the quintessential skinflint who scares strangers as he makes his way through the town—all of which makes his transformation at the end, when he kicks up his heels with glee at discovering his love of humankind, all the more delicious! In this production, though, his nastiness has been toned down, and instead of fingering his coins and letting them drop into his strongbox just to hear the lovely sound, he shakes three bags, which kind of softens his avariciousness.
Cast standouts include Chip Prestera as Scrooge’s eternally upbeat nephew Fred and Gus Ibranyi as the earnest clerk Bob Cratchit; his delivery of “If I Could Hold You in My Arms” is especially touching. Paul P. Aiello is a genial Mr. Fezziwig; he's ably supported by the tittering Shannon Ludlum asMrs. Fezziwig, ebulliently exhorting her party guests to “Dance with Your Dumpling,” and later as the grasping Laundress out to make money from the curtains she's stolen from the barely dead Scrooge's bed. Jennifer Bogush as a sad Mrs. Cratchit, and Gira Marie Derise as Scrooge’s lovely ex-fiancée Belle sang well, but were often difficult to hear. (Above (L-R: Shannon Ludlum, Paul P. Aiello and Chip Presetera)
The group of adorable children in the 26-member cast are led by Annie Reynolds as Scrooge’s sister Fan and Lucas Schultz as Tiny Tim; the latter sings a beautiful rendition of "Tiny Tim's Dream." Katie Shults is a magical Ghost of Christmas Past who twirls around and uses her lovely voice to lead Scrooge through his sad and difficult past. As the hearty Ghost of Christmas Present, Paul Salvatoriello (left) shames Scrooge into feeling bad at seeing the Cratchits’ pitiful holiday feast. And Jason Jackson as the Ghost of Christmas Future is scary and imposing even though he's silent.
Bill Motyka's set depicts a streetscape of brick and timbered facades, and Richard Hennessy 's lighting creates a spooky atmosphere when needed. Fran Harrison's costumes evoke the period with their lush fabrics and ruffles and ribbons while the wigs and make-up of Ben Reisebeck and Jessica Phelan complete the Victorian effect. Fiorello's direction keeps the complicated action humming along, although I wish he'd have stressed Scrooge's nastiness a bit more strongly and gotten some of his actors to speak louder.
There’s nothing miserly about this production at the Chatham Playhouse. The troupe pulls out all the stops for A Christmas Carol, artistically and creatively, to give us a real holiday treat. The audience’s gasps at the ghosts’ appearances remind us of the ability of the theater to awaken our imaginations. So give the family the gift of theater with tickets to A Christmas Carol (although I'd leave the little ones at home; they might be scared by the ghosts) before it closes December 23. (Above: the Cratchit family with Lucas Schultz as Tiny Tim, center)
A Christmas Carol will be performed at the Chatham Playhouse, 23 N. Passaic Avenue, Chatham, through December 23. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Saturdays and Sundays at 3 PM. Tickets are $25 for adults and $23 for youth/senior. For information and tickets, call the box office at 973.635.7363 or visit online at www.chathamplayers.org.
Photos by Howard Fischer
Darress Theatre Film Discussion Group (with Dinner)
Forks Over Knives
WHEN: December 19, Film at 5 PM; Dinner & Discussion Immediately After Film
Dinner provided by Bokhar, featuring the cuisine of Ubekistan. Bokhar is located directly across the street from the Darress Theatre on Main Street in Boonton.
It is the intention of the theatre management to create an environment for open discussion of films and art work that can help to inspire and enlighten. Therefore, on the third Wednesday of each month (unless changed due to special circumstances) we will feature such a film. If there are any particular films you think are inspirational or enlightening and would to see included in this series, please feel free to make suggestions and we will try to accommodate.
COFFEE HOUSE JAM: OPEN MIC NIGHT
WHERE: Darress Theatre, 615 Main Street, Boonton
Free Coffee, Tea, and Bagels
Tommy Mahoney, is a native of the area who grew up in Morristown and has lived in Denville for over thirty years. He has been a member of "The Folk Project:" since 2005 and is currently an active volunteer with "the Minstrel" concert series. He has also been on the staff of the "Falcon Ridge Folk Festival" for the past 6 years. His many talents include playing 6- and 12-string guitars and singing lead, duet, and background vocals. He is also a cameraman on the TV show "Horses Sing None of It," does setup and repair on acoustic and electric guitars, and teaches beginner guitar lessons.
Live Christmas Show
A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE
WHEN: December 22 at 3 PM and 7 PM; December 23 at 3 PM
KIDS’ MAGIC SHOW & HOLIDAY MOVIE
HURRICANE SANDY RELIEF FUND BENEFIT CONCERT