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RED BANK: A STAND-UP GUY, TWICE NIGHTLY

sebastian-maniscalcoStandup comic Sebastian Maniscalco brings it to the Basie stage for an unprecedented six-show engagement this week.

What’s Wrong With People? Aren’t You Embarrassed? Why Would You DO That?!

For stand-up comedy star (and asker of those signature queries) Sebastian Maniscalco, the real question would have to be why wouldn’t he — as in, why wouldn’t a hard-working, dues-paying veteran of the nation’s “tough rooms” continue to surf a still-swelling wave of momentum that’s seen the onetime waiter hailed as no less than Stand Up Comedian of the Year?

While the Chicago native might seem an overnight sensation to some, his was a path that had as much to do with countless open-mic sign-ups and bowling alley gigs as it did his hit cable TV specials, popular podcasts, and high-profile appearances on Fallon, Conan, and Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars. When he comes to Red Bank for the first time this Thursday evening, the restless observer of modern mores will be forced to park it here for a spell, as he fulfills a commitment for six — count ’em — headlining shows on the stage of the Count Basie Theatre.

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RED BANK: BASIE FILMFEST EXTENDS DEADLINE

project-fx-2017Press release from Count Basie Theatre

PROJECT FX 2017, the Count Basie Theatre’s statewide student film competition presented by Bank of America, is live at www.projectFXbasie.com. Starting now, students enrolled at any New Jersey high school or college can visit the site to learn about entering the competition, with an internship experience with Sony Pictures Classics, a high-end Sony camera and $1,000 cash at stake as the contest’s grand prize.

On Saturday, March 18, 2017, the Count Basie Theatre will proudly host the daylong PROJECT FX Festival, which will include workshops with film industry professionals, plus a showcase of the top vote getters in both the high school and college categories.

PROJECT FX is open to students enrolled in any New Jersey high school or college as of September 1, 2016. Students now have until Sunday, February 5 (extended from the originally announced date of January 15) to enter their films, which will then be judged upon by a panel of regional and industry-wide experts. Last year’s PROJECT FX competition and festival attracted more than 80 high school and college applicants from throughout the state. Go here to view last year’s finalists.

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RED BANK: NJSO IN THE TEMPLE OF TUNES

raiders-of-the-lost-ark-chamberTwo globe-trotting adventurers — the legendary Indiana Jones (above), and genuine living legend Pinchas Zukerman (below) — team up with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for a pair of upcoming events at the Count Basie. 

pinchas-zukermanCarrying a decades-long beautiful relationship with the Count Basie Theatre into a new calendar year, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra returns to Red Bank twice in the wintry nights ahead — once as the grand accompanists to a seemingly ageless cinematic spectacle of treasure hunting, and again in the company of an “international treasure” guest artist and conductor.

Even if you’ve seen it anywhere from one to a thousand-and-one times (and the jury’s still out as to which dedicated uber-fan has logged more lifetime hours in its thrall), you’ve probably never experienced Raiders of the Lost Ark like you will on Friday, January 6, when conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos and the NJSO perform a live, full-orchestra accompaniment to the 1981 franchise film as it plays on the big Basie screen.

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ON THE GREEN: WHERE TO WELCOME 2017

SouthsideBasieNewYrsThe champagne corks are poppin’ as Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes continue a Count Basie New Year’s Eve tradition this Saturday night.

HOT-TOPIC_03Here at the tail end of a year that many people are all too anxious to put in the rear view mirror, there’s still sufficient cause to keep the party percolating right up to the last ball-drop. And in the bars, restaurants and performance spaces of the Greater Red Bank Green, revelers have a choice of options that range from an intimate table at a favorite bistro to a big event that’s become the toast of all New Year’s Eve Extravaganzas in the state of New Jersey.

Here’s a sampling from Red Bank, Fair Haven, Rumson and Sea Bright nightspots.

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RED BANK: BANDIERA AND ‘HOPE’ AT BASIE

bobby_bandiera_and_jon_bon_jovi_at_hope_concert_8_2015Bobby Bandiera, joined here by longtime tourmate Jon Bon Jovi at a past Hope Concert, brings the ninth edition of his all-star benefit show back to the Basie Friday.

donegoodlogoIt’s just about the last of the big holiday-themed entertainment events to take the stage of the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank each December — a frankly awesome rock and roll extravaganza that plants a glittering star atop the tree at an eleventh hour when various Scrooges, Nutcrackers and vocal choirs have scurried off to their last-minute shopping excursions.

