MARCHING OUT WINTER’S END AT THE BASIE

david-bromberg-2Master multi-instrumentalist David Bromberg makes his annual pilgrimage to the Count Basie Theatre this weekend.

We’ve sprung ahead, clock-wise, and have arrived at the middle of March with the feeling that the roar of the late-winter lion will soon enough succumb to the bleating of the lamb.

While it’s still technically not springtime just yet, a typically busy gust of activity at the Count Basie Theatre sounds the keynote for the coming months — suggesting that we’ve all made it over the wacky-weather hump. Or is it Humperdinck?

Whatever you do, never suggest that his godzillions of female fans are anywhere near “over” the British-born singer who’s been seducing ‘em in song since the Fab Four were still touring. When the eternal King of Romance often known “simply” as Engelbert returns to Red Bank on the heels of his 40th Anniversary Tour, he’ll be effectively extending Valentine’s Day well into the season when many of us give up Russell Stover assortments and Pink Champale for Lent — with tickets for tonight’s Humper-palooza available here — and much more Basie-based excitement right around the corner.

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Engelbert Humperdinck, Lily Tomlin and Todd Rundgren are among the diverse attractions pulling their buses up to the stage door of the Count’s crib, during the lambier days and nights of March.

FRIDAY: David Bromberg. In an interview that appeared here on redbankgreen during one of his recent jaunts to Red Bank, Grammy-lauded multi-instrumentalist and musicologist David Bromberg explained the appeal of making the Basie his homebase for an annual Monmouth County concert by saying, “I do have a lot of fans on the Jersey Shore, and we do a different show every time. No set lists — it’s better that way.”

When Bromberg brings his 12-piece Big Band to the Count’s crib on Friday night, he’ll be performing his “usual” unpredictable mix of originals, bull-in-a-used-record-shop covertunes (Bob Wills to Bob Dylan to Bo Diddley to Dave Dudley), and flights of fancy that may well land upon “a bluegrass tribute to Ethel Merman.” These shows tend to gather their own fanatical crowd of genre-hopping musical gourmets; Friday’s 8pm set is another promising party of the sort that comes but once a year, and you’ve got a shot at it right about here.

SATURDAY: New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. It may still be the season of St. Pat’s here on the greater ‘green, but when conductor Thomas Wilkins and the NJ Symphony organization return once more to Red Bank, they’ll be channeling not the luck of the Irish but “the soul of Iberia,” in a program of passionate classics presented under the banner The Best of Spanish Flair. Guest soloist Oren Fader — an eclectic (and sometimes even electric) guitar master in both classical and contemporary realms — joins the orchestra for selections from Bizet’s “Carmen” and a particular specialty, the “Concierto Aranjuez” by 20th century composer Joaquín Rodrigo. Tickets for Saturday’s 8pm performance range from $17 to $55 and are available not from the Basie box office, but directly from NJSO.

SUNDAY: Monmouth Symphony Orchestra. Once or maybe twice a season, veteran MSO conductor Roy Gussman steps away from the podium for a program featuring the baton-wielding prowess of assistant maestro Lucian Rinando. The expert flautist stands before the assembled players of the homegrown musical organization this Sunday afternoon, as the orchestra welcomes guest soloist Samuel Magill on cello for The Soul of Hungary, an event that showcases two works by Ernst von Dohnányi. The Austrian master Franz Joseph Haydn is also represented on the 3pm program, with a pre-concert talk slotted for 2:15pm. Tickets ($35) available here.

MARCH 26-27: Company of Dance Arts presents THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. The students of CODA — the same Terpsichoreal talent pool that’s made Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker a Red Bank tradition every December — return to the Basie boards for a pair of 3p performances of an original ballet adapted (with choreography by the Basie’s director of education Yvonne Lamb Scudiery) from the familiar L. Frank Baum tale and its Hollywood helpers. It’s preceded by a school show on Friday, March 25; tickets to the weekend matinees ($15-$35) can be found here.

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Golden Boys Fabian, Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell take the Basie bandstand once again, Marching out the month in swingin’ style.

SATURDAY, MARCH 26: Lily Tomlin. Still playing the showbiz game her way long after most of her  Laugh-In castmates have died or gone to dinner-theater heaven, Lily Tomlin makes a long-overdue Red Bank return (her first under the spectacular chandelier and painted proscenium of the remodeled Basie) with, we trust, her best-loved characters in tow and her seldom-predictable satiric wit for reinforcement. Take it here for tickets ($28-$98).

MONDAY, MARCH 28: Todd Rundgren. When Runt passed through these parts a few seasons back, he was at the PNC Bank Arts Center, fronting for an absent Ric Ocasek in the curious pseudo-nostalgia act The New Cars. His next excursion Shoreside found him at the Stone Pony, where he subbed for an absent John Lennon (and teamed with Grammy love machine Christopher Cross) in a salute to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper called It Was 40 Years Ago Today. Here in 2011, the lamb’s end of March finds the Wizard and True Star feeling a bit more himself, as he recreates two albums from his extensive and eclectic catalog — 1974′s Todd and 1981′s Healing — with a big stage show that features light effects, colorful costumes, an ace band of Rundgren pals (including Greg Hawkes of The Cars, Prairie Prince of The Tubes and Kasim Sulton of Utopia) and the participation of an as yet unspecified local choir. Tickets ($25-$95) right here.

TUESDAY, MARCH 29: Rock the Basie. It’s another entry in the Count’s companion series to the classic rock conservatory students of Rockit For Kids — as the “adult musicians” of Rock Band Camp present their “graduation” concert finale of album rock standards, under the direction of producer/ arranger/ session ace Marc Muller. Take it here for tix.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30: Free screening of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT. Sure, this Academy Award winning classic from director Frank Capra shows up pretty frequently on cable — but here’s a rare chance (courtesy of the folks at The Film Foundation) to catch the great pairing of Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable (she’s a runaway heiress, he’s a wisecracking reporter) in 35 millimeter AND on the biggest screen in Monmouth County — a view that will only serve to reinforce this fantastically funny film’s easy superiority over every humdrum RomCom made in the past couple of decades. Tickets for the 7p event are free, but you’ll still need to reserve them through the Basie box office.

THURSDAY, MARCH 31: The Golden Boys. While once upon a time these three South Philly guys might have competed hot and heavy for the pin-up passions of 1950s/60s tweenyboppers, they’ve been joining forces in lucrative fashion since being branded the “Golden Boys of Bandstand” for a TV special and tour years ago — and they show no sign of slowing down, individually or collectively. There’s Frankie Avalon, ageless superstar of American International beachparty blockbusters, whose hits (” Bobby Sox to Stockings,” “Why”) may have been on the lame side, but — c’mon, it’s Frankie Avalon! Meanwhile, Fabian (“Like a Tiger,” “Turn Me Loose”) never had much to lose in the vocal department, but has enormous and infectious fun makin’ ‘em swoon after all these decades. And Bobby Rydell — a perennial Jersey Shore favorite since “Wildwood Days“ — has the advantage of a frantically fun catalog of raucous rockers (“Wild One,” “Swingin’ School”) and loungelizard fingerpoppers (“Volare”) that do the trick every time. Take it here for the golden ticket.