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The reverb-drenched surf rock sounds of  the Sharkskins close out the concert season on the Fair Haven Municipal Dock Thursday night.

From star-kissed surf and free-range country to plein-air pickin’ and fresh-air film, the season of outdoor diversions remains very much in effect on the Greater Red Bank Green. We’ve got the roundup of public-welcome events under the summer sky — and over the next seven days and nights — all of them free as a breeze.

It all starts tonight, weather permitting, with the latest installment of the Summer 2017 Movies in Riverside Gardens Park series, sponsored by Red Bank Parks and Recreation and brought to you by Shore Flicks.

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Famed musicmakers Glen Burtnik and Bob Burger (aka Lefty and Zeek) Beatle-boot their band The Weeklings, for a free Tuesday night concert outside the Middletown Arts Center. 

Let no man question the Beatle bona fides of Glen Burtnik — not when the Jersey music legend, hit songwriter, former member of Styx (and occasional fronter of the current version of ELO) boasts a resume highlighted by scores of performances as Paul McCartney, in the Broadway production of Beatlemania.

It’s a credential that could conceivably be hard to match — even by Bob Burger, the veteran singer-songwriter-guitarist and attorney who’s logged countless sets in the watering holes of the Jersey Shore, and collaborated with Burtnik on songs for Styx and others. But then, who else among us could top this little career highlight for pure Fab Four thrills?

All of which serves to confirm that Burtnik and Burger mean Beatle-booted business when it comes to delivering an authoritative sonic salute to the MopTops, as they did a few seasons back at the Middletown Arts Center. But when Glen and Bob return to the north lawn outside the MAC this Tuesday evening, August 8, they’ll be respectively answering to the names of Lefty and Zeek — the double-sided hitmakers of the band known as The Weeklings.

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The Grand Central Echoes join the next-generation heirs to the Del Vikings and others for a Saturday night streetcorner serenade at Middletown Arts Center. (Photo courtesy Classic Urban Harmony)

For fans of that purebred strain of vocal soul known as Doo Wop, it’s become almost as much of a cause for discussion as keeping track of group personnel changes, recording dates, and other true-fan trivia. We’re talking here about the situation in which two or more competing groups each lay claim to the name of some classic hitmaking act — whether through the presence of a onetime member or by virtue of rights held by an outside party or promoter. It’s a sticking point that’s too often played out around courtrooms and conference tables, rather than on a battle-of-the-bands stage, where such matters might be more effectively resolved.

When the virtuoso voices transform Middletown Arts Center into an old-neighborhood hangout this Saturday night, the promoters (Coll Productions, teaming with Street Corner Sounds Society) will be spinning this record-hop in a way designed to put aside any “imposter band” acrimony — as A Tribute to Our Doo Wop Legends, in which a collection of veteran regional acts each pay harmonious homage to an earlier golden-age group who inspired them.

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The Middletown Arts Center on Church Street is the point of departure for a walking tour of the historic Middletown Village district Saturday morning.

Among other things, the Independence Day holiday serves to spur awareness of our own Yankee Doodle history here on the Greater Red Bank Green — a timeline that predates the signing of the Declaration, as represented by National Historic Sites like Little Silver’s Parker Homestead (established in 1665), the Seabrook-Wilson House at the Bayshore (c. 1720), and the centuries-old structures of Shrewsbury’s “Four Corners.”

Then there’s Middletown Township; Monmouth County’s largest, most sprawling municipality — and among its oldest. Even many who reside there may not realize that at the heart of its nearly 60 square miles sits a walkable little village — and this Saturday morning, history buffs and the historically curious are invited to take a step back in time, one that begins mere minutes from station stop Red Bank and just a few paces from the North Jersey Coast Line platform.

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Middletown Arts Center is the setting for a weekend-long serving of the musical dramedy ‘They Call It Gravy, We Call It Sauce!’

Is it “gravy” or “sauce?” Why do Neapolitans cut off the vowels at the end of words? And just what the heck is “bru-shetta?”

These and other long-simmering issues are placed on the front burner with They Call It Gravy, We Call It Sauce!, a traveling “musical dramedy” that camps out at Middletown Arts Center for a weekend-long engagement that begins Friday night.

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art-alliance-classThe Art Alliance on Monmouth Street is one of 15 Red Bank area nonprofit entities named as grantees in the Monmouth Arts 2017 ArtHelps program.

