Met Opera Rising Stars, POTTED POTTER, Audra McDonald, Bela Fleck and More Set for NJPAC's 2014-15 Season
John Schreiber, NJPAC's President and CEO, and David Rodriguez, Executive Producer of the Arts Center, announced today a 2014-15 season packed with new, NJPAC- created, season-long series', collaborations with renowned artists and companies, an expansion of diverse programming, further integration of NJPAC's arts education programs within mainstage performances, and a continuation of the Arts Center's 17-year tradition of presenting world-class artists. With over 100 performances and special events announced for the acoustically superb 2,800- seat Prudential Hall, intimate 514-seat Victoria Theater, 250-seat Chase Room, and outdoors in Theater Square, by artists ranging from Patti LaBelle to The Metropolitan Opera Rising Stars; from Chris Botti to Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience; from Golda's Balcony with Tovah Feldshuh to the Brick City Jazz Orchestra; from Bela Fleck to Lula Washington Dance Theatre; from Beres Hammond to Audra McDonald; and from The Second City to Dinosaur Train Live!, NJPAC's new season has something for everyone.
"This season reflects who we are as a performing arts center, uniquely situated in an urban setting: reveling in our diversity and celebrating it with our most varied season ever," said John Schreiber. "Every member of our community wants an arts center that resonates for them, and NJPAC offers that."
In a strategy inaugurated under the Schreiber/Rodriguez team, NJPAC will add more than 60 performances throughout the season as well as a variety of special events.
"Artistic excellence is always our first criteria for programming decisions," said David Rodriguez. "World-class dance and classical music remain the building's foundation, but NJPAC has built on that to create the region's foremost home for families of all diverse cultures. There's something for everyone."
Annie Golden, Audra McDonald, Beth Leavel, Chip Zien, Dee Hoty, Debbie Gravitte, Donna Lynne Champlin, Emily Skinner, Eric Michael Gillett, Howard McGillin, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Jessica Molaskey, Joanna Gleason, Jonathan Schwartz, Judy Kaye, Kelli Rabke, Lee Roy Reams, Leslie Uggams, Pamela Myers, Rebecca Luker, Sarah Brightman, Sarah Rice, Scott Coulter, Stephen Schwartz, Ted Chapin, Telly Leung, Scott Coulter, Tierney Sutton
NJPAC has quickly become known for its celebration of American Song, featuring icons in the industry and today's brightest stars. In Jonathan's Choice: An Evening of Music and Conversation, an exciting new three-part concert and conversation series that will be taped before a live Victoria Theater audience and broadcast at a later date on WNYC 93.9FM and The Jonathan Channel, iconic radio personality Jonathan Schwartz will host today's leading ladies of American Song: Six-time GRAMMY-nominee Tierney Sutton (Oct. 17), Tony-nominated Broadway leading lady Rebecca Luker (Apr. 10) and cabaret and Broadway star Jessica Molaskey (May 30) performing her Portraits of Joni Mitchell project. A champion of the masters of the American Songbook, Schwartz has been a fixture of New York radio for 50 years and a host on WNYC for the past 14 years.
In a co-presentation with "Broadway's Supper Club," 54 Below, the Arts Center will offer three nights of the top Broadway and cabaret stars celebrating Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman and Rodgers and Hammerstein. The month of Halloween, NJPAC's Chase Room plays host to Into Sweeney Todd's Woods (Nov. 1), a monster mash-up of two landmark musicals by Stephen Sondheim - Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods - performed by a wickedly talented cast that knows both works intimately. The cast includes Joanna Gleason, the Tony Award-winning "Best Actress in a Musical" for her portrayal of The Baker's Wife in Into the Woods, her castmate, Chip Zien, the Baker in the original cast of Into the Woods, and Sarah Rice, the original Johanna in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street on Broadway.
