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MIDDLETOWN: SOMETHING’S NOT NORMYLE

Bill Normyle Anna Cibrian Bad SeedThe creepy janitor (Bill Normyle) has a proposition for sweet and innocent Rhoda (Anna Cibrian) as the Monmouth Players present the 1950’s suspenser ‘The Bad Seed,’ starting Saturday at Navesink Arts.

Following a December detour into holiday-themed comedy, the Monmouth Players resume their 2015-’16 “Season of Suspense” in signature style this Saturday with the first of eight performances of a drama that thrilled Broadway audiences more than 60 years ago — right around the time that the players were beginning their incredible run as the area’s longest continuously operating theatrical troupe.

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RED BANK: HE’S LIVE, JIM!

Shatners_World-770-525x306Pop-cultural icon comes to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre this Friday night. 

Unlike the planet-dominating Skynet of the Terminator movies, it’s unclear as to exactly when William Shatner became self-aware. But from the moment it happened, this world has not been the same. And for about 90 minutes Friday night, the Red Bank area audience will be offered an opportunity to plug into the old-soul consciousness and galaxy-spanning ego that lords over Shatner’s World.

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RED BANK: BEAM US UP, BASIE

Shatner Khan“KHAAANNNN!” The coming of the mighty Shatner is heralded at the Count Basie Theatre with a three night Kirk-out of films in the classic STAR TREK franchise. Below,Middletown’s own Billy Van Zandt as the “Alien Boy.” 

Billy Van Zandt Alien Boy Star TrekThe famous boards of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre have hosted a veritable Who’s Who of larger-than-life luminaries, from the crowned heads of Hollywood (Cary Grant, Mickey Rooney, Myrna Loy, Al Pacino) to the brightest lights of the performing arts stage (Idina Menzel, Martha Graham, Marcel Marceau); from comedy kingpins (George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Stephen Colbert) to reality-TV sensations; from music monuments (James Brown, B.B. King, Tony Bennett, Ringo Starr) to homegrown heroes Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi.

That said, not even borough-born Count Basie himself commanded the kind of build-up being granted the showbiz legend who arrives at station stop Red Bank on February 5: actor, author, director, spokesman and ultimate song stylist William Shatner.

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RED BANK: BARRIS TO JAZZ UP A STEAMY NIGHT

Mike_Barris_Performs_at_Art_Alliance_Red_Bank_NJ_December_2010Noted music scholar, journalist and guitar ace Mike Barris is scheduled to play as Reckless Steamy Nights return this Friday to the Woman’s Club of Red Bank.

It’s a time of year when any perceived steaminess is probably just one’s breath fighting its way into the arctic air. But over at the old Anthony Reckless estate (home of the Woman’s Club of Red Bank), things are heating up with the first in a new season of Reckless Steamy Nights music events.

The intimate, house-party style concerts — a long-running monthly series that takes a holiday hiatus each November and December — remains a genuine “best kept secret” within a fast-changing nightscape of borough life, a presentation of the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation that raises spirits even as it raises funds for a scholarship program of the JSJBF.

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FAIR HAVEN: MIMI AT THE CROSSROADS

mimi cross 2Singer-songwriter-novelist Mimi Cross makes an appearance in Fair Haven Thursday to promote her new work of fiction, “Before Goodbye.”  (Click to enlarge)

By TOM CHESEK

BeforeGoodbye-20232-CV-FT-v5“It was great to see everybody,” says Mimi Cross in reference to her performance last weekend at Asbury Park’s Langosta Lounge, part of the annual Light of Day slate of musically minded benefit events. “I haven’t been playing much the past couple of years, and it was like coming home to family.”

Once a frequently sighted fixture on Shore area club stages — and a two-time Asbury Music Award winner for her self-released albums like Monkey Trap — the singer-songwriter soprano has indeed kept a low public profile since she became a mom. It’s an uncharacteristic stance for an artist who can boast of having shared stages with Bruce, Bon Jovi, Bonnie (Raitt), (Jackson) Browne, Lauryn Hill and Sting.

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RED BANK: PERCUSSIVE PEGHER MEETS NJSO

lisa pegherLisa Pegher is the special guest soloist on Saturday night, as the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presents the world premiere of a new percussion concerto at the Count Basie. 