Press release from Monmouth County Arts Council

Some two dozen arts groups in Monmouth County — 15 of them based in Red Bank and surrounding communities — have been named by Monmouth Arts as the recipients of their ArtHelps Local Arts Program Grant Awards for Fiscal Year 2017.

Designed to help Monmouth Arts meet its mission to enrich the community by inspiring and fostering the arts, the grants will result in over 3,000 high quality, low cost art events (art exhibitions, concerts, dance, theater, film and festivals) estimated to reach over 800,000 people. The 24 awarded grants totaled $94,500, including $3,500 in mini-grants that will be awarded during the year for smaller arts projects by organizations including new and emerging groups.

The awards were presented at a networking meeting held at House of Independents in Asbury Park on September 21, an event during which Monmouth Arts premiered their new website, and special guest Michael Pilla of Pilla Creative Marketing spoke on building your audience with email marketing and Facebook ads.

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Fort Hancock BuildingPress release from National Parks Service

Members of the public will be able to learn about and comment upon the efforts to preserve the historic structures at Sandy Hook’s Fort Hancock area, during a meeting of the Fort Hancock 21st Century Federal Advisory Committee this Friday morning, May 13.

Scheduled for 9 a.m., and hosted in the auditorium of the Middletown Arts Center at 36 Church Street, this will be the first meeting after the signing of the first residential lease at Fort Hancock Historic Post (Building 21, pictured), and the last meeting before an Open House takes place of select leasing opportunities on Sunday, May 22.

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Michael Patrick Ring of FireMichael Patrick and the Ring of Fire Band, along with guest vocalist Mary Lamont, perform the signature songs of Johnny Cash, below, and June Carter Cash  at Middletown Arts Center Saturday.

jc60-64Longtime residents of the Greater Green can tell you of times when Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash were spotted among the shops and stalls of Red Bank’s Antiques District, just two American music legends indulging their shared passion for collectibles on one of their many visits to the area.

Down in Asbury Park, where the Man in Black was one of a group of investors in the venerable Berkeley-Carteret Hotel back in the 1980s, a “Johnny Cash Suite” still designates the specially reserved local quarters of the Arkansas-born icon who kept a place in his heart for the Jersey Shore (and who made some of the most memorable contributions to the body of Bruce Springsteen covers).

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GuildThe co-chairs of The Guild of Creative Art in Shrewsbury are among the individuals and organizations recognized by the Monmouth County Arts Council for their contributions to arts education, during a May 9 ceremony.

Press release from Monmouth County Arts Council

Each May, as the school year comes to a close, The Monmouth County Arts Council recognizes outstanding arts educators, arts organizations and arts advocates who support our mission of enriching the community by inspiring and fostering the arts in Monmouth County.

Sponsored by OceanFirst Foundation, the annual Arts Education Awards and Showcase will be held on Monday, May 9, and will be hosted at the award-winning, state-of-the-art facility of the Middletown Arts Center.

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SinatraNathan DeDeo is among the singers making like Ol’ Blue Eyes all weekend long when SINATRA “OUR WAY” commandeers the MAC stage for three benefit shows, produced by Middletown’s own David J.V. Meenan (below).

1_David_MeenanMiddletown’s own David J.V. Meenan has hoofed his way into the Guinness Book of World Records as a champion long-distance tap dancer; performed on Broadway in A Chorus Line; and presented many an all-singing/ all-dancing extravaganza at Monmouth University.

Here in Red Bank, he managed his own playhouse (the Royale Theater on Monmouth Street) in the 1990s, and premiered his own original musical (Transatlantic) at the Count Basie.


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Edelweiss_Passaic_Bavarian_Folk_Dancers_(6)So what better month to salute the sounds, scenery and seasonal fare of Germany than the Oktoberfest interlude of autumn?

Beginning Friday and continuing through Sunday afternoon, the MAC plays host to a weekend-long Oktoberfestival that “goes beyond the biergarten;” drawing upon the resources of the 23,000-square-foot facility to honor “Das Land der Dichter und Denker” — the country of poets and thinkers.

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Jacie(AnnaWolf)GiannaAMERICA’S GOT TALENT breakout sensation Jackie Evancho, left, makes her area debut at the Count Basie this Friday, while Gianna Salvato (of THE VOICE competition) joins kindie-rocker Miss Sherri for a show taping at the MAC on Saturday.

The greater Red Bank Green rolls out the red this weekend for a pair of young performers, each of whom made a nationwide impression on TV talent shows.

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Guadano ReillyPat Guadagno and Steve Reilly are among the Shore-based musicians taking part in a first-ever Nashville Guitar Pull for charity this Saturday at Middletown Arts Center.

