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groucho_with_cigar_1-1Frank Ferrante (pictured with accompanist Jim Furmston) re-channels the spirit of the one, the only, Groucho Marx back to the Basie, in a Sunday matinee edition of his EVENING WITH GROUCHO. 

[UPDATE: Because of the blizzard, the Basie has canceled this show. Refunds will be issued this week, the theater said in an announcement.]

As Frank Ferrante sees it, “We all want to be Groucho… to be that wild, irreverent pulverizer of those in power.”

In the years since the 1977 passing of the celebrated performer, author and game show host, one man above all others has worked tirelessly to keep the spirit of  Groucho Marx alive and kicking before contemporary audiences. And this Sunday, Frank Ferrante returns to the Count Basie Theatre for an encore presentation of his acclaimed stage show, An Evening with Groucho.

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rechnitz stunkel 010616 2Ken Stunkel, left, and Two River Theater founder Bob Rechnitz are first-time, eighty-something playwrights getting the big-time treatment. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)  


hot-topicWhen the 2015-2016 season resumes at the Two River Theater in Red Bank this weekend, it will find the celebrated company once again departing from familiar Broadway-tested properties like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Seven Guitars to the latest in an ongoing slate of world premiere dramas by relatively “new” playwrights.

This time out, the play is called Lives of Reason, and the rookie playwrights are a couple of eighty-something colleagues named Bob Rechnitz and Ken Stunkel.

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Repeat Basie favorite Kathleen Madigan returns to Red Bank for an encore Saturday evening. Here’s a sample bit

Long before there was an internet bubble and a housing bubble, there was a comedy bubble — the Comedy Explosion, they called it back in the 1980s, when a hole-in-the-wall “chuckle hut” sprouted up in every other vacant storefront, and when even Monmouth Street in Red Bank boasted two brick-wall standup spots at one brief point in time.

While the explosion became an implosion before long, the wreckage produced a hardy new crop of savvy young performers — among them a cheerfully cheeky native of St. Louis named Kathleen Madigan.

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Miracle34thEach tells a tale of Christmas set in a Macy’s department store. One is earnest and uplifting, and involves a real Santa mistaken for a fake one. The other is less so, and centers on an elf no one would ever mistake for the real thing.

Both make their way to the Greater Red Bank Green this weekend.

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Jon Anderson and Jean Luc PontyYes frontman Jon Anderson, at right, teams with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty for a new project that comes to town on Thursday.  

It may be “fall back” time on the daylight-savings clock, but this Thursday promises a breath of “prog spring” in Red Bank as two leading players of the 1970s progressive-rock scene team up at the Count Basie Theatre.

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EvilDead-splash-rev4EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL (above) anoints the boards of the Count Basie stage Tuesday. 

Arriving just in advance of Halloweekend — and representing the most gloriously gory musical-theater casserole since Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett made mincemeat of the Broadway playbook — Evil Dead: The Musical slips and slides its way onto the stage of the Count Basie Theatre for a one-night stand in Red Bank this week.

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bannerThe All Star Tour edition of America’s Got Talent LIVE! (above) takes it to the Count Basie stage Tuesday, and  the Celtic songcraft of Loreena McKennitt (below) makes for an intimate evening’s entertainment this Thursday.  

Loreena-McKennitt-loreena-mckennitt-26282360-393-500As the crowds who snatched up deeply discounted tickets during last week’s annual $10 sale could attest, there’s always a little something for everyone at the year-round talent show that is Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre — and the coming nights are another study in entertaining eclecticism, as crowdpleasing contestants from a hit realiTV series share midweek space with a world-traveling storyteller, and the return of some pioneers in the art of political parody.


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flyingMadcap jugglers the Flying Karamazov Brothers, above, return in coming days to the Count Basie stage, as does frequent Red Bank guest Lyle Lovett, this time with John Hiatt, below.  

LovettHiattThumbWith a seemingly non-stop parade of showbiz attractions making their entrances and exits to and from the famous stage of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, maintaining such a busily dizzying schedule can be a juggling act in itself. Here in a week that’s seen the scrubbing of one slated event — the comedic classical musicians Igudesman and Joo —  and the lightning-fast sellout of next Friday’s concert by Dire Straits founder Mark Knopfler, the show goes on, with the plate-spinning speed and mind-boggling eclecticism of a vintage Ed Sullivan telecast.

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Bo horizComic tunesmith Bo Burnham makes a Count Basie Theatre debut Tuesday, and Engelbert Humperdinck makes a triumphal Red Bank return Wednesday.

e humperdinck 1

A tantrum-throwing tempest named Joaquin may have blown past the Greater Green, but over at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, a robust gust of activity promises to carry us over the wacky-weather hump — or is that Humperdinck? — in signature style.

It starts with gales of laughter on Tuesday, when Bo Burnham makes an inaugural trip to those fabled Basie boards that have hosted so many kingpins/queens of comedy legend.

