Theatre for the Holidays

A Christmas Carol" at McCarter Theatre
"A Christmas Carol" at McCarter Theatre Center (Photo from McCarter Theatre Center Facebook page)

The old year passeth, giving way to new on Garden State stages

Heading into the end of 2019, looking forward to the start of 2020, many performing arts venues in New Jersey are offering season—and holiday—themed shows for your enjoyment. While fall may be the busiest season on NJ stage calendars, there’s plenty to see during the winter months as well. Live performances offer the gift of lasting memories of outstanding actors, dazzling sets and costumes, and songs and dances in a variety of production styles. Here’s a brief overview of what to expect for the next couple of months.

Paper Mill Playhouse banner adLuna Stage in West Orange presents American Rookie from January 11th through January 20th. This new play explores the path to assimilation of an immigrant from Mumbai, India, to upstate New York.

Millburn’s Paper Mill Playhouse presents the joyous musical Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Adapted from their made-for-television special, the show features an updated, more topical story while retaining the magic of the original fairy tale. The show runs through December 29th. Beginning performances on January 20th is Unmasked, a trip through the life of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber based on his autobiography of the same name. The show features many of Sir Andrew’s compositions over the decades. The production runs through March 1st.

Two River Theatre in Red Bank gives us a production of Twelfth Night, a romantic comedy in which a young woman masquerades as a young man, and ends up pursued by both a man and a woman! Performances are from January 11th through February 2nd.

The George Street Playhouse, ensconced at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, presents on January 21st Midwives, a new play adapted from his novel of the same name by Chris Bohjalian. A tale of suspense and a riveting courtroom drama, the production runs through February 16th.

Princeton’s McCarter Theatre Center presents its traditional holiday show, a play-with-music adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol from December 10th through December 29th. The new year is ushered in with the world premiere of Goodnight Nobody, in which a group of old friends finds their paths in life eroding the close relationships they once had. The show runs from January 10th through February 9th. McCarter also has other attractions for the holiday season. Jazz artists John Pizzarelli and Catherine Russell perform December 13th and 14th. Guitarist Richard Thompson appears January 18th, followed by the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players and orchestra presenting The Mikado on January 25th. Ending out the month on January 31st is a concert reading of a new musical, The Big Time, written by Douglas Carter Beane with a score by Douglas J. Cohen and featuring the Princeton Symphony Orchestra.

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, located on the campus of Drew University in Madison, closes out its season with a production of Charles Dickens’ beloved story A Christmas Carol, adapted by Neil Bartlett. The play runs December 4th through December 29th.

Long Branch’s New Jersey Repertory Company, champion of new plays and new playwrights, kicks off its 2020 season with Bone to Bone, a comic-drama about a New York City couple who realize that their lives are moving in separate trajectories. Jonathan is a successful attorney who likes the way his life and his 35 year marriage have been playing out. Kean Stage banner adLinda is an artist, who has just been offered a top position at a prestigious art school—the career path that she has always dreamed of having. Neither want to end their marriage, but neither want to divert their chosen path. Who will bend, and who will break? The show runs from January 9th through February 9th.

On the campus of Kean University in Union, Kean Stage presents on January 12th, the movie The Farewell.

Taking a trip just over the state line into New Hope, Pennsylvania, the Bucks County Playhouse presents Ebenezer Scrooge’s Big Playhouse Christmas Show. This version of the Dickens classic sets the action in New Hope and the surrounding area. Closing out the Playhouse’s season, the show will be presented from December 6th through December 29th.

New Jersey’s many performing arts centers present varied menus for the holiday season. New Brunswick’s State Theatre presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat December 28th and 29th, followed on New Year’s Eve by the annual Salute to Vienna. Great Britain’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra appears on January 11th, followed the next night by the NJSO with violinist Eric Wyrick performing Don Giovanni. State Theatre banner adThe NJSO returns on January 18th with pianist Simon Trpĉeski performing The Ring without Words. The month ends with the musical The Color Purple on January 30th through February 1st.

Bergen PAC banner adIn Englewood, the Bergen PAC in January starts off with Rolling Stones tribute band Paint It Black and their show Satisfaction on the fourth. The NJSO with violinist Eric Wyrick perform on the ninth, followed by comedy group The Capitol Steps on the eleventh. January 17th has The Simon and Garfunkel Story, a tribute show; the Celia Cruz All Stars appear on the eighteenth. An Aretha Franklin tribute show, Queen of Soul, appears January24th, followed by Brian Wilson on the 25th and Grateful Dead tribute show Dead on Live 73-74 closes out the month on the 31st.

Red Bank’s own Count Basie Center for the Arts (formerly known as the Count Basie Theatre) has plenty to offer for the winter holiday season. The musical celebration Black Nativity is presented December 29th, and the old year ends with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes on New Year’s Eve. The NJSO begins the year with Prokofieff’s Romeo and Juliet on January 4th. The hit musical A Bronx Tale appears January 14th and 15th, followed by The Simon and Garfunkel Story on January 23rd. The National Ballet of Odessa from Ukraine presents Romeo and Juliet on January 31st.

Mayo PAC banner adThe Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown presents from December 13th through the 27th, the NJSO with the New Jersey Ballet present The Nutcracker. On December 31st, the Mayo will be taking part in First Night Morris (for more information, visit The NJSO returns January 5th with Prokofieff’s Romeo and Juliet followed on the 10th by the Capitol Steps. On January 17th, the band Almost Queen appears, follow the next night by Tony Award-winning actress Audra MacDonald. January 24th sees The Simon and Garfunkel Story, followed on the 30th by the family classical piano group The Five Browns.

South Orange PAC banner adNewark is home to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. The NJSO with pianist Inan Barnatan will perform Prokofieff’s Romeo and Juliet on January 3rd. The NJSO returns on January 11th with violinist Eric Wyrick; on the 16th, it’s An Evening with Neil Degrasse Tyson; and on the 19th, it’s the NJSO with pianist Simon Trpĉeski performing The Ring without Words. The NJSO’s Lunar New Year Celebration occurs on January 25th, while the next night, they perform Classical Mystery Tour: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

SOPAC, the South Orange Performing Arts Center on January 10th marks the appearance of the Afro-Cuban All Stars, while the legendary Bob Mould appears January 25th.

The recently-opened Avenel Arts Center features Santa’s Circus, running from December 18th to December 23rd. Going into January, comedian Charles Ross performs his One Man Star Wars Trilogy January 10th and 11th. Broadway star Debbie Gravitte brings her one-woman show Big Band Broadway from January 22nd through January 26th.

Hopewell Theater banner adThe tiny Hopewell Theatre presents NRBQ for one night only on December 28th, followed the next night by a screening of The Nutcracker. January 4th sees comedian Peter Fogel performing his one-man show, Til Death Do Us Part…You First. The Subdudes bring the sounds of New Orleans to New Jersey on January 11th, while Jim’s Big Ego, billed as “the Greatest Band in the History of Recorded Music,” performs on January 25th.

The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, while presenting shows from the George Street Playhouse and the Crossroads Theatre Company, is also home to Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts and the American Repertory Ballet, and hosts independent music and dance offerings. On December 28th, jazz artists Alex Bugnon & Marion Meadows will be performing. Check out their website for schedule additions:

Looking to give the gift of theatre at a bargain price? Check out the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, offering discount tickets to many theatre productions throughout the state, in venues large and small.

Just head to their website to find that unique present for a loved one—or for yourself!

Allen Neuner
Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre journalists. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.