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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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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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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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jacques-pepinCristianCeppasCeleb chef Jacques Pépin, above, gets things cooking at the Basie this afternoon. (Photo by Christian Ceppas)

appetiteContinuing with the ever-eclectic menu of entertainments that has distinguished and defined its audience-pleasing mission, the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank serves up a new slate of offerings under the “Appetite Chefs” series banner in coming hours and days, starting with a matinee appearance Saturday by the Original Iron Chef himself and continuing next Wednesday by a beloved master of Italian cuisine.

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dead-on-live-02Multi-instrumentalist Marc Muller leads his grateful jam-mates in a Halloweekend edition of Dead On Live, Friday night at the Count Basie — while “The Price Is Right LIVE” summons in November’s sweeps-month with interactive high-energy style.

All who doubt that the Dead walk the earth during the season of the Great Pumpkin should consult the arcane and eldritch works of Professor Marc Muller for the last word on the subject — as the multi-instrumental master (and Monmouth University faculty member) summons the thing known as Dead On Live for a special Halloweekend concert, this Friday at the Count Basie Theatre.

Set to rise at 8 pm, it’s a special double-header installment of the project in which Muller and his ace musician friends explore the history of the Grateful Dead with setlist-intensive scholarship and spirited jamming. Featured on the Mischief Night program will be a “Dead On Live with Strings” set in which members of the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra join the band for orchestrally augmented arrangements of Dead favorites, climaxing with the epic “Terrapin Station” in its note-for-note entirety.

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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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kickstarter_20152Besides sharing his name with the always civic-minded Captain America, videographer Steve Rogers maintains a not-so secret identity as the creator, producer, host and high-mileage guy behind the wheel of Driving Jersey, the hyperlocal public television series that rolls into its fifth season on New Jersey Public Television this fall.

Like Vic Rallo’s Eat! Drink! Italy and other independently produced regional PBS programming, Driving Jersey depends entirely on the support of  regional sponsors, with a much greater emphasis on contributions from “viewers like you” than what commonly funds nationally broadcast fare like Masterpiece and Nova. And, at the start of a season that promises a portrait of “an extraordinary public music teacher from Tinton and the amazing results she gets from her students using a ‘unique’ teaching style that emphasizes courage, love and inspiration,” captain Rogers is giving a curbside call-out to area residents who appreciate the opportunity to see themselves and their neighbors in a setting that reclaims the concept of “reality TV” in a way that’s refreshingly devoid of scripting, manipulative editing and the studio-bound same-old.

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The Piano Guys, above, make an encore appearance at the Count Basie Theatre on August 4. Veteran troubador Gordon Lightfoot, below, returns to Red Bank on August 6.

GordonLightfoot-500x333An up-close and in-person look at TV’s latest crop of primetime music American Idols. An area encore by a surprise sensation spawned via YouTube. And a raconteuring retrospective from a veteran who did it the hard way, along that endless highway…

It’s all lined up in the nights to come on the history-basted boards of Red Bank’s Count Basie stage.

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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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buddy valastro 061115 1 buddy valastro 061115 3With temperatures pushing 90, Carlo’s Bake Shop owner Buddy Valastro kept cool at the Red Bank Marina Thursday prior to taping an episode of his TV show, ‘Cake Boss.’ He’s seen at right with marina owner Steve Remaley and Remaley’s 11-year-old son, Christopher, who took Valastro and a film crew crabbing in the Swimming River.

Spoiler alerts: the show involves a cake in the shape of a crab, and temperatures Friday and Saturday are expected to be only slightly cooler, peaking in the mid-80s. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)


Jacie(AnnaWolf)GiannaAMERICA’S GOT TALENT breakout sensation Jackie Evancho, left, makes her area debut at the Count Basie this Friday, while Gianna Salvato (of THE VOICE competition) joins kindie-rocker Miss Sherri for a show taping at the MAC on Saturday.

The greater Red Bank Green rolls out the red this weekend for a pair of young performers, each of whom made a nationwide impression on TV talent shows.

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BrandonJDirdenActor Brandon J. Dirden returns to Red Bank as star of YOUR BLUES AIN’T SWEET LIKE MINE, the drama by Tony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson that begins its world premiere engagement this weekend.

It’s been quite a year-and-change for Brandon J. Dirden, an Obie award winner whose previous projects for Red Bank’s Two River Theater Company include August Wilson’s Jitney, and Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog, in which he starred alongside his brother Jason. The 35-year-old actor made a big impression on Broadway – as Dr. Martin Luther King, no less – in the Tony-winning smash All The Way. A role on the FX series The Americans found him becoming a regular presence as FBI Agent Aderholt – and somewhere along that timeline, he and his wife, actress Crystal Anne Dickinson, became the parents of a baby boy.

