AND THE BASIE GOES TO…

Crew members from the Count Basie Theatre’s Performing Arts Academy prepare the set for Wednesday night’s seventh annual Basie Awards show.

To all those who believe that there are simply Too Many Award Shows — well, we certainly won’t argue the point.

That said, when the red carpet rolls and the paparazzi bulbs pop this Wednesday evening on Monmouth Street in Red Bank, it may just herald the only trophyfest that matters — possibly even a ground-floor investment in the next generation of acting, singing, dancing talent on the greater Green.

The Basie Awards extravaganza that goes up Wednesday night at the Count Basie Theatre will mark the seventh annual edition of the program that recognizes excellence in drama and musical productions among Monmouth County high schools. It’s an event that’s boasted such guest hosts and presenters as E Street busker Max Weinberg and Tony nominee Lou Liberatore, as well as SNL veterans Joe Piscopo and Siobhan Fallon Hogan. But it’s really all about the kids, of course — and when the Basie envelopes are fumbled open on the landmark stage, a collection of young performers from 19 local high schools (including five in the Red Bank area) will be among those hoping that this can be the first milestone item in a glittering trophy case.

Kevin Karol (left) is among the nominees as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama for his starring turn as George in the Rumson-Fair Haven Tower Players production of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. At right is Harry Best, himself nominated as Lead Actor in a Musical for R-FH’s JEKYLL & HYDE.

In the Basie Awards nominations announced at the end of last week, the Performing Arts program at Red Bank Regional High School scored a pair of major nominations for their fall dramatic presentation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Alicia Moeller (Helena) nominated as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama, and castmate Chris Dubrow (Demetrius) for Outstanding Actor. Ari Beller, who appeared as Puck in that modern-dress production, got cited as Outstanding Lead Actor in RBR’s spring musical, the comic perennial A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Downtown at Red Bank Catholic High School, the Home of the Caseys garnered no less than twelve nominations for the spring musical presentation of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods — with nods for Outstanding Musical Presentation, Outstanding Direction (Andrew De Prisco), Supporting Actor (Conall McNeils and Mark Regan Jr.), Supporting Actress (Michaela Farrell and Brianna McDonald Vitale), Music Direction (Shawn Mack), plus Chorus, Student/Adult Orchestra, Costumes, Set Design and Lighting.

The Tower Players at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School had a productive academic year, with a total of five nominations for the holiday stage adaptation It’s a Wonderful Life, and nine for the edgily operatic musical Jekyll & Hyde.

Nominated for Wonderful Life are Kevin Karol (Lead Actor), Suzanne Sweeney (Direction, Lighting Design, Set Design), and Matthew Hervilly (Lighting Design), with the entire show honored in the Outstanding Dramatic Presentation category.

Sweeney scored a similar trifecta of nominations for Jekyll, with Harrison Best recognized as Lead Actor, Alexis Marinov for Choreography, plus Bill Grillo and Vincent Mottern for Musical Direction, and Matthew Hervilly and Dino Pagano co-nominated with Sweeney for Lighting and Set Design respectively. The entire production was nominated as Outstanding Musical Presentation, and also racked up honors for Chorus and Student/Adult Orchestra.

Across the Navesink in Middletown, the Seraph Players at Mater Dei Prep found their fall dramatic show (the quirkily comic omnibus Almost, Maine) collecting Supporting Actor nominations for four of its ensemble members — Phil Limeri, Matt Melleby, Shaun Nerney and Krista Skribner — with John Budzyna lauded for Set Design in that show, and Nerney also earning a Lead Actor nod in the spring production of the children’s musical Flat Stanley.

Dramatist and director Alexis Kozak garnered Outstanding Direction and Set Design nominations for the Middletown High School South production of Lanford Wilson’s complex drama The Rimers of Eldritch, with that fall presentation also scoring citations for Lead Actress (Kelly Lozo), Supporting Actor (CJ Marsini), Costume Design (Jacqueline Mazza), Lighting (Cory Golusinski) and overall Oustanding Dramatic Presentation.

CJ Marsini also collected a Supporting Actor nomination in South’s springtime musical Bye Bye Birdie, with that 1950s favorite also recognized for Featured Ensemble Players (Kelly Lozo, Erin McGuiness), Ensemble Group (The Sweet Apple Teens), Choreography (Jacqueline Mazza), and Costumes (Jacqueline and Laura Mazza), as well as Outstanding Chorus.

A complete rundown of nominees can be seen here, and a list of Basie Award winners should be posted to the theatre’s website within 24 hours of Wednesday night’s ceremony. Meanwhile, tickets to Wednesday night’s 7 pm Basie Awards program remain on sale here for $15.