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BillyOceanShirleyEighties Brit hitmaker Billy Ocean and ’60s girl-group great Shirley Alston Reeves are among the faces of musical romance taking to the Count Basie stage in the Valentine nights to come. 

Even as the leprechauns and Peeps threaten to drive Valentine’s Day’s candy kisses from the seasonal aisles, Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre is gearing up for an extended holiday weekend of V-day vibrations: sounds that resonate from the school dances of the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s to the snapchat here and now.

It all begins this Friday, with the Red Bank debut of a familiar face and voice from the golden age of MTV — Billy Ocean, whose 1980s hits range from “Caribbean Queen” and “Loverboy” to “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” and the Jewel of the Nile soundtrack standout “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going.”

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Above: A cast of local high school students brings A LITTLE SHAKESPEARE: AS YOU LIKE IT to young theatergoers at Two River…while below, Ms. Lauryn Hill appears to have cancelled her (already previously rescheduled) Homecoming appearance at the Count Basie. (cast photo by Ozzie Rodriguez)

laurynFriday, February 7:

RED BANK: If we’ve learned anything from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, it’s that springtime comes in turn to even the bleakest of wintry landscapes. So, with that warming thought in mind — well, that and the caveat that all events described herein are subject to change due to “no enemy but winter and rough weather” — we sally forth once more, where no groundhog dare tread.

While Two River Theater Company carries on with its vibrant and tuneful mainstage production of the Bard’s cross-dressing comedy, a talented troupe of high school performers have put together an intriguing bonus feature inside TRTC’s “black box” Marion Huber space. Adapted and directed by Jason McDowell-Green, A Little Shakespeare: As You Like It is a 75-minute version of the play, aimed at audiences age 9 and up, and designed “to fulfill the not-so-secret grand ambition of Artistic Director John Dias: to have some Shakespeare resonating in every corner of our theater, and to get everyone in our community turned on to the thrill of his exquisite language.” Red Bank Regional students Alicia Moeller and Patrick Monaghan are the lovestruck leads Rosalind and Orlando — and they’re joined in the cast by fellow RBR actors Halle Butler, Raquel Diaz and Alyssa Rogers, plus Michaela Farrell of Red Bank Catholic, and student players from several other Monmouth County high schools. Public performances, for which the actors will also be performing a score of original music by Shanna Jones, are Friday at 7 pm, and Saturday at 12 and 4 pm. Take it here for tickets ($15) and bios of the cast members — or here for tickets to the grownup version of the show that continues this weekend through February 16. 

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