Ask Bobby Bandiera and he’ll probably tell you that a dose of charitable spirit is more important than ever in the final countdown to Christmas and Hanukkah — and that the day-to-day survival of our neediest neighbors doesn’t take a holiday break when the rest of the community settles into its family traditions.

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RED BANK: KENNY ROGERS TO MAKE LAST STOP

kenny-rogersKenny Rogers — now on the Christmas leg of his farewell concert tour — returns to the Basie Wednesday with a “Gambler’s Last Deal” show that features special guest Linda Davis, below.

linda-davis-sara-kaussIt’s branded “The Gambler’s Last Deal” — a special “Christmas & Hits” holiday-concert leg of the final, forever, farewell worldwide tour of one of country-pop’s most celebrated crossover artists.

On Wednesday night, Kenny Rogers takes it to the stage of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre for a program of custom-roasted Yuletide chestnuts, platinum-plated signature songs, stories, and a multimedia element that “will include a reflective look back through Rogers’ storied 50-plus-year career.”

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RED BANK: EXPRESSWAY TO OUR HEARTS

tim-mcloone-112516-1Tim McLoone (seen presiding over the annual Town Lighting concert in downtown Red Bank) conducts the Holiday Express band back into station stop Basie for a pair of public-welcome shows on December 19 and 20 — with an all-aboard for volunteer “warehouse elves” at the nonprofit’s Tinton Falls facility.

VIP-level attendees at many Count Basie Theatre events have never been averse to paying as much as several hundred dollars over base ticket price, to enjoy such perks as premium seating, autographed tour souvenirs, and personal meet-and-greet opportunities with the featured attractions. But as far as Tim McLoone and Holiday Express are concerned, there are some ultra-exclusive events that remain off limits at any price.

It isn’t because you’re not cool enough, connected enough, or cash-money enough to score tickets. It’s just that admission to those performances is available to you only if you’re one of the more than 15,000 residents of regional homeless shelters, psychiatric hospitals, developmental centers, children’s wards and other places that form the heart of the Holiday Express itinerary — places whose residents are often without any family or friends, and whose sole ray of light is that annual visit by the big jinglebell juggernaut of a band.

Fortunately for the rest of us, the Express regularly detours from its tight timetable at this time each year, to play a double-header of fundraiser shows at station stop Basie; a tradition that continues this coming Monday and Tuesday, December 19 and 20.

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RED BANK, MIDDLETOWN: JOY TO THE EARS

shrews-chorale-christ-episcopalNeil F. Brown conducts the Shrewsbury Chorale, above, and Ryan Brandau, below, leads the Monmouth Civic Chorus, as the local vocal organizations present their annual Christmas concerts this Sunday.

director-brandauBlessed as it is with a well-above-average amount of choral voice talent — and numerous, well-established outlets for those voices to be heard — the Greater Red Bank Green is indisputably the area’s epicenter of classic carols and cantatas of Christmas.

And, with the New Jersey Chamber Singers and Tower Hill Choir having had their glorious say this past weekend, two more long-running organizations are on deck to herald the season in their own inimitable way, at a pair of concurrent concert events taking place this Sunday.

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RED BANK: HOLIDAY SHOWS ROCK THE BASIE

darlene-loveRock and Roll Hall of Famer Darlene Love, above, and not-so-secret Santa Brian Kirk, below, return to the Count Basie stage for their respective holiday shows this Friday and Saturday.

brian-kirkA holiday tradition bit the fake-snow dust in 2014, when a retiring David Letterman hosted musical guest Darlene Love in her umpteenth and final annual performance of the soaring “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

But Red Bank audiences can vouch that Ms. Love and her Christmas-pop signature are alive and well. And when the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer returns to the Count Basie Theatre stage this Friday,  she’ll bring along some special friends with a Jersey Shore connection — while kicking off a weekend that boasts another special sleighride from a locally homegrown Santa: Brian Kirk.

