December 13, 2017

“A CHRISTMAS CAROL”: Performances are underway for “A Christmas Carol.” Directed by Adam Immerwahr, the play runs through December 31 at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre. Scrooge (Greg Wood, center) joins the company in a celebratory dance. The cast combines professional actors with members of a community ensemble and young ensemble. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter’s annual production of A Christmas Carol is playing at the Matthews Theatre. Adapted by David Thompson and directed by Adam Immerwahr, the show is a warm celebration, both of Christmas and theater. The uniformly talented cast combines professional actors, who are members of Actors’ Equity Association, with nonprofessional performers who comprise a community ensemble (for ages 14 and older) and a young ensemble. more

November 29, 2017

COME TO THE CABARET: Soprano Karyn Levitt brings the music of 20th century Austrian composer Hanns Eisler to the forefront in “Will There Still Be Singing? A Hanns Eisler Cabaret,” at Princeton University this Friday.

By Anne Levin

It was her fondness for the music of Kurt Weill that introduced soprano and actress Karyn Levitt to the works of another composer of Weill’s era, Hanns Eisler. It wasn’t love at first hearing. But Levitt, who will perform a program of Eisler’s works at Princeton University on Friday, December 1, soon began to fall under the spell of his 12 tone, modernist style. more

November 22, 2017

By Nancy Plum

The Richardson Chamber Players showcase several aspects of Princeton University’s music department; it is a premiere instrumental ensemble focusing on rarely-performed repertoire, and allows University performance faculty to perform alongside their students. Seven members of the Chamber Players presented a concert Sunday afternoon in Richardson Auditorium, exploring the music of Bohemia. Subtitled “Echoes of Vltava,” the concert of works by Bohemian composers referenced the River Vltava, which originates in the Bohemian Forest and flows through the western Czech Republic. It was a fitting title for a late fall afternoon performance in which six instrumentalists and one singer presented smoothly-flowing music of the highest technical demands. more

SPECTACULAR SOUND: The Lee Music Performance and Rehearsal Room at the new Lewis Center for the Arts is a revelation to Michael Pratt, conductor of the Princeton University Orchestra, and the students who are members.

By Anne Levin

Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, the historic building on the Princeton University campus, has played host to prestigious orchestras, chamber groups, and numerous other cultural attractions throughout its 131-year history. Chief among them is the Princeton University Orchestra, conducted since 1977 by director Michael Pratt.

Traditionally, the orchestra has held rehearsals on the Richardson stage. But upcoming concerts December 7 and 8 will mark the first time that the 100-plus ensemble has rehearsed in the Lee Music Performance and Rehearsal Room, the acoustically flexible, state-of-the-art space in the University’s recently opened $330 million Lewis Center for the Arts. more

November 15, 2017

By Nancy Plum

Westminster Choir College has experienced its share of uncertainty in the last couple of years, but one constant has been the quality of the choral education and ensembles on campus. The premiere chorus, the Westminster Choir, draws together the most select Choir College students to tackle intricate and complex music for concerts both locally and on tour worldwide. Conducted by Westminster Director of Choral Activities Joe Miller, the Westminster Choir presented a very challenging program of a cappella choral music this past Sunday afternoon in the Choir College’s Bristol Chapel. Entitled “Listen,” Sunday’s performance invited the sold-out audience to “find the voice within us” through some very contemporary music.  more

November 8, 2017

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Pro Musica began its Princeton area concert series on the later side this year, with the first performance of the ensemble’s 39th season on Sunday afternoon in Richardson Auditorium. However, the concert date and piece performed went together perfectly. The 100-voice chorus presented Johannes Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem on All Saints’ Day, combining liturgical remembrance with Brahms’s German texts of comfort and ultimate joy. As further acknowledgment of the day, Pro Musica included an “In Remembrance” page from members of the chorus in the written program to Sunday afternoon’s concert, commemorating friends and family. more

November 1, 2017

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s concert this past Sunday afternoon in Richardson Auditorium was both one of collaboration and also paying tribute to the music of the past. The keynote work on the program was Felix Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony, an appropriate musical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s presentation of his world-shattering 95 Theses, but all three works presented by the orchestra looked back to previous eras.  more

October 25, 2017

“THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME”: Performances are underway for the Pennington Players’ production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Directed by Frank Ferrara, the musical runs through October 29 at the Kelsey Theatre. Quasimodo (C.J. Carter) sings “Out There,” in which he dreams of venturing into the streets of Paris. (Photo by Kyrus Keenan Photography)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

The Pennington Players are presenting The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Kelsey Theatre. Because the musical contains adult themes and violence, the theater’s website emphasizes that it is “not recommended for children.” For audiences 13 and older, however, this writer enthusiastically recommends the show. more

