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2014 Holiday Season Guide

October 18, 2014

Christmas in Princeton NJ

Princeton is prepared for the holiday season and has had tickets available to various events since the summer, including venues like McCarter, Richardson, Morven and Drumthwacket. Several productions and things to do are offered this season in all price ranges from free to $107. This guide illustrates the biggest performances, events, and activities in the Princeton area, and there’s something for everyone.

Here is just an example of what could be done the entire day of Black Friday in Princeton. Shop throughout town in the morning, grab an early lunch at one of the many restaurants in town, see The Nutcracker at McCarter, head over to Café Vienna for a slice of Sacher Torte or Linzer cookies and coffee or tea, go on Princeton Tour’s Holiday Trolley Tour, and witness the Christmas Tree Lighting. Top it all off by enjoying some hot cider or cocoa at Small World, and a stroll home or back to your car while taking in the holiday lighting throughout downtown.


A Christmas Carol –  A Princeton tradition at McCarter. The sets rival Broadway! Has an amazing cast and local kids performing.

A Seraphic Fire Christmas – Seraphic Fire will be at the State Theatre this holiday season with their Christmas concert, Carols by Candlelight!

American Repertory Ballet Presents The Nutcracker – Another Princeton tradition, which has local kids performing. Magical!

An Evening of Readings and Carols – Holiday music for choir, organ and brass performed in Princeton University Chapel, featuring Westminster’s choirs and Solid Brass, the renowned brass ensemble.

A Take 6 Holiday with NJSO – This sextet infuses R&B, pop, gospel and more, and present a program that includes their unique take on seasonal favorites at the State Theatre in New Brunswick. Come early for caroling in the lobby, and bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots.

Princeton, NJ Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree Lighting – Takes place at Palmer Square West. Princeton’s tree has more lights than the renown tree of Rockefeller Center!

Drumthwacket Holiday Open House – The governor’s residence is decorated for the holidays. Take an unguided tour, with available docents to answer questions.

Handel’s The Messiah – The first collaboration or McCarter Theatre with New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

Morven Festival of Trees – This annual Princeton holiday event has become a must. Enjoy the museum’s decorated galleries and beautifully decorated trees.

Holiday Music at Palmer Square

Music and Santa at Palmer Square – Stroll around Palmer Square for live entertainment and Santa sightings!

Princeton Tour Company Holiday Trolley Tours – One hour trolley tour of Princeton, which is only available during the holiday season.

Stroll Around Town – Start in the late afternoon and see all of the beautifully decorated buildings in Princeton. Stay until it becomes darker and the sparkling lights twinkle, especially those on the Christmas tree.

Westminster Community Chorus Holiday Concert – Featuring Vivaldi’s Gloria, as well as holiday favorites, including Infant Holy, O Holy Night, Awake, Arise, Still, Still, Still, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Love Came Down at Christmas.

Westminster Concert Bell Choir – Gallery Concert at Grounds for Sculpture. The Westminster Concert Bell Choir play traditional holiday music from England. They perform on the largest range of handbells in the world. 

Salute to Vienna – An homage to Vienna’s New Year’s Concert at the State Theatre in New Brunswick. Takes place on New Year’s Eve.

Antony and Cleopatra at McCarter

September 23, 2014
Photo Credit T. Charles Erickson

Photo Credit:  T. Charles Erickson

The Theatre Series kicks off with William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra at McCarter Theatre Center. This production, directed by Emily Mann, exudes power and passion in the intimate Berlind Theatre. Nicole Ari Parker (Boogie Nights) and Essau Pritchett (Fences at McCarter) are cast in the title roles.

Antony and Cleopatra begin on stage both striking poses, Antony flexing his biceps and Cleopatra positioning into elegant stances, showing the extremes of femininity and masculinity. Parker’s stunning beauty and charm befits Cleopatra. Marc Antony has the physique of a gladiator, which Pritchett clearly presents with his intimidating build.

Parker and Pritchett gave adequate performances, though Pritchett could have been a little more articulate. However, the supporting cast was extraordinary. Michael Siberry (Enobarbus) who played Robert in Proof  last season, and was also in Uncle Vanya at McCarter; Warner Miller (Eros/Soldier) and Zainab Jah (Charmian) both performed in The Convert at McCarter; Everett Quiton (Mardian/Clown) who royally provided comic relief, and played Bennett in Travesties at McCarter, plus Tobias Segal (Octavius Caesar) and Keith Eric Chappelle (Soldier, amongst other roles) all gave compelling performances.

