Author: Phil Neches

Much Ado About Nothing

For the final offering of the year, the New Jersey Shakespeare Theatre offers a White Christmas in World War II interpretation of the Bard’s boisterous comedy, “Much Ado About Nothing.” Glenn Miller music ushers the audience in to a stage …Read More

The Better Angels

How did it feel to be 8-year-old Abraham Lincoln in the brand-new state of Indiana? His father had been one of the richest men in Hardin County, Kentucky, but lost all in a court case over faulty land titles. The …Read More

Point and Shoot

“We are the storytelling animal.” — Salmon Rushdie Is the latest film from two-time Oscar nominee Marshall Curry: a documentary? a coming-of-age story? a psychological thriller? a history lesson? a personal journey? an action-adventure romp? a war, and anti-war, tract? …Read More

Carmina Burana

  When Jacques Lacombe led the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” in 2008, the audience was blown away. So was the search committee, seeking a new maestro for the orchestra. In short order, Lacombe became the …Read More

Dick Hyman and Bucky Pizzarelli in South Orange

Jonathan Schwartz would call them “senior citizens of jazz.” They perform with a total economy of motion — allowable since Bucky is 88 years young. But they provide a total generosity and freshness of sound. Seton Hall University brought these …Read More

Force Majeure

There is a catastrophe. The wife grabs the kids. The husband grabs his cell phone. Stand-up comedy would give this scenario about thirty seconds. Seinfeld gave it 22 minutes. Both play it for laughs. But to the Swedes, it is …Read More

It’s Only a Play

  Clearly, Broadway thinks the Great American Play (Comedy) must be about — wait for it — wait for it — Broadway. What else could bring the first string of stage stalwarts, plus a British import and a talented newcomer …Read More

Letter from Tanglewood

Conductors have a way of hanging on to the very end. At dinner after his triumphal Tanglewood and Boston Symphony debut, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Music Director Jacques Lacombe recounted how it was just weeks from when Leonard Bernstein announced …Read More

Chef and Le Chef

We saw the 2014 American comedy “Chef” and the 2012 French comedy “Le Chef” (“Comme un Chef”) on successive nights. Both start with a $%(^#$% owner making trouble for the much-honored chef of a top restaurant with a long-standing reputation. …Read More

Jersey Boys

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s, “Jersey Boys” is all about the music: the hits that still stir us half a century later, the songs that even our children and grandchildren recognize. Clint Eastwood deftly translates …Read More

Music in Trois-Rivières, Quebec

A group of donors and trustees of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra journeyed into the depth of French Canada to discover the roots of our music director, Jacques Lacombe. The culmination of our journey was a concert by the other …Read More

The Other Woman

Yes, it is a chick-flick fantasy in which a man (Danish actor-director-producer Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) married to a ditzy suburban housewife (Leslie Mann) has simultaneous affairs with a confirmed cougar lawyer (Cameron Diaz) and a swimsuit supermodel (Kate Upton). The three …Read More


Is it better to look pretty or to feel pretty?  That is the existential angst of “Violet,” which just opened at Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre with Broadway’s favorite bunhead, Sutton Foster, in the title role.  On a Greyhound bus through the …Read More

Ballet Nacional de Cuba

Fidel Castro broke many promises when he became dictator of Cuba in 1959. But he kept his promise to support the arts, which lured the world’s prima ballerina, Havana-born Alicia Alonzo back home to found the Ballet Nacional. Although partially blind, …Read More

Tropicana Cuba

The 228-mile flight from Miami to Havana takes only 40 minutes, but it takes you back 55 years. For about $85, you can imagine Batista is still in power, the Castros are just a growing nuisance, and the Mafia sure …Read More

Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Cuba

We participated in an exchange between the Amadeus Society (major donors) of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) and a string quartet from the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Cuba. We met in the 1930 Lounge of the historic Hotel Nacional …Read More


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not invent Sherlock Holmes. Edgar Allan Poe created the archetype of the unofficial consulting detective imbued with keen powers of observation and reasoning, a host of arcane knowledge, and an acerbic personality. The character was …Read More

Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde and Tan Dun: Earth Concerto

Nearing the end of his life, Gustav Mahler found solace and inspiration in Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty. The lines of Li Bai, Qian Qi, Mong Hao-Ran, and Wang Wei from the eighth century spoke to the sophisticated Austrian …Read More

Die Fledermaus

We attended the Metropolitan Opera’s vastly entertaining production of Johann Strauss’s “Die Fledermaus” on a weekday evening, with the bridge-and-tunnel crowd. More than a third of the audience decamped before the hilarious third act, missing Danny Burstein’s epic turn as …Read More

New Jersey Performing Arts Center Annual Holiday Concert

Of course, the concert included “Let It Snow.” It did, four to eight inches worth. “This must be everybody with 4-wheel drive,” quipped the star of the evening. The snow may have dampened attendance, but not the mood of those …Read More

The Dance of the Sun and the Moon, or Why Did We Light the Menurkey?

Every school child in the US knows (or should know) that the Pilgrims and the Indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621 after a good harvest. The exact date of the first Thanksgiving is not documented. In the early days …Read More

The Mint Museum — Charlotte

On the site of a former United States Mint, the Mint Museum Uptown hosts permanent collections of art, crafts, and design, as well as rotating exhibits. Uptown? What the rest of the world calls “downtown” Charlotte calls “uptown,” just to …Read More


Save the airfare to London, and the hotel, and the scalper tickets in the front rows of the stalls. Instead, see the National Theatre at one of four New York City venues for less than the price of an entrée at …Read More

Tesla Model S

When you have your inevitable mid-life crisis, it is much cheaper, safer, and more fun, to buy a special car than to endanger your relationship with that special person. Often, that means a roadster: a 2-seat Mercedes, ‘Vette, or the …Read More

Castagna Restaurant

If you are reading this review, the odds are that you are a friend of Ben and Donna. If you are a friend of Ben and Donna, you are likely to be a foodie. If you are a foodie, you …Read More

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Looking for something to do with a tween-age boy of your acquaintance? Check your disbelief at the popcorn stand and take in “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.” Relive your adolescence with non-stop CGI Greek-myth-inspired action. It’s got Titans and Gods …Read More