PHOENIX RISES TO THE OCCASION FOR 25th

Dan Peterson reprises the PRODUCERS showstopper “I Want to Be a Producer,” when Phoenix Productions celebrates its 25th anniversary this Saturday at the Count Basie.

They come from all walks of life — suits and students; public servants and professionals; homemakers and hobbyists. Some have even made a go at show business as a career — but if the hundreds of actors, singers and dancers who have appeared with Phoenix Productions have one great thing in common, it’s that they get to strut their stuff on the same stage that’s hosted the likes of Tony Bennett, George Carlin, Al Pacino, Cary Grant, and a Boss named Bruce.

That stage is of course the Count Basie Theatre, where for eight weekends out of each year the folks at Red Bank’s resident community theater company offer up an array of musical favorites that have ranged from old favorites (Annie, Fiddler, The King and I) to new phenoms (High School Musical, Hairspray, Rent). And this Saturday night, February 25, the Basie will serve as host venue for 25 Years of Phoenix: An Evening of Music and Memories — an event in which over two dozen veterans of past Phoenix productions perform a set of signature tunes from 20 of the more than 100 shows that Phoenix has mounted since their first summer-stock endeavors in 1988.

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FORMER MISS NJ SASHAYS INTO ‘CINDERELLA’

cinderellapolumbo

Looking a bit pressed for time in the title role of Phoenix Productions’ CINDERELLA, Amy Polumbo (with Matt Walsh as her Prince) seems right at home in a tiara during her reign as Miss New Jersey 2007.

By TOM CHESEK

It’s a Cinderella story in itself; the stranger-than-fiction tale of how a hard-working troupe from the “community theater” side of the tracks became the belle of the ball — and earned a residency at that shining castle on the hill.

Cinderella in this case is Red Bank’s own Phoenix Productions, longtime purveyor of musical entertainments for appreciative local audiences, and a nonprofessional company that’s been known to spin a little night magic from a mice-and-pumpkins budget. The castle, of course, is the remade and remodeled Count Basie Theatre — the jewel in the county’s cultural crown, and a nationally notable stage whose boards have supported some of the biggest names in show business. It’s a venue that’s definitely a quantum leap from an all-purpose room or church basement — and one that’s made its mark on the quality of the offerings from the ever-ascendant Phoenix.

When executive producer Tom Martini and company inaugurate their 2010 season of shows this weekend, they’ll be dealing in some pretty timeless stuff — the Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein II version of Cinderella, a musical that made its debut as a TV special long before its Broadway bow (and which takes much of its present shape from a network revival that starred Brandy and Whitney Houston). It’s a staging that features some familiar Phoenix faces — including in the title role a locally celeb who’s apparently right at home in a tiara, former Miss New Jersey Amy Polumbo.

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