RED BANK: BASIE TAKES OVER MOVIE THEATER

For several months, posters outside the pandemic-idled Bow Tie Cinemas have read: “This is not a Hollywood ending. This is a Red Bank beginning.” (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot topic red bank njDespite facing an uncertain post-pandemic future itself, Red Bank’s Count Basie Center for the Arts has added a two-screen movie theater to its portfolio.

The entertainment juggernaut has taken over the former Bow Tie Cinemas venue on White Street, the Basie said in an announcement Monday.

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RED BANK: TRTC REGRETS CASTING CHOICES

The reading’s cast includes, in top row: Blair Brown, Michael Cumpsty, Oakes Fegley, Bill Irwin, Kevin Isola and Karl Kenzler; bottom, Bebe Neuwirth, Duane Noch, Gregory Noll, Steven Skybell, Phillipa Soo and Sam Waterston. (Two River Theater photo. Click to enlarge.)

[UPDATE: On July 31, the Two River Theater announced a cancellation of this event, with automatic refunds to be made to ticketholders. In addition, the theater said it is “planning a public forum to continue this complex conversation about representation in the theater.”]

Red Bank’s Two River Theater Company issued an apology Tuesday for “not having cast more artists of color” in a star-studded play reading scheduled for next week.

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RED BANK: BASIE PLANS DRIVE-IN CONCERT

Jersey shore favorites Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will play for an audience watching from parked vehicles. (Video by Basie Center. Click to enlarge.)

Darkened by the COVID-19 pandemic, Red Bank’s Count Basie Center for the Arts is taking its act to the track.

The storied venue plans to host a July 11 drive-in concert by  Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at Monmouth Park in Oceanport on July 11.

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RED BANK: FORTUNE SETS ‘BASIE 2020’ SKED

william count basie postersImages of William ‘Count’ Basie on display at the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center last week. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

The T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center, built to honor a pioneering African-American journalist with Red Bank ties, plans to spotlight the borough-born musical giant William ‘Count’ Basie through 2020.

The occasion is the 85th anniversary of the formation of the Count Basie Orchestra, which is still touring 36 years after its founder’s death.

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RED BANK: TWO RIVER THEATER FOUNDER DIES

Robert Rechnitz with his wife, Joan, in 2012. Below, the Two River Theater, where a new plaza was under construction this week. (Photos by Stacie Fanelli and Trish Russoniello. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

red bank two river theaterRobert M. Rechnitz, who co-founded Red Bank’s Two River Theater with his wife, Joan, died at his home Saturday, the theater announced Wednesday. He was 89 years old.

 

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RED BANK: SPEAKEASY ON ZONING AGENDA

21-23 broad red bank The former Agostino antique store space at 21 Broad Street, vacant for seven years, is the site of a proposed food market and ‘speakeasy.’ (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot topic red bank njOn Thursday’s Red Bank busy zoning board agenda: a proposal for a downtown food market and speakeasy, plus a plan to build a new house on the site of a devastating fire, and changes outside the Two River Theater.

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RED BANK: HOSPITALS CLAIM BASIE MARQUEE

red bank nj count basie hackensack meridian marqueeThe new name, Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre, applies to the historic performance space, officials said. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

It may always be best known to locals as ‘the Basie,’ but Red Bank’s oldest and most prominent entertainment venue is nothing if not prolific with monikers.

On Friday, yet another new one went up on the Monmouth Street marquee that bears the name of the town’s most famous son.

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RED BANK: BASIE AWARDS FOR H.S. THESPIANS

Christian Brothers Academy’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ presentation at the Basie Awards Wednesday night.

Winners were announced [Wednesday] evening at the 13th annual BASIE AWARDS, honoring excellence in high school theater in Monmouth County.

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RED BANK: BASIE NOW ‘CENTER FOR THE ARTS’

The rollout of the new name will begin immediately, theater officials said. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Marking the start of a new chapter — and the end of that whole ‘theater or theatre?’ conundrum — Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre has been rebranded the Count Basie Center for the Arts, officials said Monday.

The name reflects the 92-year-old venue’s present and future as a “campus,” where performance art is learned, developed and staged, said Basie chief executive officer Adam Philipson. Read More »

RED BANK: RECHNITZES GIVE $5M TO HOSPITAL

The husband-and-wife founders of Red Bank’s Two River Theater have donated $5 million to kick off a fundraiser for Riverview Medical Center, the hospital’s parent organization announced Thursday. And it’s not the first time, either.

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RED BANK: BASIE #GIVING BACK TO VETS

The domed ceiling of the Count Basie Theatre. Below, Linda and Jay Grunin. 

“Giving Tuesday,” founded in 2012 by New York City’s 92nd St. YMCA and the United Nations Foundation, was originally a “response to commercialism and consumerism” during the holiday season. It has since turned into an international day of giving.

Next Tuesday, Nov. 28, the nonprofit Count Basie Theatre will join forces with 94.3 The Point and The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation for a day-long, live broadcast from the Basie to raise funds for the Veterans Tickets Foundation, or Vet Tix.