The series continues with a glittering lineup of Broadway and cabaret stars - featuring Tony and Emmy Award winner Leslie Uggams (Alex Haley's Roots, Hallelujah, Baby!) and multiple Tony nominee Dee Hoty (The Will Rogers Follies) - who pay homage to Mame, one of American theater's most cherished musicals, in It's Today: Mame at NJPAC (Dec. 6). The special holiday soiree salutes the great Jerry Herman score and also features more of Broadway's finest, including Tony Award winner Beth Leavel (The Drowsy Chaperone), Donna Lynne Champlin (Sweeney Todd), Eric Michael Gillett (Kiss Me, Kate), Annie Golden (Xanadu), Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (A Little Night Music), Pamela Myers (Company), Lee Roy Reams (Hello, Dolly!) and a 15-member chorus.
And on January 24, 2015, the incomparable Rodgers and Hammerstein are feted in The Sound of Their Music: Rodgers & Hammerstein, a tribute to the two men who paved the way for modern musical theater with hit after hit: The Sound of Music, South Pacific, Oklahoma! and more. The evening features some of Broadway's most intriguing voices - Telly Leung (Flower Drum Song), Emily Skinner (Side Show), Judy Kaye (Nice Work If You Can Get It) and Howard McGillin (The Phantom of the Opera).
Returning for its second season, American Songbook at NJPAC - a words-and-music series co- presented with NJTV, New Jersey's public television network - is an exciting offshoot of NJPAC's success as a broadcast venue. Performances by the country's best-loved Broadway and cabaret artists, followed by a conversation with theater sage Ted Chapin, President and Executive Director of Rodgers & Hammerstein: An Imagem Company, will be taped before a live audience for future broadcast on WNET, NJTV and WLIW. A full roster of artists in the American Songbook at NJPAC series will be announced at a later date.
The magnificent Audra McDonald (Apr. 19), one of today's most highly regarded performers, winner of five Tony Awards and two GRAMMY Awards, and fresh off a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, returns to NJPAC in an evening of songs from Broadway and beyond.
International superstar soprano Sarah Brightman (Aug. 24) is acclaimed for her roles in Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. Beloved for her staggering, multi-octave vocal range, Brightman is enjoying a three-decade career of film and stage performance, selling more than 30 million records worldwide. She is credited with pioneering the classical crossover genre, allowing music once reserved for conservatories and concert halls to seep onto the pop charts. Brightman - an official cosmonaut in training - will explore feelings and experiences connected to her plans to become the first recording artist to travel to the International Space Station.
In Stephen Schwartz & Friends: Defying Gravity, Schwartz will lead the audience through the development of his most loved works. Award-winning vocalists Debbie Gravitte, Scott Coulter and Kelli Rabke will perform exquisite songs by the musical theater legend (Mar. 14). From Godspell and Wicked to Pippin and Enchanted, the music of the Grammy- and Oscar-winning Stephen Schwartz will make for an unforgettable evening.
Jazz Series Sponsored by TD Bank
Be?la Fleck, Bill Charlap Trio, Carrie Jackson & Her Jazzin' All-Stars, Catherine Russell, Charles McPherson, Chris Botti, Christian McBride and his Big Band, Cyrus Chestnut Trio, Fantasia, Jesse Davis, Junior Mance Trio, Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette Trio, Michael Franks with Raul Mido?n, NJMEA All-State Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Choir, NJPAC's Brick City Jazz Orchestra, Pat Metheny Unity Group and Bruce Hornsby, Phil Woods, Philip Bailey (of Earth, Wind & Fire), Ray Mantilla, Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, Stefon Harris, Steve and Iqua Colson, Vanessa Rubin and Her Trio
"We've been curators of the State's finest classical music season for 17 years; now we aim to extend that curatorial leadership to America's classical music - jazz," said John Schreiber. "As far as we're concerned, it's going to be a festival all year long. We want everyone to know that Newark is the place to go for the world's finest jazz artists."