Percussionist Mark Katsaounis sat just off stage left and filled the air with unique sounds and rhythms, which were a fusion of many genres. He stepped on stage, joined by Pritchett, to play an odaiko drum. Both showed their athletic prowess and rhythmic drumming skills as the warrior readied for battle.

This production is definitely worth seeing. The set and costumes are well done, the direction of Emily Mann is superb, and the performances are powerful. Antony and Cleopatra is playing now through October 5th.

The Princeton Public Library Book Lover Lunch with Jennifer Weiner

July 3, 2014

Jennifer Weiner

What better way to kick off the summer reading program than a meet and greet luncheon with Jennifer Weiner? Weiner, a Princeton University graduate, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author, television producer, and former journalist has been coming to Princeton Public Library for over a decade to promote her books. This year, the library opted for a luncheon held at the Nassau Club.

Princeton Public Library Luncheon

Weiner visited each table and answered questions before the meal was served. Lunch consisted of quiche, salad, and a dessert plate and was delicious. The tables were beautifully decorated with a collection of books, and one lucky guest from each table won their stack.

Jennifer Weiner

After lunch, Jennifer Weiner spoke to all and answered more questions from how she chooses book titles and character names to when she felt successful. Known for her sense of humor, she sprinkled her responses with wit and kept the crowd amused. I could have listened to her all day.

Jennifer Weiner All Falls Down Book Signing

Her latest book titled All Fall Down is about a housewife who has become addicted to painkillers. All attendees received a copy for her to sign after lunch. If you weren’t able to attend, the library has six hard cover copies and one audio book to borrow, but I anticipate that there will be a wait for all copies. Therefore, place your hold now so you can read it this summer!

Princeton Public Library has some of the best programs and events for a suburban library. You should definitely subscribe to their newsletter so you won’t miss anything they have to offer.

The Princeton Public eLibrary for Summer Reading and Entertainment

June 16, 2014

Princeton Public Library eLibrary Apps

Summer reading programs have begun, as well as vacations, so kids, teens, and adults are searching for reading material. Princeton Public Library has revamped their eLibrary to make life more convenient for cardholders. It’s easier than ever to get collections of books and other content to you without a visit.

In these days of instant gratification in the form of streaming and downloadable content, Princeton Public Library is constantly redefining itself to meet the needs of the community. Hoopla, Mango, OverDrive, and Zinio allow you to read, watch, and listen to content for free on your desktop, laptop, eBook reader, tablet, cell phone, or iPod Touch.

Unlike some free e-book apps that merely provide the classics, Hoopla and OverDrive e-book and audio book selections are bestsellers from authors like John Grisham, Veronica Roth, Judy Blume, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, John Green, Markus Zusak, Katie DiCamillo, and EL James. There’s something for all ages and both genders.

In addition to audio books and e-books, Hoopla also provides movies, music, and TV shows. Zinio gives you current and archive issues of popular magazines, such as O (Oprah), Car and Driver, Macbook, The Economist, Cosmopolitan, Popular Photography plus others that will pique the interest of most men and women.

The eLibrary doesn’t end there. Leaving the country for business, vacation or relocation, or studying abroad in a land where the language is foreign to you? Download the Mango app and learn a new language or refresh your skills at home or on the go.

The best thing is, these collections are available 24/7 wherever you get wi-fi. So you can still get a book and some magazines at the airport or at your final destination if you’ve forgotten to download before you left home.

A four-hour training session will be held at the library on June 26th to learn how to use the eLibrary for those who are not as technically incline, so make an appointment today if you’re interested. The librarians can also offer you quick help over the phone if you’re a bit tech savvy.

There is also an e-book challenge for the month of June. Load up on e-books using OverDrive, and help the Princeton Public Library win $1,500 to further build their digital collection. You can check out up to five books at a time for 21 days. Happy Reading!

