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RED BANK: NJSO PLAYS IT TO THE HILTY

megan-hilty-6568513Broadway bombshell Megan Hilty (above) is the special guest Valentine of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for a Friday night Count Basie concert. Carolyn Wong (below) takes the Sunday solo spotlight with the Monmouth Symphony.  

carolynwong_violinist-1652871They’re Playing Our Song, goes the old cliche governing the next-dance maneuvers of young lovers and senior lovebirds alike. But while the right tune blared from a tinny little speaker still does the job nicely, one can’t help but think that those truly heart-fluttering moments can only really be expressed by a full 40-piece complement of strings, brass, woodwinds, keys and kettledrums.

With that in mind, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra returns to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre Friday nigh for an event that’s designed to loosen up those starchy, itchy tuxes and gowns.

Joining guest conductor Todd Ellison and the NJSO for the 8 p.m. show is Megan Hilty, an actress and singer whose numerous Broadway credits include originating the part of Doralee in Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5: The Musical, and a long run as good witch Glinda in Wicked. A familiar face and voice on TV series that range from Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty to CSI and Louie, the West Coast native is perhaps best known to binge-watchers for her two celebrated seasons as a cast member on Smash — even bringing Bombshell, the fictitious musical-within-a-show from that NBC series, to the live stage for a full performance in 2015.

For the Basie show (and a pair of additional performances with the NJSO over the weekend), Hilty will be taking time off from her current Broadway gig, as Brooke in the rave-reviewed Roundabout Theatre revival of the mega-farce Noises Off.

It’s a rare reach across the aisle into pop territory for the celebrated NJSO, whose guest-artist bookings in recent seasons have taken a turn for the innovative, via such collaborations as last month’s concert spotlighting avant-percussionist Lisa Pegher. Take it here for tickets ($23-$83) — and take it back to the Basie this Sunday afternoon, when Red Bank’s own Monmouth Symphony Orchestra returns for the latest event in its 67th season of concerts.

Taking the baton for his annual turn at the podium, associate conductor Lucian Rinando welcomes guest soloist Carolyn Wong for a 3 p.m. program highlighted by Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suites. The young violinist (who has been capturing attention for her prodigious skills since she was 8 years old) performs in this year’s edition of a concert that spotlights the winner of the previous year’s Monmouth Symphony Orchestra Goldwasser Young Artist competition — the 2016 edition of which presents its finals on Sunday February 28, in a 2:30 pm event hosted at United Methodist Church of Red Bank (247 Broad Street).

Sunday’s program, which also features Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46, is preceded at 2:15 pm by a pre-concert lecture and onstage interview with the guest soloist. Tickets ($35, with senior and student discounts) are available here.

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