Jazz is at the heart of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center's 2014-15 season. with renowned bassist, bandleader and composer Christian McBride as the Arts Center's Jazz Advisor, NJPAC's season-long jazz programming is filled with today's most listened to luminaries on the jazz scene and the next generation of jazz's brightest stars, rounding out a stellar lineup of only-at-NJPAC concerts and collaborations.
The new season features the third annual TD James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival (Nov 9-16) with all-star performances by GRAMMY-winning trumpeter and composer Chris Botti (Nov. 14) and Jazz and Soul (Nov. 13), an NJPAC exclusive collaboration between Fantasia, the GRAMMY and American Idol ("I Believe") winner, Philip Bailey, the GRAMMY-winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer from Earth Wind & Fire, and Christian McBride with his Big Band. The festival kicks off with a special edition of Dorthaan's Place brunch series in NJPAC's restaurant, NICO Kitchen + Bar, featuring the Arts Center's own jazz ambassadors, the year-old Brick City Jazz Orchestra, and special guest Stefon Harris, the GRAMMY-nominated vibraphonist and artist-in-residence of the orchestra. Brick City Jazz Orchestra is a collective of the most gifted high school jazz musicians in the Greater Newark area and is part of NJPAC's Arts Education Department.
In addition to the young talent that makes up the orchestra, the Festival continues to highlight jazz's next generation of artists when the NJMEA All-State Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Choir (Nov. 14) perform. A free Day of Swing (Nov. 15) for kids and their families, filled with performances and hands on activities for all ages, returns to the NJPAC's Center for Arts Education. Other events include performances by sensual song writer and singer Michael Franks ("When I Give My Love To You") with blind singer/songwriter/guitarist Raul Midón (Nov. 15); Vanessa Rubin, who played the title role in the one-woman stage show Yesterdays: An Evening with Billie Holiday, with her Trio (Nov. 16), and free performances around Newark with Ray Mantilla (Nov. 10) and Steve & Iqua Colson (Nov. 12). As in previous years, the culmination of the Festival is the finals of the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, at which five finalists will perform before a Victoria Theater audience and an esteemed panel of jazz artists and industry executives who will bestow the SASSY Award to one winner.
Also in November, NJPAC will present three additional blockbuster jazz concerts, "Moody Encores." On November 22, Christian McBride is joined by GRAMMY-winning banjo player Béla Fleck and Brooklyn Rider for All Strings Attached, a first-time collaboration between the artists on what will be a genre-bending, cross-over concert to remember. The five-time GRAMMY-nominated, iconic jazz trio composed of Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette brings its 30-plus years of experience playing together and traveling the world with its innovative jazz sound to NJPAC on Nov. 30 for the final announced stop of its world tour. And NJPAC's relationship with premier jazz pianist Bill Charlap continues when Charlap presents Bird Lives! A Salute to Charlie Parker with a veritable who's who of the jazz scene: multi-GRAMMY-winning NEA Jazz Master Phil Woods, Charles McPhearson and Jesse Davis. They will be joined by Charlap and his own trio.
Dorthaan's Place Sunday brunch series, which opens the TD James Moody Democracy Festival, also ends the jazz season, with a total of five jazz brunches over the year. Hosted by "Newark's First Lady of Jazz," Dorthaan Kirk, the two-set brunches feature performances by jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut and his trio (Jan. 25), vocalist Catherine Russell (Feb. 22), one of today's foremost interpreters of jazz, who can also be heard on the Boardwalk Empire soundtrack, New Jersey's own Carrie Jackson & Her Jazzin' All-Stars (Mar. 22), and Junior Mance and his trio (Apr. 19).
Trending with Scott Simon presented by U.S. Trust, New Jersey Speakers Bureau featuring Madeleine K. Albright, Steve Wozniak, David Gergen, Dan Rather, Alan Alda, Olympia Snowe, David McCullough. Also see NJPAC's Stage Exchange, American Songbook at NJPAC, Jonathan's Choice and The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.