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RED BANK: AN EARNEST PROPOSAL, ACCEPTED

”An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be,” says a character in Oscar Wilde’s Victorian farce, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’

And just hours before the opening-night performance of the play at the Two River Theater in Red Bank Friday night, one of the theater’s employees was surprised by a real-life marriage proposal on the stage. (Photos by Yurik Lozano. Click to enlarge)

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LINCROFT: A FAVORITE OCTOBER HAUNT

Creepy clowns are the in thing this for the next three weekends at the annual walk-through attraction at Brookdale.

In a world where the spectre of all-out war can out-spook any hooded goblin, it might seem that the old Halloween haunts can no longer hold a flickering candle to the horrors of the day’s headlines. If anything, the cobwebbed corridors of a walk-through “haunted house” can creak with a reassuring nostalgia, as its familiar fiends create a welcome momentary refuge from the edgy uncertainties of the real world.

As if on cue, the fearless crew of Brookdale Haunted Theater is ready to serve with the return of the annual attraction that transforms Brookdale Community College’s Performing Arts Center  into an indoor flesh-and-blood fright factory that runs for three big weekends, beginning — wait for it — Friday the 13th.

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RED BANK: ‘BUTTERFLY’ ALIGHTS AT BASIE

Lorraine Stone, left, as Sojourner Truth, is among the cast members in Dunbar Rep’s ‘Butterfly Confessions,’ a play by Yetta Young (right) that returning to the Count Basie Theatre. 

It’s been described as “a love letter to women of color,” one that “reveals heartfelt emotions about intimacy, sexual responsibility and overcoming adversity.” Credited to author and producer Yetta Young — but acknowledged by her as a collaborative effort that features the input of some dozen different women — the intimate theatrical experience entitled Butterfly Confessions has spread its wings and its message to communities from coast to coast, including audiences right here in Red Bank who enjoyed it for the first time in the spring of 2016.

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RED BANK: ENJOY THE SHOW, WEAR YOUR PJ’S

The smart theatergoers will be wearing pajamas, when Two River Theater hosts four family-friendly days’ worth of SKELETONS: A Day of the Dead Bedtime Story, beginning October 12.

Leave the first-nighting formalwear at home — and feel free to attend in your finest PJs, footed onesies and “sleeping pants” — when Two River Theater presents six public performances of Skeletons: A Day of the Dead Bedtime Story beginning this Thursday, October 12. A production of New York’s Teatro SEA company, it’s the latest in a series of family-friendly events imported to Red Bank from some of North America’s finest purveyors of theater experiences for young audiences — and despite the name, it’s a show that’s far more fanciful than frightening.

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MIDDLETOWN: PLAY ON, AT TWO LANDMARKS

The Navesink Arts Center (the long-ago Middletown Library) and the “Old Stone Church” at All Saints are the settings for some hearth-warming community theater events in weekends to come.

Here in the season of the Great Pumpkin Spice, thoughts stray across the Oceanic Bridge, and into the Navesink-Locust precincts of Middletown Township — a place of rustic old landmarks, foliage-festooned hillside trails, and the mist-shrouded banks of Many Mind Creek.

Beginning this weekend, and for many October days and nights to come, two of the area’s most historic haunts are offering up some diversions designed to take some that encroaching seasonal chill from the bones.

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RBR: NO MINOR FEAT FOR TEEN PLAYWRIGHT

Red Bank Regional senior Willow Martin of Little Silver will have her short play “Late Shift” performed by the professional actors of New Jersey Repertory Company October 8. 

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

When New Jersey Repertory, the acclaimed professional stage company in Long Branch, inaugurates its new West End Arts Center facility in October, it will be with a multi-media Theater and Arts Festival organized around the theme “All About Eve.” At the heart of the eight-day festival will be the world premieres of 28 short plays — a select group winnowed from over 450 submissions — and a collection that includes a one-act drama authored by a 16 year old high school senior who attends the Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Red Bank Regional.

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RED BANK: BASIE STARTS MASSIVE EXPANSION

Dozens of local politicians and players in the arts world turned out for the event. Below, Basie board members Steven Van Zandt and his wife, Maureen Van Zandt. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

A $23 million expansion of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre formally got underway Wednesday, beginning what’s expected to be a 20-month endeavor to turn the Vaudeville-era venue into a powerhouse for live performance and arts education.

The aim, musician and actor Steven Van Zandt told an al fresco gathering, is “to make Red Bank an example to the rest of the county of what it is possible to do” in elevating the arts.

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ON THE GREEN: TWO TICKETS ON THE AISLE

Joseph York (The Prince), Alison Levier (Cinderella) and Gina Teschke (Little Red) are among the storybook characters going “Into the Woods,” when Phoenix Productions stages the Sondheim musical at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre. (Photos courtesy Tom Martini)

On a weekend that marks the official curtain-up for Two River Theater’s season-opening production of A Raisin in the Sun, two of the area’s longest established community stage companies are offering up something for those who get a thrill from first-nighting — with fresh local looks at a couple of Broadway favorites from the 1980s and 1990s.

When last we looked in on Red Bank’s own Phoenix Productions, the resident theatrical troupe of the Count Basie Theatre was marking its turf with a revisit to West Side Story — an early success for the young lyricist Stephen Sondheim, and an indicator of great things to come. When the company’s 2017 season resumes this Friday, September 15, it will once again look to the Sondheim playbook — and to the storybook realm of the Brothers Grimm — with a musical journey Into the Woods.

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