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WeirdAl RobThomas“Weird Al” Yankovic brings his Mandatory World Tour to the Basie stage on Tuesday night…while Rob Thomas returns to station stop Red Bank for another two-night stand on Friday and Saturday.  

Don’t look now, but not only has “Weird Al” Yankovic scored the first Billboard popchart-topping comedy album in all of human history — and not only has the MTV-era novelty act entered his fourth decade of performing with the polished legitimacy of three Grammy awards — but his amiable brand of parody has far outlasted the prime-time careers of many of those whose momentary hits he tweaked for posterity.

It’s a growing group that includes Toni Basil, Gerardo, Men Without Hats, the Offspring, Tiffany, Tone Loc, and (arguably) Usher, Beck, and Madonna. With his accordion as his axe, the artist brings his Mandatory World Tour to Red Bank’s Count Basie stage on Tuesday, July 28, still surfing the momentum generated by his year-old Mandatory Fun album and its savvy takes on hits by Pharrell Williams, Iggy Azalea and Lorde. Read More »


KevinJamesmarcMaronTop-of-their-game comedy kingpins Kevin James (Saturday; two shows) and Marc Maron (Sunday) bring their crowd-tested mojo to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre on a busy weekend of laughs.

So you’ve just made serious news-cycle headlines by booking the President of the United States on your garage-based podcast. Or, you’ve watched as your big-screen starring vehicles have racked up nearly a billion bucks in worldwide box office. If your name is Kevin James or Marc Maron, however, you’ll never truly ditch the itch to return to the live-audience roots that set it all in motion — and this weekend, the Count Basie Theatre hosts two of the hottest names in comedy, as they keep their very different standup skills honed before appreciative crowds at the area’s premier theater-scale Chuckle Hut.

This Saturday, June 27 finds the amiable star of TV’s King of Queens (and cinematic franchises that include Paul Blart, Mall Cop and Grown Ups) leaving the Segway in the wings and treading the Basie boards for a pair of shows that spotlight the largely family-friendly, New York working-dude brand of observational humor that’s formed the foundation of his phenomenal showbiz run. continues to Tickets to the 7:30 pm show ($49 – $89) are still available here. Then take it here for tix to Saturday’s 9:30 pm event, or take it around the bend for something completely different.

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Robin-Fox-Headshot2“Mother of all standup comics” Robin Fox returns to the Monmouth Museum for a Girl’s Night Out evening of “fun, food and drinks.”

We’ve said it before, but You Might Be a Mom If… you can appreciate the inherent humor in topics like long-term marriage, suburban lifes and the glories of being part of the “sandwich generation” between aging parents and growing kids. Also if your idea of a “Girl’s Night Out” is an art gallery excursion that’s over by 9 pm.

That said, there’s a definite appeal to the event that returns for a second annual edition to the Monmouth Museum Wednesday. Billed as an evening of “fun, food and drinks” — and once again spotlighting the standup skills of  Robin Fox, the “real New Jersey housewife” who parlayed her observations on family life into a successful career on the New York area radio, cable and comedy club circuit — the Girl’s Night Out raises funds for the museum’s ongoing slate of programs, in a way that’s infinitely more entertaining than a dry-as-dust lecture or stuffy recital.

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MonPlayersEric McDonough (center) and his fellow Monmouth Players serve up Noel Coward’s PRESENT LAUGHTER at the Navesink Arts Center.

Way back in 1953, a fledgling theatrical troupe by the name of Monmouth Players chose as its first fully staged production Blithe Spirit, a comedy from the quill of actor-director-producer-playwright-songwriter Noel Coward. Here at the close of its frankly astonishing 62nd consecutive season of entertainments — a track record unequalled by any other community stage company in the area — the Middletown-based Players have revisited the work of that master multitasker with a production of Coward’s Present Laughter that wraps up the 2014-2015 season in an elegant (and mischievously ticking) package.

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David_Sedaris_WebEssayist David Sedaris brings his droll humor to the Basie Wednesday.

It’s one thing to have earned the status of America’s bestest-selling purveyor of humor on the printed / pixelated page as the author whose Holidays On Ice, Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed in Flames have been embraced by those thirsting for something a wee bit edgier than Erma Bombeck or Dave Barry.

It’s another thing entirely to successfully transfer the humor from the page to the stage. So it’s testament to the finely tuned skillsets of David Sedaris that his frequent tours  have become dependable draws for venues the size of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, to which he returns Wednesday night.

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Preferred-ParkingA guy who stutters and a guy with Tourette Syndrome walk into a room — but for once, they’re not the set-up for some sleazy old-school joke. In fact, this time they’re the ones who are controlling the situation and dispensing the punchlines.

Drew Lynch (whose stutter derived from a vocal-cord-paralyzing sports accident) and Samuel J. Conroe (a veteran comic who’s had “the twitchy kind” of Tourette’s his entire life) constitute the comedy duo known as Preferred Parking. And they’ll be parking it at the Warner Student Life Center at Brookdale Community College this Tuesday afternoon for the latest installment in the Laugh at Lunch series of entertainments sponsored by the Student Life and Activities committee at BCC.

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