By Nancy Plum

With the opening of Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, there has been a new buzz of musical excitement in the community. One of the core University ensembles settling into the new state-of-the-art facility is the Princeton University Orchestra, which opened its 2017-18 season this past Friday and Saturday nights at Richardson Auditorium. Also celebrating conductor Michael Pratt’s 40th year leading the ensemble, the University Orchestra presented music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Mahler — works Pratt called “three sonic columns of sound” to usher in a “new era of music” at the University. more

October 4, 2017

By Nancy Plum 

Princeton University Concerts has innovatively combined different forms of media in the past, most notably a concert a few years ago featuring actress Meryl Streep and the Takács String Quartet fusing literature and music in one performance. To open the 124th season of Princeton University Concerts, The Emerson String Quartet joined forces with seven well-established actors for a “multimedia theatrical realization” of Anton Chekhov’s story The Black Monk in a fantasy also exploring the lives of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and Russian leader Josef Stalin.  more

September 27, 2017

By Anne Levin

After a decade of planning and four years of construction, the studios, rehearsal rooms, and theaters at Princeton University’s ambitious Lewis Center for the Arts have opened on schedule. Music, dance, and drama classes are underway in the three buildings along Alexander Street and University Place, part of the University’s $330 million Arts and Transit development.

“It’s rare to have a project to work on that is transformative on a performance level and on the programs housed within,” said Noah Yaffe of Steven Holl Architects, during a press tour of the complex on Monday. “What is so fascinating is that we’re maximizing the visibility of the arts while maximizing the porosity of the place.” more

NEW MUSIC: Sandbox Percussion (pictured) will be among the twelve acts performing at this Sunday’s Unruly Sounds festival. Now in its third year, the event features composers and performances by local artists and Princeton University affiliates.

By Doug Wallack

On Sunday, October 1, Hinds Plaza, adjacent to the Princeton Public Library, will play host to the third annual Unruly Sounds festival — a showcase of composers and new music from local artists and from the Princeton University Department of Music.

Mika Godbole, the festival’s organizer, says that this year’s lineup has more of a singer-songwriter focus than in past years — more of an emphasis on groove-based music than on the highly experimental music that has been Unruly Sound’s signature in past years. But it will hardly be a pop lineup. Acts will include smpl (an electronics and percussion duo, joined by dancer Ursula Eagly), the electro-country group Owen Lake and the Tragic Loves (equal parts synthesizer and slide guitar), and compositions by PU Professor Dan Trueman for prepared digital piano — full of otherworldly pitch-bending, delay, and waveforms played backward.  more

“SIMPATICO”: Performances are underway for A Red Orchid Theatre’s production of “Simpatico.” Directed by ensemble member Dado, the play runs through October 15 at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. Vinnie (Guy Van Swearingen, left) threatens to sabotage the veneer of respectability that is carefully maintained by his ex-partner Carter (Michael Shannon. (Photo by Richard Termine)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter Theatre has opened its season with Sam Shepard’s Simpatico. Asked by The New York Times what makes actors good in their work, the playwright — who died July 27 —responded, “Adventure. An actor who’s willing to jump off the cliff, he’s going to go anywhere.” This production proves Shepard’s point.  more

September 20, 2017

“CHAPTER TWO”: Performances are underway for Pegasus Theatre Project’s production of “Chapter Two.” Directed by Jennifer Nasta Zefutie, the play runs through September 24 at the West Windsor Arts Center. Left to right: Leo Schneider (Frank Falisi, standing) and Faye Medwick (Sarah Stryker, standing) attempt to make — then stall — a match between George Schneider (Peter Bisgaier) and Jennie Malone (Heather Plank). (Photo by John M. Maurer)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Pegasus Theatre Project is presenting Chapter Two at the West Windsor Arts Center. In Neil Simon’s bittersweet romantic comedy, a widowed novelist begins a relationship with a divorced actress. The match is facilitated and encouraged by the novelist’s brother and the actress’s friend.  more

NEW ERA AT PASSAGE: C. Ryanne Domingues has taken over as artistic director at Trenton’s Passage Theatre, replacing June Ballinger, who guided the company for more than two decades in creating and producing socially-relevant new plays and community-devised arts programming.

By Donald Gilpin

Trenton’s Passage Theatre Company has a new artistic director as it prepares for the opening of its fall season.

