BasiechandelierThere was a lot of neck-craning as several hundred visitors took tours of the newly resplendent Count Basie Theatre Wednesday night.

A security guard recalled bits of dried plaster sprinkling his hair during a concert by the rock band Kansas.

A former stage manager spoke of road crews cutting random holes in ceiling grates to hang their light rigging.

Others recalled shutdowns by safety inspectors, and collapsed seats hastily patched back together with duct tape.

And they spoke, too, of the growing sense of futility at their attempts to fix things — how year after year, donors would pony up tens of thousands of dollars that would yield little more than a new coat of paint in the lobby, a new net to catch the plaster, and maybe a new car for whomever was running things.

Like a populace that had endured a prolonged siege, they came together last night to share war stories, yes, but even more to celebrate a resurrection.

Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre threw open its doors to all comers last night, and hundreds of people responded, drawn by word that a four-month, $8 million interior makeover had gone a long way toward closing the door on decades of neglect.

They found an 82-year-old performance space transformed into a warm-hued palace, one graced by a new chandelier in a breathtaking sky-blue dome.

“It used to be like being in somebody’s basement,” Brian Leddin, chairman of the theater’s board of trustees, told redbankgreen. “Now it’s like visiting someone’s home.”

Tonight, the theater gets back to revenue-generating business with the first of 40 shows in 40 nights, a concert by the Jersey Shore Rock ‘n Soul Revue, led by guitarist and singer Bobby Bandiera.

One Basie lover remarked, though, that, come show time, it will almost be a shame to dim the lights.

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