Img_2293Eight-year-old Maddy Ward writes her name on the wall of the theater this morning as a four-month renovation got underway.

The scaffolding was up and an access hole had already been cut in the lobby wall as the Count Basie Theatre kicked off a fast-paced interior renovation this morning.

Following the Fab Faux Beatles tribute concert Saturday night and party on the stage for theater staffers yesterday, Basie officials held an informal kickoff ceremony this morning at which visitors were encouraged to write messages on the plaster walls.

They also noted that today is the final day of the theater’s fiscal year, which closes out a seven-year string of rising attendance and surpluses where once was lots of red ink.

Img_2300Img_2322The scaffolding’s up and the lobby wall has a new access hole in it. Theater lovers (and construction buffs) will be able to follow the action inside via Basie cam.

Board of trustees chairman Brian Leddin reported that 197 shows brought in a record 198,000 patrons this year, up 14 percent from 2007. Ninety-two of the shows were produced in-house.

The theater will also finish the year with an operating surplus, though no figure was give. Leddin said the theater generates an estimated $10 million in economic activity in and around Red Bank.

So far, more than $5.2 million has been raised toward the cost of the renovation, which will replace all of the 82-year-old venue’s decorative plaster and lighting, upgrade the two bars and create a patron lounge, said CEO Numa Saisselin. A benefit concern by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band grossed some $3 million toward the effort.

Tomorrow, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority is expected to approve an $8 million tax-free bond float for the project. Sovereign Bank has pledged to acquire the note, according to Rusty Young, who heads the board of directors.

The work has to be completed in time for the resumption of scheduled concerts and shows on Oct. 30.

The theater has installed a Basie cam that takes photos of the renovation work every 15 seconds while work is underway. Every 15 minutes, the latest of those pix will be available at this website. redbankgreen has included a link to the site on its homepage.

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