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RED BANK: FOUR BIG CHRISTMAS EVENTS

vienna_boys_choirThe Vienna Boys Choir, above, returns to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre on December 12, and the New Jersey Chamber Singers, below make their annual Yuletide stop at Red Bank’s United Methodist Church Friday.

NJCSClassic Christmas carols, cantatas and the most cherished of Yuletide ballets fill up the calendar this time of year. Read on for details on traditional holiday offerings from the Tower Hill Choir, the Company of Dance Arts, and a musical organization that traces its ancestry back more than 600 years.

 

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RED BANK: A MOST JAZZY SINATRA BASH

don-most‘Happy Days’ cast member turned crooner Donny Most, above, joins Rat Pack legend Dean Martin’s daughter Deana, below and the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra at the Basie Sunday.

deana-martinJersey guy Francis Albert Sinatra: his birthday is marked every December with merriment and song, and perhaps nowhere more so than here in the heart of downtown Red Bank. And why not, given that we’re home to a hallowed hall christened in memory of one of the Chairman of the Board’s partners in pop perfection: piano player, bandleader and “Kid From Red Bank” Bill “Count” Basie.

Each year our own Joe “Mooche” Muccioli — noted conductor, arranger, scholar and artistic director of the nonprofit Jazz Arts Project — fires up the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra for a grand concert that salutes the signature songs and style of Sinatra with the help of some special guest vocalists.  Read More »

RED BANK: EITHER WAY, WE’RE SCROOGED

a_christmas_carolNebraska Theatre Caravan’s stage spectacle of ‘A Christmas Carol’ makes its annual stand on the Count Basie stage this Friday…even as Middletown’s Stone Church Players offer up an intimate “radio-play” version of the Dickens classic all weekend long. Meantime, the Stone Church Players present an intimate “live radio play” style version of Scrooge’s story.

He creeps in from the shadowy fringes of the Season of Lights this time each year: the bitter old man of worldly business whose quiet Christmas Eve will soon be besieged by chain-rattling spirits and life-altering visions of the Past, Present and Yet To Come.

But even as we celebrate the forced re-entry of Ebenezer Scrooge into the mainstream of humanity, we do tend to take a certain comfort and joy from the knowledge that the miserly man-we-love-to-hate will be back all the earlier at his counting house, refreshed and rebooted, for the next day’s matinee. And so we welcome him once again this Friday night to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre.

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RED BANK: BASIE, FRIENDS JOIN FOR BIG GIVE

basie-marquee-111416Press release from Count Basie Theatre

“Giving Tuesday,” founded in 2012 by New York City’s 92nd St. YMCA and the United Nations Foundation, was originally a “response to commercialism and consumerism” during the holiday season. It has since turned into an international day of giving.

Tomorrow, November 29, the nonprofit Count Basie Theatre will join forces with radio station  94.3 The Point and The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, to raise funds for both the theatre’s sensory-friendly programming, and for POAC Autism Services.

“Giving Tuesday” at the Basie will kick-off at 5:30 a.m., with a day-long broadcast from 94.3 The Point / WJLK-FM Radio. Listeners will be invited to drop by and give donations in person, or to make donations via theBASIE.org.

The organizations will also use the day-long effort and radio broadcast to raise funds for POAC Autism Services of Brick. Two dollars from every Count Basie Theatre ticket sold on November 29 will be donated to the group, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children and adults with autism achieve their fullest potential by providing quality education, support and recreation at no cost to participants.

“Reaching all audiences with the highest level of the performing arts is part of our not for profit mission,” said Adam Philipson, CEO and President of the historic Count Basie Theatre.  “We strive to be inclusive and create barrier-free experiences and these shows will support our guests and families with special needs including autism spectrum disorder.”

“We are looking forward to partnering with the Count Basie Theatre in bringing the Jersey Shore together to support this important cause,” said Steve Ardolina, Regional Operations Manager for Townsquare Media Group New Jersey, which owns WJLK.

In addition, the Jersey Shore-based Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, which uses philanthropy to increase citizen activity and economic development opportunities through the arts, healthcare and education, has generously agreed to match all donations up to $25,000.

“The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation is proud to be able to work with a great non-profit partner like the Count Basie Theatre,” said executive director and Basie board member Jeremy Grunin. “The ability to support POAC Autism Services in their mission coupled with further showing the power of the arts through the Basie was too powerful an endeavor to ignore.”