One of the Best Girlfriend Getaways in New Jersey

May 22, 2014

Girlfriends at The Pool After Dark

Female bonding is healthy both emotionally and physically, and a group of women away from their daily routine benefit immensely from each other’s company. This is why a Girlfriend Getaway is therapeutic, since it is a time to recuperate, rediscover, rejoice, reward, and reassure. While I will admit that the people you are with are the integral part of the trip, where you are and what you do can exponentially enhance your experience.

If you have never been to Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, it might not be your first choice as a destination for such an occasion…yet. There is a misconception that casino hotels are filled with bused in city dwellers running for the buffet and blue-haired ladies sitting at slot machines all day. Harrah’s in AC is a different animal, and has a lot to offer for a Girlfriend Getaway, including relaxation, being pampered, being entertained, and having a hands-on experience.

I recently spent quality time with some great women at Harrah’s. All of us are mothers who support our family, friends, and work associates, and we were able to support each other for a couple of days.

After check-in, I headed to my room in the Waterfront Tower, which opened in 2008. My room was contemporary in design, filled in earth-tone colors with splashes of crimson. I had a nice view of the bay and the causeway spanning across, and wonderful sunrises.

Harrah's Resort Atlantic City Waterfront Tower

The room includes a small fridge, safe, desk, and flatscreen TV. The bathroom boasts a separate toilet, stone tiles and countertop, cosmetic mirror, hair dryer, and a large frameless glass door shower with shower seat. Even though this is a chain, the room has a bit of a boutique hotel feel. I heard some teens in the hall say the rooms are ballin’. So, thumbs up from two different generations.

Viking Cooking School at Harrah's Atlantic City

Our first gathering was at the Viking Cooking School a couple of hours after check-in. We were offered an amazingly delicious cocktail that tasted like lemon meringue pie, and a lumpmeat crab dip with an assortment of crackers before we began cooking. We broke off into groups of four at three stations, and worked together as a team. This was a nice opportunity to have quieter conversations.

Viking Cooking School at Harrah's Resort in Atlantic City We used grill pans on top of gas burners to prepare our meal. The menu included crostini with an herbed goat cheese spread, sliced tomatoes, chopped Kalamata olives and basil; sliced zucchini topped with a ricotta-lemon zest spread and prosciutto di Parma(roulades); skewered bacon-wrapped shrimp, teriyaki-glazed chicken drumettes (pre-cooked, but we heated them on the grill), and grilled cream cheese pound cake drizzled with an addicting dark rum caramel sauce. After cooking, we all sat down to chat and to enjoy our creations accompanied by a glass of Pinot Noir or a white wine.

The Pool After Dark at Harrah's Resort in Atlantic City We were whisked off to The Pool After Dark. It’s the indoor pool that turns into a nightclub with guest and resident DJs and ambient lighting. We had killer views from our VIP seating in The Loft with bottle service where we people watched. That particular evening there was a performance by Mack Wilds, a.k.a. Tristan Wilds from The Wire and 90210. Much to our surprise, the venue was filled with college students that night, most likely for Wilds, so we were entertained by the guests as much as the music!

The Pool at Harrah's Resort in Atlantic CityThe Pool at Harrah's Resort in Atlantic City

11:00 the next morning we had a reserved cabana at The Pool. This domed paradise is filled with palm trees and other vegetation, and served as refuge for the next five hours. We were provided with bottled water on ice, hummus with crudité and pita bread, a fruit platter, plus nachos with salsa, sour cream and guacamole. More food and beverages were ordered while we relaxed and shared stories, strategies, and sisterhood.

My girlfriends and I got a tour of two impressive suites. The tw0 bedroom Red Door Spa Suite (photos) has one bedroom with a king-sized bed and another with two double beds. The stone filled bathroom has a soaking tub, spa shower with multiple heads, and double vanity. There is a massage room with separate outside entrance for the therapist, sauna, small room with a exercise bike, dining room for six, and living room with two sofas. The Party Suite (photos) is similar to above without the second bedroom, massage room, sauna, and bike, but it does have a billiards table. One of these suites would be ideal for a Girlfriend Getaway!

Dos Caminos at Harrah's Resort in Atlantic City

Dinner was at Dos Cominos. Our table was by the window with a spectacular view of the bay. We ordered pitchers of margaritas to wash down the warm tortilla chips and salsas, plus three types of guacamole (traditional, mango-papaya-habanaro, and jumbo lump crab-chipolte) that was made table-side before our meals arrived. I ate the Salmon in Avocado Pipián (salmon over an avocado-pumpkin seed sauce, with corn and black bean pico de gallo, and oyster mushrooms). The mushrooms were a little bland, but everything else was flavorful.

