FROM NEWS TO REVIEWS TO THE VERY BEST VIEWS…NEW JERSEY’S LIVE PERFORMANCE VENUES CONTINUE CREATING NEW WAYS OF ENHANCING EXPERIENCES FOR AUDIENCES
BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI
McCARTER THEATRE CENTER’S BERLIND THEATRE
91 University Place, Princeton, 609.258.2787, mccarter.org
Award-winning playwright Nathan Alan Davis explores the need for connection and love in The Refuge Plays, a tale that follows four generations of an eccentric family with a complex, mystical past. In a southern Illinois forest, they share a home, speak their minds, keep secrets, and ultimately prevail in this compassionate and sometimes humorous drama. Directed by Patricia McGregor, in association with The Public Theater
ALGONQUIN ARTS THEATRE
60 Abe Voorhees Drive, Manasquan, 732.528.9211, algonquinarts.org
Experience pure Great White Way magic when Dolly Gallagher Levi takes the stage in the rollicking musical classic, Hello, Dolly! The matchmaking widow (played by Lynne Truex) connives to bring young couples together while surreptitiously crafting her own romance with wealthy merchant, Horace Vandergelder. Music and lyrics by the great Jerry Herman will bring a tap to the toe, a smile to the lips, and warmth to the heart. Based on Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play, The Merchant of Yonkers, which he retitled as The Matchmaker in 1955, Hello, Dolly! debuted at Detroit’s Fisher Theater in 1963 and made its way to Broadway the following year, winning 10 Tony Awards (including Best Musical) in its first New York run a Tony record that held for 37 years. Its original lead, the late Carol Channing, made her turn as Levi nothing less than the role of a lifetime. The show’s album, Hello, Dolly! An Original Cast Recording, reached number one on the Billboard album chart in 1964, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.
COUNT BASIE CENTER FOR THE ARTS
99 Monmouth Street, Red Bank, 732.842.9000, thebasie.org
Congratulations are in order for this landmark venue, which is nearing completion of a major expansion. It sold more than 220,000 tickets in 2019, making it New Jersey’s top theater venue for sales, according to Pollstar, the official publication of the live events and concert touring industry. It was the fourth consecutive year “The Basie” has ranked tops in the Garden State. Noted CEO and President Adam Philipson, “We are more focused and committed than ever to our mission of promoting the arts and arts education, and bringing the highest level of diverse programming to the region.”
When completed in summer, the Center’s $28 million expansion will include: the Grunin Arts Education Building; an expanded and barrier free lobby (featuring gathering space, a new donor lounge, and additional restrooms and concessions facilities); an outdoor arts plaza and rooftop lounge; and a much-anticipated second performance venue.
PAPER MILL PLAYHOUSE
22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, 973.376.4343, papermill.org
Based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg hit fi lm, the heavenly musical comedy, Sister Act, combines rousing tunes with a hilariously memorable story. Disco diva Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a murder and retreats to a convent, where adjusting to the cloistered life is a challenge. After she gets into the habit and elevates the nunnery choir, their subsequent fame draws bad guys to her trail. Music by Tony and eight-time Oscar winner, Alan Menken (Newsies, Little Shop of Horrors), helped earn the Broadway version five Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical. (For Goldberg fans, Whoopi is set to star as the lead once again in a new production of Sister Act, which will run at the Eventim Apollo in London, UK, this summer.)
15 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, 732.246.7469, stnj.org
Dive deep into your theater experience with State Theatre’s new Pre-Performance Insights Program, a multi-media explorations of shows in its Broadway Series. Award-winning playwright, actor, and director, Christopher Cartmill, a theater professor at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, shares his encyclopedic yet always entertaining knowledge before Saturday evening shows free of charge for ticketholders. Expect special guests and insights from his students, too, on both the performance and theater in general.
5 Seymour Street, Montclair, 973.783.9500, wellmonttheater.com
Comedy reigns at two upcoming shows:
Expect laughs and biting commentary when NBC Saturday Night Live writer and the show’s Weekend Update anchor, Colin Jost, takes the stage. Each ticketholder will receive a copy of his book, A Very Punchable Face: A Memoir (Crown, 2020). Jost has won four Writers Guild Awards and a Peabody Award, and has been nominated for multiple Emmys. He also wrote and starred in the Paramount/Netflix film, Staten Island Summer, based on his youthful lifeguard days in New York.
Whitney Cummings’s 2020 “How Dare You?” Tour takes the comedian, actor, writer, producer, and director (NBC series Whitney and CBS’s 2 Broke Girls) nationwide with her brand of unapologetically sarcastic, caustic, and adult-rated stand-up. Her takes on office politics, breakups, female empowerment, and other thorny issues have been showcased on Comedy Central, HBO, and Netflix, and her podcast launched last year, Good For You, has a loyal and growing fan base.