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Home Articles Features ‘Tis the Season for Holiday entertainment at New Jersey’s Performing Arts Centers

‘Tis the Season for Holiday entertainment at New Jersey’s Performing Arts Centers

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New Jersey Christmas theatre collage 2023
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There are seasonal-themed entertainments playing at the area’s performing arts centers during the holidays. Note that these listings are of holiday or seasonal entertainment, but other shows and concerts will be going on during December and January, and schedules can and do change — so make sure you check out the websites for these performing arts centers around the state! Or check out ArtPride New Jersey, offering information on all art events happening in the state, at jerseyarts.com.

Algonquin Arts Center (algonquinarts.org) in Manasquan offers the tribute band Beginnings on Dec. 31 in A New Year’s Tribute to Chicago.

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The Avenel Performing Arts Center (avenelarts.com) presents a murder mystery dinner show, Chris-Mystery: Suspicion at the Elf-Help Center, Nov. 30 through Dec. 2. A musical version of A Christmas Carol for children will appear Dec.15-16.

Down in Deal, the Axelrod Performing Arts Center (axelrodartscenter.com) is hosting the Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theatre as it presents its version of the modern classic The Polar Express from Dec. 1-10. The tale about a magical midnight train ride to the North Pole workshop of Santa Claus gives lessons in fellowship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas.

The Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenpac.org) in Englewood opens the month with the New Jersey Ballet performing The Nutcracker Dec. 2-3. Set to the music of Tchaikovsky, it tells the tale of young Clara, the enchanted Nutcracker Prince, and their journey to the Land of Sweets one magical Christmas night. Following on the 4th is Kenny G and his The Miracles Holiday and Hits Tour. A New Day Holiday Tour is presented by Il Divo Dec. 5. On the 9th, the Duprees highlight an afternoon performance of Holiday Doo-Wop, while Cirque Musica Holiday Wonderland appears on the 13th. WDHA presents its Naughty or Nice Ball featuring Bret Michaels on Dec. 14. Dec. 17 sees Martina McBride performing in her The Joy of Christmas Tour 2023.

The Count Basie Center for the Arts (thebasie.org) in Red Bank is staging a multitude of events in its theatres.

At the Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre (thebasie.org/venue/hackensack-meridian-health-theatre/) things kick off on Dec. 2 with Holiday Doo-Wop starring Kenny Vance & the Planotones, followed by singer Darren Criss’ new show, A Very Darren Crissmas on the 4th. The Company of Dance Arts puts on The Nutcracker Dec. 8- 10. Engelbert Humperdinck performs A Winter World of Love on Dec. 11, followed by The Irish Tenors’ 25th anniversary show A Family Christmas on Dec.13. Darlene Love appears in her show Love for the Holidays on the 15th, followed by Brian Kirk & the Jirks performing their Santa for Lunch Break the next night. Rejoice Greatly is a program of inspirational seasonal music by the Monmouth Civic Chorus on Dec. 17. The musical group Holiday Express presents their Ultimate Holiday Show Dec. 19. Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra appears Dec. 28-29 in their Cosmic New Year’s Run. Dec. 30 sees the Black gospel and blues version of the story of Christ’s birth Black Nativity, and on the 31st Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes present their show New Year’s Early.

At The Vogel (thebasie.org/venue/the-vogel/) on Dec. 4, Gerald Charles Dickens — Charles Dickens’ great-great-grandson — performs the Christmas classic A Christmas Carol. Composer/conductor David Benoit performs his Christmas Tribute to Charlie Brown, featuring music from A Charlie Brown Christmas and other Peanuts-inspired television specials, on Dec. 6. Singer Chris Pinnella appears in Christmas in Red Bank on Dec.16, followed by Sal Valentinetti’s evening of music, Christmas Comes to Town, the next evening. Finally, on Dec. 23, the Sensational Soul Cruisers present A Very Merry Christmas Show featuring the sounds of Motown.

Finally, at the Basie Center Cinemas (thebasie.org/venue/basie-center-cinemas/) Project Write Now presents an evening of works created by its members — songwriters, scriptwriters, memoirists, and poets — followed by an open mic on Dec. 19, while on the 21st, the Basie’s regular Open Mic Night takes place.

Morristown’s Mayo Performing Arts Center (mayoarts.org) kicks off the month with A Magical Cirque Christmas on Dec. 2, followed by Il Divo’s A New Day Holiday Tour on the 6th. On Dec. 9, The Irish Tenors present 25th Anniversary: A Family Christmas. Girl Named Tom makes an appearance on their One More Christmas Tour Dec. 10. From Dec.15-27, the New Jersey Ballet combines with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra to present The Nutcracker.

The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (nbpac.org) presents the Soultown to Motown Holiday Show on Dec.8.

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (njpac.org) in Newark has several holiday attractions this season. Dec. 7 sees The Illusionists in their Magic of the Holidays program. A showing of the film Christmas Vacation on the 15th accompanies a conversation with star Chevy Chase. The State Ballet of Ukraine presents The Nutcracker Dec. 17. There are two offerings on Dec. 23: first, Kurtis Blow is the emcee for The Hip-Hop Nutcracker; at the same time, Forces of Nature Dance Theatre presents a Kwanzaa celebration. Finally, on the 26th, Cirque Dreams presents Holidaze.

The South Orange Performing Arts Center (sopacnow.org) kicks off the holiday season with the Seton Hall University Annual Winter Concert on Dec. 8. Christmas with The Celts arrives on the 10th, followed by the children’s musical Frosty: A Musical Adventure on the afternoon of the 16th; and that evening, it’s the SO Jewish Comedy Night with Judy Gold and Liz Glazer. Finally, on Dec. 21, the Broadway Inspirational Voices present A Holiday Gospel Concert.

New Brunswick’s venerable State Theatre (stnj.org) offers a wide variety of programs. On Dec. 1, it’s A Magical Cirque Christmas; Dec. 6 brings The Illusionists: Magic of the Holidays. The Vienna Boys Choir appears on Dec.8, while Mannheim Steamroller Christmas arrives Dec. 10. The American Repertory Ballet performs The Nutcracker Dec. 15-17, while The Hip-Hop Nutcracker arrives Dec. 29. Dec. 31 sees the concert Salute to Vienna.

Two River Theater (tworivertheater.org) in Red Bank is hosting the American Repertory Ballet, offering four performances of their version of perennial Christmas ballet classic The Nutcracker from Dec. 1-3.

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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.