Eden Lounge at Harrah's Resort in Atlantic City

After dinner, we headed to Eden Lounge for cocktails. The live band was phenomenal! They played current Top 40 hits, as well as those from other decades. People were dancing, and chatting, and yes, you could actually hear conversations. The singers ventured out into the crowd and sung to us and danced with us making the experience more interactive. This was a fabulous ending to an amazing getaway!

We checked out the following day with extraordinary memories etched in our brains, and ready to take on the world. Now that’s how we do AC!

Great additions to a Girlfriend Getaway within the resort would be spa treatments at Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, perusing retailers at the Waterfront Shops, working out at the Fitness Center, tickets to concerts and comedy shows, and hitting the tables at the Casino. FYI, there is a four-course Prix Fixe meal available at Luke Palladino, The Steakhouse, and Dos Caminos for only $39.

More options outside the resort require just a quick ride over to Caesars via Harrah’s bus service (or your own car) where you will find upscale retailers like Burberry, Gucci and Tiffany & Co. at The Pier Shops, and a couple of blocks away you’ll find outlet stores in Tanger Outlets, like Bath & Body Works, Coach, Kay Jewelers, Michael Kors and others, totally over 75 shops and restaurants.

Then there is the Boardwalk with shops, eateries, and the famous Steel Pier in warmer months to unleash your inner child. How’s that for an escape from reality with the girls? How would you do a Girlfriend Getaway in AC?

Review: The Figaro Plays at McCarter Theater

April 17, 2014
Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

The Barber of Seville

The Pierre Augustin-Beaumarchais farce The Barber of Seville was adapted and directed by Stephen Wadsworth, and will be playing at McCarter until Sunday, May 4.

Rosine has traveled around after the death of her parents. She has settled in Seville and become the ward of Dr. Bartolo, who keeps her under lock and key. His plan to marry her is jeopardized by Count Almaviva, who has met Rosine during her travels. The Jack-of-all-trades Figaro is hired to assist Almaviva win over the love of his life despite her being imprisoned by Bartolo.

The cast was brilliant! Adam Green played the mischievous Figaro to perfection, and Neal Bledsoe will have you rooting for Count Almavida. You’ll love to hate the dastardly Bartolo thanks to Derek Smith, Naomi O’Connell plays the sympathetic, yet calculating Rosine with ease, and Cameron Folmar’s portrayal of Bazile will certainly keep you laughing.

One of the gems of this performance was that the actors break the stage’s barrier, and interact with the audience. This engagement is refreshing and accentuates the comedy. It also makes the performance feel more organic.

Timing is everything when it comes to a good farce. Green, Bledsoe, O’Connell, Smith, and Folmar, as well as the supporting cast, excelled in the precision of their delivery. It was sheer poetry to hear the battle of the wits.

Another gem was Rosine’s voice which was pure magic during one scene. What a bonus to get a taste of the opera during the play. This was the cherry on top of their brilliant performances. A third gem would be the beautiful period costumes!

I feel like I laughed throughout the entire performance, and I was not alone. The roaring audience gave the cast a standing ovation. If you enjoy comedies, or need a good laugh, you should most certainly purchase a ticket.

The Barber of Seville can be paired with The Marriage of Figaro on the select Saturdays of April 12, 19, 26, and also on Sunday, May 4.

Run time is 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission in the Matthews Theatre. The Barber of Seville is definitely suitable for children over the age of 10, and possibly as young as 8. The rapid fire wit will lose younger children.

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

The Marriage of Figaro

The Marriage of Figaro continues in Almavida’s estate Aguas-Frescas, three years after we’ve left the gang in The Barber of Seville. It is another Pierre Beaumarchis play that has been adapted and directed by Stephen Wadsworth. Count Almavida has married Rosine, and Figaro has found his bride-to-be Suzanne. He served the Count, and she the Countess. Bartolo, Marceline, and Bazile are on hand from Barber, and the introduction of Count Almavida’s page, Magan Wiles, as the young girl-crazed boy Cherubin added to the romp.