Music teachers have long drilled into their students the importance of learning the Three Bs, but when the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presents its first area offering of 2016 at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, audiences will be forgiven for thinking they stand for Beethoven, more Beethoven, and Bang on a Drum.

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RED BANK: MEET THE NEW DEPARTMENT HEADS

cliff keen 122315Cliff Keen, above, is the new director of public utilities, and Charlie Hoffmann, below, runs parks and rec. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

charlie hoffmann 122115Recent months have brought some new faces to Red Bank government.

In particular, three departments that residents have regular interaction with, and occasional strong opinions about, are under new leadership: parks and recreation; planning and zoning; and public utilities.

Here’s a quick intro to the new directors.

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SEA BRIGHT: HARRY’S ENDS ERA ON HIGH NOTE

011016harrys4Lynne Perry-Szwede, behind the bar, reminisced with Mary Orr, above, while Feli Donato and Mike Sakowski took a last turn at the pool table at Harry’s Lobster House. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

011016harrys2In the end, it was more about the sounds than the food as musicians and music lovers jammed Harry’s Lobster House in Sea Bright Sunday night.

With no specific plans in the near future, longtime owner Lou Jacoubs said he’d decided to retire and close the Ocean Avenue restaurant, which had been in operation for 83 years.

“I’m 65 years old,” he said. “It’s been good, but it’s time to go.”

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RED BANK: STAR-POWERED STEPPING

DWTS 16A cast of terpsichorean talents takes to the Basie boards for two Wednesday shows, as ‘Dancing With the Stars Live!’ rolls into town.

One can easily make the case that they’re the real stars of ABC TV’s Dancing with the Stars: the dedicated choreographers, instructors and professional performers charged with the task of making the C-list celebrity likes of Rumer Willis and Bindi Irwin (and Bristol Palin, Tom DeLay, Tucker Carlson, Jerry Springer…) dazzle like Ginger and Fred.

With more than 20 seasons and 300-plus episodes in the books, the prime-time phenom has seen its share of drops, drama, and drastic injury-related substitutions. But when the touring production known as Dancing With the Stars Live! takes to the boards of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre for two shows this Wednesday, the franchise will reside in the hands and light-fantastic feet of the folks who lend poetry to its motion.

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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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RED BANK: JUKES COME HOME TO COUNT BASIE

SouthsideBasieNewYrsSouthside Johnny reignite a New Year’s Eve tradition this Thursday night.

“I’d wish you a merry Christmas,”  Southside Johnny Lyon told Count Basie Theatre crowd during one of the many Hope Concert fundraisers that he’s participated in over the years. “But it would be out of character.”

Maybe Christmas and Southside Johnny are an uneasy mix. This, after all, is the guy who’s been introduced by no less a Santa surrogate than Bruce Springsteen as the Grinch incarnate onstage. But you can hardly call him a holiday humbug in light of the traditional Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes New Year’s Eve party that returns to Red Bank following a one-year hiatus.

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RED BANK: DEBBIE HARRY, BON JOVI, & MORE…

Bandiera HopeDeborah Harry, below, and a host of pop stars join Bobby Bandiera for two jinglebell-jam spectaculars as Hope Concert 8 commandeers the Basie for two shows Wednesday night.

deborah harryCall him Bob Hope: a seasoned and savvy entertainer who’s made some formidable friends, logged many a lap around the globe, raised a flotilla of funds, and marshaled a major entertainment campaign every holiday season.

But while the original Mr. Hope famously brought his USO-show mix of radio-era comedy, go-go-booted dancers and patriotic spirit to the troops back in the day, Bobby Bandiera calls an elite troupe of all-star buddies back to the boards of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre each December for an operation that’s designed to do good and lift morale on the home front.

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RED BANK: LUNCH WITH HOLIDAY EXPRESS

holiday express 121815 2It’s more than just music when Holiday Express pulls into Lunch Break, one of 81 stops the organization will make this holiday season. The Grinch, below, is always along for the ride. (Photos by Kate Beckett, above, and Susan Ericson, below. Click to enlarge)

tim-grinch-band-rblightingWith the Turning Point restaurant providing food for 400, volunteers from Holiday Express plan to make a special stop in Red Bank Saturday.

The non-profit purveyor of music, food, gifts, financial support, and human kindness during the holiday season has scheduled a full-band visit to Lunch Break from 10 a.m. to noon.

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