C. Ryanne Domingues, co-founder and former producing artistic director of Simpatico Theatre in Philadelphia, has taken over the leading role from June Ballinger, who announced last month that she would be stepping down after 22 years at the helm. Ballinger will return to her career as a writer, actor, and teacher, continuing her association with Passage as an artistic advisor for this season and teacher of adult acting classes. more

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) has never been an ensemble to sneak into the new concert season, but especially this year, when the orchestra is riding a wave of high attendance, Music Director Rossen Milanov chose to open the year with a musical tour de force. Joined by the Westminster Symphonic Choir (of Westminster Choir College) and four up-and-coming vocal soloists, Princeton Symphony filled both the stage and seats  this past weekend with a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s towering Symphony No. 9, a work not often heard in Princeton for the understandable reasons of expense and musical demands. The expense portion of Saturday night’s performance (the concert was repeated Sunday afternoon) received a helping hand from the Edward T. Cone Foundation, and the musical difficulties of this work were well met by all involved. more

September 13, 2017

Tanya Gabrielian

NAMI Mercer presents a benefit concert at The Pennington School featuring Tanya Gabrielian performing works by Bach, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and Gershwin on Sunday, October 8 at 3 p.m. Goodwill offerings will be solicited, with all proceeds going to support NAMI Mercer programs and services. The Pro Musicis Foundation and The Pennington School are partnering with NAMI Mercer to make all this possible. For more information, visit www.namimercer.org.  more

The landmark Hopewell Theater has re-opened after undergoing an extensive eight-month renovation, that includes a new lobby, box office, and concession stand, as well as a state-of-the-art cinema system with surround sound, prep kitchen, and expanded theater seating area and balcony. Now fully refitted as a deluxe showcase for music, cinema and the performing arts, the Hopewell Theater will serve as an intimate arts venue and gathering place for the greater Hopewell Valley area. more

August 30, 2017

Singer-songwriters Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt will perform at McCarter Theatre on November 18 at 8 p.m. This is a rare opportunity to hear them together. Both artists have broadened the definition of American music incorporating elements of country, swing, jazz, folk, and gospel. Master lyricists and storytellers, Lovett and Hiatt’s songs range in topics from redemption and relationships to growing old and surrendering (on their terms). To purchase tickets, call the Box Office at (609) 258-2787 or visit www.mccarter.org.

August 23, 2017

PHILIP GLASS AT 80: Pianist Paul Barnes (right) will perform music of Philip Glass in a recital titled “Philip Glass at 80: A Retrospective” Saturday, September 9 at 8 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. Admission is free.

Pianist Paul Barnes will present a recital titled “Philip Glass at 80: A Retrospective” on Friday, September 9 at 8 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. Admission is free. more

Michael Shannon stars in A Red Orchid Theatre’s “Simpatico” coming to McCarter Theatre, September 8 through October 15, 2017. The tragicomedy explores the slippery netherworld of thoroughbred racing from Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Sam Shepard. For tickets, visit www.mccarter.org or call (609) 258-2787. (Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow)

Pianist Clipper Erickson will open the Westminster Conservatory 2017-18 Faculty Recital Series with a performance titled “The Russian American Connection” on Sunday, September 17 at 3 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. Admission is free. more

August 16, 2017

Princeton Summer Theater is presenting Appropriate at the Hamilton Murray Theater. Written by Princeton University alumnus Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (who graduated in 2006), this contemporary drama is an apt conclusion to a season that has examined “whether it is better to look to the past for inspiration or to move in the direction of future progress,” as Princeton Summer Theater’s website states.

In Pippin, the title character comes of age and anticipates his future. The affluent heroine of Spider’s Web is a fantasist whose comfortable, orderly world permits her to live for the present. By contrast, The Crucible presents conflict as ever-present, using a brutal historical event as an allegory for more recent injustice.

Set in the present day, Appropriate develops themes explored by all three of these shows, epitomizing the exploration of tension between generations and eras. Princeton Summer Theater has given audiences a season that can be interpreted as a variation on A Christmas Carol in its interplay between past, present, and future.  more

August 2, 2017

Photo Credit: Julia Peiperl

Princeton Summer Theater is presenting The Crucible at Princeton University’s Hamilton Murray Theater. This production of Arthur Miller’s 1953 classic is raw, artfully anachronistic, and evokes the spirit of a staged reading. Theatrical excess has been removed, leaving the ritual of performance.

Although The Crucible is set in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, this production avoids establishing a specific time and place. The set is minimal, and the costumes by Julia Peiperl consist of contemporary clothing. Props are limited to lawn chairs, flashlights, and a cooler that one would use on a picnic. A campfire is at center stage.

On opposite sides of the stage, two women sit at the campfire. The other performers join them as we hear contemporary music and eerie, otherworldly noises synthesized by Sound Designer Joseph Haggerty. An actor opens a script and begins reading the title, stage directions, and opening scene. more

The West Windsor Arts Council (WWAC) presents a free full-day of outdoor music and performances at Nassau Park Pavilion Shopping Center (behind Panera) on Saturday, August 5 from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Latin Grammy nominees Mariachi Flor de Toloache will headline the event. There will also be dance, live theater, circus acts, and craft and food vendors throughout the day. If it rains, event performances will take place on Sunday, August 6.