Earlier this year, the Basie team worked with POAC to train staff in advance of the theatre’s first-ever sensory-friendly mainstage performance.

“POAC is so thrilled to be involved with Count Basie Theater’s sensory-friendly programming and their fundraising efforts on Giving Tuesday,” said Simone Tellini, Director of Program Development at POAC. “Children and adults on the autism (ASD) spectrum often have sensory issues that make it difficult to participate in and enjoy community-based activities, especially those involving the arts. These activities are essential, especially for children, and vital to their growth in so many ways.

“Last February,” Tellini continued, “the Basie provided a wonderful show that, for many children, was their first experience with live theater. The management and staff went above and beyond to make everyone feel comfortable and accepted.  We applaud the Count Basie’s commitment to our families and look forward to future events and programs.”

The live “Giving Tuesday” broadcast will feature performances from students of the Count Basie Theatre Performing Arts Academy’s Jazz Arts Project, Rockit! and Voices vocal ensemble. In addition, cast members from the Tony Award winning ONCE, playing that evening on the Basie stage, will go on air to perform the musical’s signature hit, “Falling Slowly.”

RED BANK: A 24TH NIGHT OF HOLIDAY DAZZLE

rb-town-lighting-112516-4rb-town-lighting-112516-7For the 24th straight year, the feel-jolly sounds of Holiday Express served as the soundtrack to a Town Lighting ceremony that drew thousands of visitors to downtown Red Bank Friday night. Were you among those who braved the drizzle for the dazzle? Check out our photos to see who you might recognize. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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RED BANK: DOWNTOWN READY TO JINGLE

112914 horseride2The clip-clop of classic horse and wagon rides is just one of the seasonal signifiers making an annual return Saturday. 

Just as the open-air Red Bank Town Lighting ceremony of Black Friday gives an electrified jolt to the turkey-fed torpor of Thanksgiving Thursday, so does Small Business Saturday sound the first real ka-ching of the primetime shopping season.

And when the shop-local showcase returns Saturday, it will herald a day of special holiday-themed features that continue every weekend through Christmas Eve, a slate of Santa sightings, holiday hunts, horse-drawn carriage rides, harmonizing performers, mobile mannequins and more — all designed to enhance the hustle and bustle of the shopping experience here in the the area’s undisputed Capital of Christmastime.

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RED BANK: VEGAS TO BROADWAY VIA BASIE

Donny and Marie Osmond, below, bring the holiday cheer and more to the Count Basie Monday… followed by a twice-as-nice engagement by the touring company of the hit musical ONCE, seen in the promo video above.

donny-and-marieTo paraphrase the signature song of a certain fondly recalled TV variety series, it’s a show that’s a little bit Christmas, a little bit something else.

The entertainment-packed November/December schedule at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre makes for especially interesting sked-fellows this time of year — with the holiday season getting into early jingle via offerings like Phoenix Productions’ A Christmas Story: The Musical and this past Monday’s seasonal spectacular starring Brian Setzer, even as recently featured acts like Joe Bonamassa and The Pretenders have offered up a happy-humbug alternative to any potential reindeer overkill.

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RED BANK: HOLIDAY EXPRESS TO LIGHT IT UP

112715holidayexp32Tim McLoone, at left above, and the Holiday Express band get some help kicking off another silver-bells season on the sidewalks of Red Bank at Friday night’s annual Town Lighting concert. Jackie Evancho (below) brings a program of holiday songs and hits to the Count Basie stage. (Photo above by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge) 

jackie_evanchoIf it’s accomplished nothing else during its quarter century of continuous service, Red Bank’s annual Town Lighting ceremony has successfully wrested the idea of “Black Friday” from visions of crushing chaos at the mall to one of sing-along harmony in a walkable-wonderland setting of merry commerce and activity.

When the lights are ceremoniously lit in downtown Red Bank for the 24th consecutive year this Friday evening, it will come not a moment too soon for an extended community that really does need a little Christmas, right this very minute. And summoned once more into service like a jinglebell-jukebox Justice League will be Holiday Express, the big traveling winter wall of sound whose founder and skipper Tim McLoone has helped sound the keynote and flip the switch on a generation’s worth of festive occasions in the heart of Red Bank’s downtown diorama.

