Broadway has its Tonys; Off Broadway its Obies — and every other branch of show business its various Grammys, Emmys, Academys and more. But when the red carpet rolls out and the figurative flashbulbs pop outside the Count Basie Theatre on May 21, the only awards that matter will be The Basies, the ninth annual edition of which commandeers the Count’s stage for a public-welcome program that begins at 7 pm.
Established by the education arm of the Count Basie Theatre Foundation, the awards honor and recognize excellence in drama and musical productions among Monmouth County high schools. The producers of Wednesday night’s event promise “the biggest Basies ever” — one that will shine a spotlight on the next generation of stage talents, even as it presents a lifetime achievement award to a couple of major figures on the region’s theater scene.
Some twenty dramatic productions and 26 musicals staged by 15 public, private and parochial high schools — including Red Bank Regional, Red Bank Catholic, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional, Middletown South, and Mater Dei Prep — are up for consideration this year in 25 different categories, covering lead actors, directors, designers, ensembles, and more. A complete list of nominees appears below (click to enlarge) — and in addition, the winner of the Count Basie Theatre’s first-ever Moser Taboada Arts Impact Scholarship will be announced at the ceremony. The scholarship, established by the Moser Taboada Law Firm of Shrewsbury, is awarded to one high school senior whose life, academic, and career choice has been impacted by the arts.
A sampling of musical numbers and dramatic excerpts from the nominated productions will be performed onstage by student actors during Wednesday’s event, and a smattering of guest presenters — a group that’s previously boasted Broadway actors, E Street band members, Saturday Night Live veterans and lots of local dignitaries — will be on hand to fumble with those envelopes and announce the winners.
As a special highlight of the evening, the Basies Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to a pair of “individuals who have dedicated their lives to making art happen, and art that matters in our community” — Middletown residents Joan and Robert Rechnitz, founders of Red Bank’s celebrated Two River Theater Company, and namesakes of the mainstage auditorium at Two River’s Bridge Avenue performing arts center.