RED BANK: BASIE ROLLS (WITH) THE DICE

Andrew Dice ClayThe old greaser’s pompadour has thinned; the paunch squeaks and strains against the trademark leathers, and the glasses could have come straight off the face of your great-aunt Totsie — but let no one say that the biggest/baddest of standup comedy’s many self-proclaimed Bad Boys has lost any modicum of his mojo at the mic.

Besides, even the most outrageously offensive rants, rhymes and roast-ready insults of Andrew Dice Clay read anymore like Tuesday morning’s tweets from the 2016 Presidential campaign playbook. And when “the only performer ever banned for life from MTV” (or first contestant ever thrown off Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” or SNL host who inspired the most cast member walk-outs) takes the stage of the Count Basie Theatre this Thursday night, August 25, he’ll be once more ascending a career rollercoaster that’s taken him from multi-night sellouts of Madison Square Garden, to a humbling stint beneath the low ceilings of basement comedy clubs — and a return to form in front of theater-sized crowds.

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RED BANK: BEAM US UP, BASIE

Shatner Khan“KHAAANNNN!” The coming of the mighty Shatner is heralded at the Count Basie Theatre with a three night Kirk-out of films in the classic STAR TREK franchise. Below,Middletown’s own Billy Van Zandt as the “Alien Boy.” 

Billy Van Zandt Alien Boy Star TrekThe famous boards of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre have hosted a veritable Who’s Who of larger-than-life luminaries, from the crowned heads of Hollywood (Cary Grant, Mickey Rooney, Myrna Loy, Al Pacino) to the brightest lights of the performing arts stage (Idina Menzel, Martha Graham, Marcel Marceau); from comedy kingpins (George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Stephen Colbert) to reality-TV sensations; from music monuments (James Brown, B.B. King, Tony Bennett, Ringo Starr) to homegrown heroes Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi.

That said, not even borough-born Count Basie himself commanded the kind of build-up being granted the showbiz legend who arrives at station stop Red Bank on February 5: actor, author, director, spokesman and ultimate song stylist William Shatner.

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‘CUTTING EDGE’ ENTERTAINMENT AT BASIE

sweeneyAttend the tale of SWEENEY TODD: David Weitzer is the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Ali Gleason the lady with those curiously popular meat pies, when Phoenix Productions brings the Sondheim smash to the blood-red banks of the Navesink.

By TOM CHESEK

Those of you who neglected to adjust your clocks this past weekend have extra cause to be confused during this interlude of snow before Halloween and of store aisles that ring with jingle bells sometime north of Columbus Day.

When the curtain comes up on the famous stage of the Count Basie Theatre on Friday, Red Bank’s own Phoenix Productions will have extended the season of the witch right up to Thanksgiving’s threshold — with a major mounting of Stephen Sondheim’s operatic, ghoulishly Grand Guignol musical Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

The Tony-lauded “black operetta” — making its Red Bank debut hot on the heels of an Asbury Park production by Lincroft-based Premier Theatre Company — has apparently joined Dracula and Rocky Horror as something of a Halloween signifier in the years since the screen version that starred Johnny Depp as the man with the razor (and Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, maker of distinctive meat pies). Still, ghoulish as the storyline is, director Tom Frascatore suggests another, altogether different reason to tremble at the name of Sweeney Todd.

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BILLY GETS HIS EVENING, FOR M’TOWN ARTS

billy_016Playwright Billy Van Zandt is in the hot seat for an April 30 fundraiser for the Middletown Cultural and Arts Center.

By TOM CHESEK

No, Billy Van Zandt — to quote the late great Red Buttons and his signature shtick on countless Dean Martin roasts — “never got a dinner.” But on the night of Saturday, April 30, he’ll be getting his very own Evening.

Unlike other Monmouth County folks who went Hollywood in a big way, the comic playwright, producer and performer has, with his longtime collaborator Jane Milmore, maintained a pretty dynamic profile on the area’s artscape — particularly over at the Lincroft campus of Brookdale Community College, where the Van Zandt-Milmore tagteam has taught, established a scholarship and regularly premiered such new works for the stage as You’ve Got Hate Mail, currently enjoying a hit Off Broadway run at The Triad in Manhattan.

As one half of a bicoastal stage/screen writing partnership, the half brother of Steve Van Zandt spends about half his time here on the greater Red Bank Green — often with his sons and his better half, actress and author Adrienne Barbeau. None of which is to suggest that Billy Van Zandt ever does anything halfway, however.

Scheduled for 7:30p on April 30, An Evening with Billy Van Zandt (it even rhymes with An Evening with Cary Grant) presents the 1975 graduate of the old split-session Middletown High School in an “up close and personal” forum, in which he’s expected to offer advice to aspiring actors and writers — and to share some pretty priceless stories from his travels as a young actor in major motion pictures, and an Emmy nominated writer-producer for sitcoms both legendary (Newhart) and look-it-up (Bless This House).

Moderated by actor Jeff Babey (who, as a member in good standing of the Van Zandt-Milmore stock company, is similarly not known to do things in moderation), it’s a circus that manages to involve everyone from Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra, and Tom Cruise, to Wiliam Shatner, the Wayans Brothers and Andrew Dice Clay — and that’s just for appetizers. It’s also a benefit for the educational programs of the Middletown Township Cultural & Arts Council, hosted at their spacious (and criminally under-utilized) Middletown Arts Center, located just seconds from Red Bank and steps from the township’s NJ Transit train platform. The redbankgreen Drama Desk met up with BVZ at the Broadway Diner recently, to kvetch and ketchup on current events.

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