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RED BANK: A STAR-STUDDED NIGHT @BASIE

degrasse tyson mirmanComedian Eugene Mirman, right, joins affable astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson for a special live edition of their StarTalk program tonight in Red Bank. 

During his “meteoric” rise from little-known planetarium director to instantly (and internationally) recognized spokesman for the importance of science in our daily lives, Neil deGrasse Tyson has often used humor to convey his passionately plain-spoken message that a curiosity about our ever-awesome universe has a place in our popular culture — and that an education in science is something to be celebrated, not shied away from.

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M’TOWN: TEACHER DUMPED OVER TRUMP VIDEO

In the February 28 edition of his cable show,“Last Week Tonight,” comedian John Oliver urged viewers to “make Donald Drumpf again.” 

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_02A Middletown High School South history teacher has been forced to resign for showing students a video of comedian John Oliver skewering Republican presidential candidate Donald Drumpf… er, Trump.

According to various news reports, including the New York Post and NJ.com, the forced resignation of Joe Ventre drew protests from supportive students and parents at the school’s board of trustees meeting Wednesday night.

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RED BANK: GRIFFIN AND BEAR IT

kathy-griffin-at-tyler-shieldsKathy Griffin, the flame-haired comic with the celeb-roasting style, returns to Red Bank for a Friday night funny-fight at the Basie. (Photo by Tyler Shields)

She’s got a trophy case full of accolades — including two Emmys and a Grammy — but Kathy Griffin didn’t get where she is by making nice with the targets of her comic flamethrowing.

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RED BANK: SINBAD & GARFUNKEL & MORE

sinbadDavid “Sinbad” Adkins (above) brings his famously family friendly brand of comedy back to the Count Basie for an umpteenth encore this Friday night. Art Garfunkel (below) makes a belated Basie debut on Saturday.

GarfunkelWith an incredible 14 scheduled events within the next 15 days — including sold-out sessions with the attorneys from Making a Murderer (tonight) and Rumson-bred pop sensation Charlie Puth (April 8) — the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank surely ranks among the busiest palaces of amusement in these United States.

Its eclectic schedule keeps an enviably diverse audience making tracks to Monmouth Street, and the weekend ahead is no exception, as the venerable venue hosts a gamut of entertainments designed to attract fans of everything from all-ages clean comedy and Boomer-blessed pop, to the Old Masters of the conservatory and the new gods of the guitar-store shredders.

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RED BANK: FAMILIAR FACES RETURN TO TRTC

johndiasTwo River Theater Company artistic director John Dias, above, directs a musical that he co-wrote, and Madeleine George, below, the theater’s first Playwright in Residence, will see her comedy — which is set in Red Bank mounted next season.

madeleine georgeThere are encore appearances by favorite actors. Re-visits to the words and works of Shakespeare and August Wilson. No less than three shows making their world premieres — including one set within “a larger-than-life version of Red Bank.”

When Two River Theater Company unveiled its 2016-2017 schedule of productions Monday night, it did so in a fashion that’s become a real rite of spring on Bridge Avenue: with the company’s celebrated artistic director John Dias joined on stage by creative people representing the comedies, dramas, musicals and multi-media experiences that will illuminate Two River’s stages beginning in September.

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RED BANK: DAVID CROSS TAKES BASIE STAGE

David Cross“Making America Great Again” has been a rallying cry for more than one TV-tested public speaker this season — and if there are, as suggested, two Donald Trumps, then there must be as many iterations of David Cross as the market will bear.

Back on the road for his first large-scale standup tour since 2009, Cross backs the campaign bus up to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre for an appearance Wednesday night.

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RED BANK: STANDUP, DOO-WOP & ST. PAT’S

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day a wee bit early, Danú (above) heads back to the Basie boards on Sunday. Jim Norton (below) brings his brand of East Coast comedy to Red Bank Thursday night. (Click to enlarge)

Jim NortonA shot of standup from a metro-area favorite with national cred; a dose of street-corner soul, and an authentic evocation of St. Pat’s spirit… all in a typically eclectic week’s work at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre.

It’s a slate that begins Thursday night when standup guy, sitcom wildcard and “serious” broadcaster Jim Norton takes the stage of a venue that’s become a “must” booking for breakout touring comedians.

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RED BANK: MAD-LIBS ‘N MARX ON MONMOUTH

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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RED BANK: NEW ‘REASON’ FOR OLD FRIENDS

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.)  

By TOM CHESEK

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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RED BANK: TAKE US HOME, KATHLEEN

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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MIDDLETOWN: FULL-TIME SANTA, TEMP ELF

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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RED BANK: ANDERSON, PONTY PROG ON @BASIE

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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RED BANK: SPLATTER-ZONE SEATING OPTIONAL

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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RED BANK: A NEVERENDING TALENT SHOW

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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RED BANK: BASIE’S ECLECTIC JUGGLING ACT

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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