When Dirden returns to Red Bank this weekend, he’ll be reuniting with his Jitney director — Tony winning actor (and August Wilson authority) Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who also steered Dirden to that Obie in a 2012 production of Wilson’s The Piano Lesson. The vehicle for their collaboration this time is Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine – an original script by Santiago-Hudson that stands as the second of three shows making their world premiere on Bridge Avenue this spring.

Merritt Janson co-stars as Judith, a well-to-do Manhattanite whose encounter with homeless-shelter staffer Zeke (Dirden) sparks an Upper West Side dinner party invitation that “brings an unlikely group together, spawning a passionate and explosive debate on America’s relationship to race.” Andrew Hovelson, Roslyn Ruff and Charles Weldon complete the cast, and the Drama Desk at redbankgreen caught up with Dirden as Your Blues prepped for its first preview this Saturday, April 11. Here’s a condensed version of the interview.

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JVPThe Count Basie Theatre keeps the ghost light burning in anticipation of Thursday’s appearance by GHOST WHISPERER consultant James Van Praagh.  

As we said in this space during last year’s Red Bank visit by “Medium Next Door” Maureen Hancock: you needn’t possess a sixth sense, second sight, or psychic gift to divine that live appearances by the breed of professionals known as Spirit Mediums are among the most consistently popular offerings booked into the Count Basie Theatre.

This Thursday night, the venue that previously offered successful events starring John “Crossing Over” Edward, Lisa “Voices from the Other Side” Williams and Theresa “Long Island Medium” Caputo presents an audience with James Van Praagh, the broadcast personality, best-selling author and producer whose adventures on the phantom channels of your television set have ranged from appearances on Oprah, Larry King, 48 Hours and Chelsea Lately — to serving as special technical consultant to Jennifer Love Hewitt in the series Ghost Whisperer.

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SiobhanFallonHoganMovie-TV actress (and Rumson mom) Siobhan Fallon Hogan returns to the stage of Two River Theater this Saturday with her sold-out solo show, ‘Acting Out.’

Hers is a face you’ve likely encountered in and around her home on the Greater Red Bank Green, where she’s apt to be sighted at one of the schools her kids attend — as well as many of the staple sites of local community life.

A quick safari through the channel guide can match that face with a whole streaming smorgasbord of well-known movies and TV shows, from Seinfeld (she was Elaine’s roommate Tina), Men in Black (she was the alien farmer’s wife) and Forrest Gump (she played Dorothy the school bus driver), to Danish director Lars Von Trier’s arthouse oddity Dogville, and under-appreciated items like New in Town with Renee Zellweger. Not to forget a stint as a cast member on Saturday Night Live.

Expect to see a bit more of her. Beginning this May, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, a Rumson resident of 10 years, will be a regular presence on Wayward Pines, the Fox TV “event thriller” limited series (starring Matt Dillon, Terrence Howard and an ensemble supporting cast) from producer M. Night Shyamalan. Before that, though, Fallon Hogan returns to the stage of Red Bank’s Two River Theater — where several years back she debuted an original one-woman show entitled The Salty Sea PTA — with an all new showcase for her multi-tasking character skills.

Written by its star and entitled Acting Out!, the all-new comic solo quickly sold out its two scheduled performances on Saturday, with an encore presentation now added for Thursday, March 12. The Drama Desk at redbankgreen managed to catch up with the beyond-busy actor, mom and playwright, prior to a brief but well-deserved beach vaykay — and between a weathery year of shooting in Canada, and a run of rehearsals here on the icy banks of the Navesink.

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Sing-Off-2014-groupThe 2015 touring stage show from the NBC TV series THE SING-OFF takes it back to Basie’s place for a Friday night showcase of vocal artistry, performed live “without a net.”

Even as it’s come to capitalize upon a wave of popular interest in stage shows based on hit TV programs, the Count Basie Theatre has demonstrated just how diverse such shows can be. For every live appearance by a psychic, ghost hunter, dog whisperer, cake boss or skinnygirl with a handheld mic and a video clip screening, there’s a talent-competition entertainment that really delivers old-school bang for the buck — prime among them The Sing-Off, the touring roadshow of which returns to Red Bank this Friday night, February 20.

Scheduled for 8 pm, it’s a truly hi-def highlight that stars an ensemble of returning favorites from the top-rated NBC-TV a capella contest — Season Four finalists Voiceplay, who co-starred in a Count Basie engagement almost a year to the day from this Friday’s booking. They’ll be joined by Season Two fan-faves Streetcorner Symphony — as well as a third group of recent finalists TBA — for an “ultimate a cappella experience” that promises “versions of this year’s chart topping hits as well as favorite arrangements from the TV show” and other surprises.

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