FORMER MISS NJ SASHAYS INTO ‘CINDERELLA’

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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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