As a leading urban-based arts center, NJPAC is programming unique events with social relevance and conversations that challenge and engage intellects. In addition to the discussion components of Jonathan's Choice and American Songbook at NJPAC, words and ideas will flow all season long. Trending with Scott Simon presented by U.S. Trust, a new, three-part series of conversations moderated by the host of Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR, features some of the country's leading thinkers discussing provocative issues of the day: health care (Nov. 18), education reform (Mar. 10) and women in corporate America (May 12). As previously announced here, the Arts Center will also host The New Jersey Speakers Series, presented by Fairleigh Dickinson University. Each of the seven Prudential Hall lectures includes a question and answer session with the keynote speakers: Madeleine K. Albright (Oct. 9), Steve Wozniak (Nov. 20), David Gergen (Feb. 19), Dan Rather (Apr. 23), Alan Alda (Oct. 30), Olympia Snowe (Jan. 8) and David McCullough (Mar. 19).
As announced in April, the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival (Oct. 23-26), the largest poetry festival in North America, returns to Newark and NJPAC for the third time. The vibrant gathering of writers, storytellers, slam champions and musicians from around the globe transforms New Jersey's largest city into a "poetry village" for four days. The dozens of acclaimed poets in this year's lineup, the 15th biennial festival, include U.S. Poets Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winners Billy Collins, Rita Dove and Robert Pinsky and Pulitzer awardees Yusef Komunyakaa, Sharon Olds and Gary Snyder. Richard Blanco, chosen by President Barack Obama to read a poem at his second inauguration, is also among the distinguished readers. Highlights of the festival include "Another Kind of Courage" - a reading by veterans and their families - a tribute to the late Newark author Amiri Baraka, and "PoemJazz," an innovative crossroads of music and dialogue with Robert Pinsky.
Because of the success of the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, NJPAC and Dodge have created an extension of the festival to offer poetry throughout the season. Award-winning poets from throughout New Jersey will gather for Dodge Poetry at NJPAC, three evenings of curated poetry readings and performance. In Shuffle, Cramproll, Paradiddle and Stomp (Mar. 6), Newark resident and world- class tap dancer Maurice Chestnut will accompany poet and griot Kurtis Lamkin and other regional poets in duets of poetic and tap dance rhythms. Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Amiri Baraka, Allen Ginsberg and many other influential poets have called New Jersey home. In Jersey Voices (Apr. 24), U.S. Poet Laureate and Long Branch native Robert Pinsky and a handful of other New Jersey poets will read their Garden State-influenced poetry. Poets Martin Espada, Patricia Smith and others will read in the final installment of the series, Poetry Like Bread: Poems of Political and Social Consciousness (May 15).
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, State Ballet Theatre of Russia's Swan Lake and NJPAC's Jersey Moves! Festival of Dance featuring Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company and other companies to be announced at a later date.
Dance at NJPAC continues to grow, bringing in the classics that NJPAC audiences have come to love and forging new relationships with other world renowned companies. After a triumphant return to NJPAC last season for the first time over a decade, Dance Theatre of Harlem and NJPAC have begun a new tradition, with the company celebrating the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday in Prudential Hall each season. Dance Theatre of Harlem returns this year (Jan. 16) with guest speaker Pastor Jerry Sanders from Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, NJ. The company was founded as a means of turning despair into hope following the assassination of Dr. King, and this annual engagement is a perfect way to pay tribute to the life and legacy of the 20th century's most inspiring civil rights leader.
NJPAC brings to its stage another of the most admired African-American dance companies in the country when Lula Washington Dance Theatre returns to NJPAC (Feb. 26) for the first time since 2005. The innovative dance company from Los Angeles will perform a jazz-inspired program, including "Reign" (Rennie Harris, choreographer), "Love Is ..." (Christopher Huggins, choreographer), "Dances for McCoy" (excerpts; music by McCoy Tyner, choreography by Lula Washington), "Random Thoughts" (excerpts; music by Terence Blanchard, choreography by Lula Washington), and "We Wore the Mask" (with live jazz drumming by Marcus L. Miller, choreography by Lula Washington).