Count Basie Theatre board member (and Basie Awards host) Siobhan Fallon-Hogan, Education Director Yvonne Lamb Scudiery, and CEO Numa Saisselin at April's announcement of this year's nominees.
By Tom Chesek
A Romeo, a Juliet and a thoroughly modern Millie were among the characters who had an exceptionally good night on Wednesday as the fourth annual Count Basie Awards honored the best in Monmouth County's high school stage productions.
Four Red Bank Regional students took home major awards.
The Basies, as they've come to be called, are given out each spring to the casts and crews of musicals and dramatic productions from participating schools all over Monmouth County. This year's ceremony saw students and faculty from 16 public and private schools compete in more than 30 categories.
Shakespeare's tragedy of star-crossed lovers proved a charm for its cast, with RBR drama coach Joe Russo's 2008 production netting Basies for Jazmyn Poole (supporting actress in a drama), Tim Patten (a shared award for lead actor in a drama) and Phoebe Ryan (another shared award, for lead actress in a drama).
Phoebe, seen above, followed her run as Juliet with a co-starring role in Two River Theater's professional production of the Craig Wright play Melissa Arctic.
The school's springtime musical production of Thoroughly Modern Millie also took high honors for its title-role actress, Shrewsbury's Melissa D'Anna. The Visual and Performing Arts major was among the nominees recreating songs from their shows in full costume duetting with her co-star Denis Chambers on the song "Jimmy Millie."
Hosting the event was Siobhan Fallon Hogan, a Middletown resident, Count Basie Theatre board member and character actress whose best-known roles include Elaines annoying roommate on Seinfeld, the bus driver in Forrest Gump and the farmers wife in Men in Black. Guest presenters included Fredi Walker-Brown of the original cast of RENT. Comedian Martin Short read the dramatic lead actor nominees via video shot during his recent visit to the Basie.
The big winners of the night were Wall High School's presentation of Moliere's Tartuffe (four awards, including outstanding drama roduction) and with six big Basies, including outstanding musical production, the Howell High School staging of On the Town.
Red Bank Regional's Millie was also nominated in the categories of director (Russo), lead actor (Chambers), musical director (Kristopher Zook) and supporting actor (David Smolokoff).
Red Bank Catholic's musical production of The Wiz received nominations for choreographer Kelly Gemellaro, and for the ensemble known as the Emerald City Residents.
A complete list of winners is to appear on the Count Basie Theatre website by week's end.