All was well with Figaro and his soon-to-be wife Suzanne, until she tells him Almavida plans on keeping the tradition of sharing the wedding night with the Countess’ lady-in-waiting. Figaro, Suzanne, and Countess Rosine join forces to foil the Count’s plans. Meanwhile, Almavida is trying to convince Figaro to marry the aging Marceline, Bartolo’s housekeeper, to pay off his debt to her.

We were treated to Naomi O’Connell’s operatic voice in Barber, but in Marriage, we are bestowed the exuberant dance scene at the end, which was as joyous as Fezzwig’s party in A Christmas Carol. The actors fortunately continued interacting with the audience in this play, and the laugh-out-loud humor kept us all entertained.

There are many twists in the story to pique the audience’s interests, and the acting is superb. The soliloquies are shorter than in Barber, and there are many double entendres, which may not make it as suitable for kids under 14. However, some suggestive thoughts might go over the kids’ heads, so this play could be fine for kids 12 and over if you’re a liberal parent.

Adam Green (Figaro) is again the stand out, but Derek Smith (Bartolo) and Cameron Folmar (Bazile) also shine a little brighter than the rest in their comedic delivery. Bravo also to director Stephen Wadsworth for an outstanding production!

I loved both plays, but I slightly preferred the simpler plot of Barber, while a friend of mine leaned more towards Marriage. Both are fine and witty plays that are very appealing, and I suggest seeing both, perhaps paired on one day (April 12, 19, 26, and May 4) if you have the time. By the way, the costumes are sheer eye candy, made from different textures and bold colors, making the performances visually stunning!

The Marriage of Figaro is playing until May 3, and the running time is 3 hours 15 minutes with one intermission.

As a bonus, I just spied an amazing offer! Now until April 18, you can buy a ticket to one performance and get one FREE for the following dates: April 18, 20, 26, May 2 & 3. Use the promo code BOGO. Enjoy!



Fences at McCarter Theatre

January 24, 2014
Fences at McCarter

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

August Wilson’s Fences is currently playing at McCarter Theatre under the direction of Tony Award-winner Phylicia Rashad. This powerful Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play tells the story of an African-American family living in Pittsburgh during the civil rights movement.

The plot goes beyond that. It is about a man’s dreams, his obligations to his family, a loyal friend, the love of a supportive wife, and a mid-life crisis.

The play opens with Troy Maxson (Esau Pritchett) discussing his aspirations of having the same opportunity as white workers with his sidekick Bono (Phil McGlaston). He also brings up how he could have been in the major leagues if it were not for the color of his skin, but Bono insists it was because he was too old. Troy’s rapid dialog and their colloquialisms quickly immerse the audience into their world. It feels like you are eavesdropping in on their conversations instead of being in the audience.

Fences at McCarter Portia and Esau Pritchett - photo by T. Charles Erickson

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Troy is loved by his faithful wife Rose (Portia). They met after he served time in prison, where he befriended his confidante Bono. Rose manages the household and keeps the peace in the family. Her laid back demeanor is a soothing contrast to her husband’s larger than life personality.

Their son Cory (Chris Myers), is trying to find his place in the world and get recognition from his father. When his father doesn’t get the respect he believes he deserves, he demands it. The high schooler complies, but as time passes, he finds the courage to challenge his father.

Rounding out the cast are his oldest son Lyons (Jared McNeill), who was born before his father’s stint in prison and raised by Troy’s ex-wife, his war-injured younger brother Gabriel (G. Alverez Reid), who he believes he is an Archangel, and the adorable Raynell (Taylor Dior).

Fences at McCarter Esau Pritchett. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

This is an extraordinary cast to back up an extraordinary piece of mid-century literature, and the directed by Rashad of equal strength. Essau Pritchett hits it out of the park, just like his character brags about, making this production is one of the most captivating to date. I HIGHLY recommend Fences!

Due to popular demand, the show has been extended through February 16th, so if you have not already purchased tickets, do it NOW before they sell out. Fences is playing in the Berlind Theatre of McCarter, which is more intimate, and really immerses you in the drama.

The run time is 2 hours and 25 minutes with one 15 minute intermission. I would not recommend this play for younger children.

Please note, construction continues around McCarter for Princeton University’s Arts & Transit project. This will have an impact on parking and traffic. Check here for parking updates.


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