WEEKEND: FOOD, FISHING, AND FUNDRAISING

authorsAuthors May Becker, Susan E. Davis and Lisa Borders appear at libraries and bookstores around the greater Green on Saturday afternoon. Below, Michael Morch, Jennifer Grasso, Laura Gepford and Ian Brown-Gorrell head up the cast in Phoenix Productions’ staging of ‘White Christmas.’

White_Christmas_4bThe days and weeks leading up to Thanks Thursday and Black Friday buy us a little more time to approach the holiday season at our own pace… a chance to chill in the outdoors with a few more hours of autumn sun, or to head home and curl up with some comfort food and a good book.

Friday, November 15:

RED BANK: Or, you could just cut to the chase and surrender to Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, the season-closing musical entertainment from Phoenix Productions on the stage of the Count Basie Theatre. Come for tonight’s opening performance at 8 pm, and you’ll get more than just a jaunty romance-in-rhythm packed with Berlin blockbusters like “Happy Holiday,” “Blue Skies” and the title tune — you’ll get a shot at the traditional Phoenix 50/50 raffle and, as is traditional on Opening Night, you’ll get a first look ahead to the borough-based troupe’s 2014 season. Show continues through November 24; take it here to reserve tickets — and here for our feature on some exciting new developments at the Phoenix fun factory.

RUMSON: He’s fronted the 21st century edition of Blood Sweat & Tears; subbed for Belushi in The Original Blues Brothers Band; shared stages with everyone from Boy George to B.B. King, and toured the region’s roadhouses with his own Hudson River Rats (an upstanding organization that boasts legendary drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie). You might recall blues-rock belter and ace harmonicat Rob Paparozzi from those open-air Red Bank Jazz & Blues Fests of yore — but when Rob and Friends take it indoors to Barnacle Bill’s for some Friday night sets, they’ll be tearing the roof from the joint with a harpin’ helpin’ of houseparty hospitality, and the kind of star quality that keeps paparazzi flashbulbs a-poppin’.

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RED BANK: A BUSY WINTER FOR PHOENIX

Two_girls_&_a_guy_on_a_pianoMelissa Javorek of Red Bank (left) appears with Ian Brown-Gorrell and Brianna Rosado in the Phoenix Productions recreation of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” opening this weekend at the Count Basie Theatre. (Photos courtesy Phoenix Productions)

By TOM CHESEK

In the words of producer Tom Martini, it’s a project that’s squarely “in our sweet spot… it’s a new show, it’s classic Irving Berlin, and it’s something for which we’re pulling out all the stops.”

When the borough-based community stage troupe Phoenix Productions returns to the Count Basie Theatre this weekend, it’ll be wrapping and capping one of its most successful seasons ever, with a song-and-dance fest that “we’ve been wanting to do for years” — Berlin’s ‘White Christmas.’

Based on the 1954 movie of the same name with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, the relatively recent stage adaptation has become a hot property with theater companies across the country — thanks in large part to a score of time-tested Berlin songbook standards.

Commandeering the Basie boards for six performances beginning this Friday, November 15, the show also represents a surprisingly rare foray into holiday-themed fare for the pholx at Phoenix, who look forward to the coming new year with an ambitious production-number of a project.

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PHOENIX: ‘ANYTHING’ FOR A LAUGH, AND LOVE

Clockwise from center: Jennifer Grasso, Kelsey Susino, Torie-Marie Gigante, Carly Nelson and Taylor Wallace are Reno Sweeney and the Angels, as the shipboard romp ANYTHING GOES marks the maiden voyage for a new season of Phoenix Productions musicals. (Photos courtesy Phoenix Productions)

By TOM CHESEK

The way Gary Shaffer sees it, “this is the best time of year to do a show — you work all winter, then suddenly it’s spring. People are energized and ready to come out and be entertained.”

If it’s mid-April in Red Bank, it simply must be time for a new season of musical entertainments from Phoenix Productions, the borough-based troupe that’s made a 25-year habit of putting on shows at that classiest of “community theater” venues — the Count Basie Theatre.

With pretty much the entire tri-state region endeavoring to shake off an epic winter of our collective discontent — and the irritating remnants of Sandy still being winkled from the Shore’s cracks and crevices — producer Tom Martini and company have rightly deduced that ours is a community in need of a little levity, a dose of laughter and a love song or two. The result is a 2013 season that favors a set of four feelgood Broadway classics over some of the edgier fare (Sweeney Todd, Rent, Miss Saigon) put forth by the Phoenix phalanx in recent years — a season that kicks off in style  Friday, April 19.

The vessel for this maiden voyage of 2013 is none other than Anything Goes, Cole Porter’s rousing romp of romance and rhythm on the high seas, and a crowdpleaser that director Shaffer describes as “a good, solid show with a funny book –and the cherry on top is the Cole Porter songs.”

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