The Red Bank Regional production of Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ has garnered seven nominations in the Basie Awards for excellence in local high school theater, as the 12th annual ceremony rolls out the red carpet tonight.
In a pop-culture landscape that’s littered with the sharp metal edges of way too many awards and honors, you could make the case that this is the only trophyfest that matters — the kind that recognizes, nurtures and inspires the next generation of acting, singing, dancing and technical talent.
When the 12th annual Basie Awards ceremony takes the famous stage of the Count Basie Theatre tonight, May 24, students and faculty from nearly 20 public, private and parochial high schools in Monmouth County — seven of them located here within the Greater Red Bank Green — will be vying for a chance to deliver their acceptance speech, in a field that, in the words of Basie education director Yvonne Lamb Scudiery, continues “to set the bar higher and higher, resulting in outstanding professional quality work…and certainly making the job or our evaluation team a very difficult yet gratifying one.”
More than 50 dramatic and musical presentations were considered for nomination in 25 distinct categories this year — and, when those Basie envelopes are fumbled open this evening, a lot of creative young Red Bank area people will be among those hoping that this can be the first milestone item in a glittering trophy case.
Leading the local pack with a total of 17 nominations (just behind the 20-plus racked up by Marlboro High School) are the Tower Players of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, who netted a dozen nods for their spring musical production of Disney’s Tarzan, in addition to five for the fall staging of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Continuing a history of impressive showings in the Basie competition is Red Bank Catholic High School, nine of whose 10 nominations went to the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Cinderella (with one Supporting Actress nod for the comedy classic The Odd Couple).
Home to the highly regarded Visual and Performing Arts Academy, Red Bank Regional High School earned a total of eight Basie nominations — seven of them for the dramatic production of the Arthur Miller classic The Crucible, plus a Lead Actor citation for Luke Pearlberg in a rare local sighting of the vintage musical Kismet.
Following close behind is Middletown High School South, where director Alexis Kozak’s staging of Gogol’s The Government Inspector netted four nominations, in addition to three for the “Springtime for Hitler” musical The Producers.
Middletown’s Mater Dei Prep racked up three nominations, for Peter and the Starcatcher and a somewhat edgy local high school debut, the John Waters film-to-stage adaptation Cry-Baby. Rounding out the field with one nomination apiece are Lincroft’s Christian Brothers Academy (The Music Man) and Tinton Falls-based Ranney School (Smile).
Presented to “individuals who have dedicated their lives to making art happen and art that matters in our community,” the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2017 will be presented to Tom Martini, co-founder of borough-based Phoenix Productions, the Basie’s resident hometown theatrical troupe whose current season resumes in July with a new staging of West Side Story.
Also scheduled to be honored at the award ceremony will be the winners of the Count Basie Theatre’s annual Arts Impacts Scholarships, a program that “recognizes high school seniors whose life, academic, and career choice has been impacted by the arts.” This year’s recipients include Sean Molicki of Mater Dei Prep (Moser Taboada Scholarship), Kiera Kulaga of Middletown High School South (Monmouth County Freeholders Basie Scholarship for Continuing Education), Lucas Angelo Degirolamo of Ocean Township High School (Monmouth Medical Center/ Barnabas Health Scholarship), Kate Manning of Henry Hudson Regional (Steven and Jaime Schultz Arts Impact Scholarship), and Megan Theobald of St Rose High School (Siciliano Landscape Company Arts Impact Scholarship).
Take it here for a complete rundown of this year’s nominees — and here for tickets ($20 per person) to tonight’s 7 p.m. program. Then keep it tuned to the Count Basie website and social media outlets, for updated info on the winners of the 12th annual Count Basie Theatre Awards Honoring Excellence in Monmouth County High School Theatre.