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RED BANK: BASIE PARKING DEAL YIELDS GAIN

mike-whelan-110416Councilman Mike Whelan outside borough hall earlier this month.(Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

LicPlate1It may not seem like much, stacked up against a $22.4 million budget. Still, it’s like finding money on the ground, says first-year Red Bank Councilman Mike Whelan.

A deal Whelan initiated that gives the Count Basie Theatre access to the borough hall parking lot across Monmouth Street has netted the borough nearly $14,000 since it went into effect earlier this year, he says.

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RED BANK: SETZER JUMP-STARTS BASIE LINEUP

brian-setzerStray Cat topcat turned big-band ringmaster Brian Setzer, above, tunes up Santa’s souped-up sleigh — and Beat Root Revival (below) lights the way — as the season of nearly non-stop holiday music at the Count Basie Theatre commences Monday.

beat-rootThe official tree has yet to find its base in Red Bank’s Riverside Gardens Park, and the horse-drawn carriages and surrogate Santas have yet to be sighted on the downtown streets.

But the elves at the Count Basie Theatre, the Greater Red Bank Green’s unofficial Capital of Christmas, already have their workshop in overdrive on a packed slate of Christmastime confections that runs right up to the doorstep of the New Year.

 

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RED BANK: RETURN OF THE GREAT PRETENDER

pretendersChrissie Hynde, seen here with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys in a screen grab from the video for ‘Holy Commotion,” returns to Red Bank with her 2016 edition of the Pretenders for a Thursday night concert.

Last time Chrissie Hynde trod the boards of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, two years ago, the face, voice, heart and soul of the Pretenders offered up a showcase of her debut long-player Stockholm, chased by a lip-to-label spin through the mega-classic 1979 Pretenders LP, its fab 45s and deep-cut classics “Brass in Pocket,” “Kid,” “Stop Your Sobbing,” “Mystery Achievement” and “Precious”).

Bolstered by the accrued good-will generated by the album and road itinerary, the Hall of Fame rocker entered a Nashville studio earlier this year with Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach for some sessions intended to yield her sophomore solo release. But something surprising must have happened inside that soundproofed space, as “those driving guitars, ragged-but-righteous arrangements, tough-yet tender lyrics delivered by the most beautifully distinctive voice of a generation” (according to the press notes) suggested nothing less than that the Pretenders were back.

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RED BANK: VAN ZANDT LINEUP TO ROCK BASIE

van-zandt-guadagno-111416-1Steven Van Zandt and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno on stage at the Basie Monday. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

basie-marquee-111416A four-night campaign of classic rock shows curated by E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt in coming months will help drive a $20 million expansion Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, officials said Monday.

But the names of the acts to be spotlighted in the series remained under wraps at a press conference held on the stage of the Vaudeville-era venue.
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RED BANK: YOU’LL LAUGH YOUR EYE OUT

christmas-story-phoenixIt’s all present and accounted for, from the Old Man’s leg lamp to Aunt Clara’s bunny suit; from the flagpole double-dog-dare to the Santa Slide at Higbee’s — to say nothing of that official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle. Only this time it’s an all-singing, all-dancing, live action extravaganza that arrives like an early gift package this Friday, November 11.

Based on the beyond-popular 1983 movie of the same name — itself adapted from the writings of humorist Jean Shepherd (who did a memorable turn as the film’s narrator), A Christmas Story: The Musical makes its first-ever appearance on the local stage as the annual holiday-season offering from Phoenix Productions, the resident non-profit stage company at the venerable Count Basie Theatre.

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RED BANK: STEVE MILLER BAND JETS IN

steve-miller-band-4The Steve Miller Band takes the Basie boards Tuesday. (Click to enlarge.)

Though he’s not generally associated with the flowering music scene of late-1960s San Francisco, rocker Steve Miller was very much in it as far back as 1966, when he supported Chuck Berry on a live album recorded at the Fillmore Auditorium. It was one stop in a career that’s also been steeped in the blues scenes of Dallas and Chicago enroute to some chartbusting pop success.

Listen for hints of all that when Miller, still rocking at 73, brings his band to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre Tuesday night for its only Garden State appearance of his current tour.

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