It’s called a Guitar Pull — a type of event that’s infinitely more pleasant than a hamstring pull, less sticky than a taffy pull — although it often draws from the same kind of audience that appreciates a first-rate tractor pull.

Defined as “a Southern tradition where a small group of musicians sit around and take turns playing songs on a guitar,” the loosely structured, stories-and-songs format has a city-slicker cousin in our regional Songwriters in the Round/ Songwriters by the Sea events. And Saturday, such an event pulls into the greater Red Bank Green when the Middletown Arts Center (MAC) hosts a first-ever Nashville Guitar Pull concert for a worthy cause.

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DublinCityThe Dublin City Ramblers (above) take the stage, and bagpipers Aidan and Michael Hannigan (below) stroll the grounds, as the Middletown Arts Center plays host to its first-ever Savor the Arts Ireland Festival this weekend. 

Irish MAC“Is there any holiday that lasts as long as St. Patrick’s Day does around here?” the Shore-based folksinger George Wirth queried recently.

While we debate the merits of that observation, it can’t be disputed that, two weeks after the Rumson St. Patrick’s Parade here on the Greater Red Bank Green (plus several days after the actual day of St. Patrick), the ongoing march has delivered us right to Spring’s doorstep, courtesy of a first-ever Gaelic culture celebration in Middletown.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPress release from English-Speaking Union of Monmouth County

On February 28, a dozen high school students each took the stage of the Middletown Arts Center and, without scenery, costumes or props, brought William Shakespeare’s words to life. It was the 25th annual Shakespeare Competition for high school students, sponsored by the Monmouth County Branch of the English-Speaking Union, and the stakes were high.

Each of the contestants had practiced and prepared, each had studied and rehearsed, and all of them performed wonderfully. Despite the competition, the atmosphere among the students was mutually supportive.  Their audience included teachers, parents, and members of the ESU, as well as five theater professionals who served as expert judges.  Each student presented a sonnet and a short monologue.

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billy brownBllly Brown joins the Duprees for an afternoon of classic doowop and soul at the Middletown Arts Center. (Photo by Marian Cicarele, courtesy of ClassicUrbanHarmony.net)

Valentine’s Day isn’t until next Saturday, but February 8 might be declared “Valentine’s Sunday” by virtue of it being the date for a special matinee concert at the Middletown Arts Center, one that puts an intriguingly local spin on some of the most romantic records of the 1960s and 70s.

Running from 2 to 4 pm, the concert stars a set of Garden State favorites with a multi-generational fanbase: Jersey City’s own Duprees (“My Own True Love,” “Have You Heard” and the sublime “You Belong to Me”) paired with a Jersey Shore guy whose smooth brand of vocal soul took him to the top of the pops, years before the Boss ever set his hungry heart on the Billboard charts.

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TubaXmasAbove, Tuba Christmas toots exclusively at Middletown Arts Center on  the evening of December 7 — while below, Santa (seen in a past appearance at Red Bank’s West Side Tree Lighting ceremony) will be making the scene all over the Green in weeks to come.

Santa LindnerThe first official sightings are expected to start filtering in tonight, when the Santa Express rolls out of station stop Little Silver on its way to Red Bank — but even if you miss Santa and Mrs. Claus at the annual Holiday Express Concert and Town Lighting ceremony, there are numerous other opportunities for an audience with The Big Red One in and around the greater Green, beginning as early as Saturday afternoon, November 29.

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raguActor and playwright Frank Ingrasciotta performs his Off Broadway solo show BLOOD TYPE: RAGU at Middletown Arts Center on November 15 as part of a new series of Savor the Arts events.

It’s called Savor the Arts — “a series of culture-specific events that blend performances with culinary tastings, exhibits, workshops, armchair travel presentations and more” — and it’s a multi-sensory whirlwind that begins this weekend, when the Middletown Arts Center (MAC) invites the public to immerse itself in the culture of Italy (and, by extension, the Italian-American experience).

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raguActor and playwright Frank Ingrasciotta performs his Off Broadway solo show BLOOD TYPE: RAGU at Middletown Arts Center on November 15, as part of  a new series of Savor the Arts events.

Press release from Middletown Arts Center

Starting in November 2014, the Middletown Arts Center (MAC) will offer a unique way to enjoy artistic experiences from around the globe with Savor the Arts, a series of culture-specific events that blend performances with culinary tastings, exhibits, workshops, armchair travel presentations and more. Patrons will have the opportunity to enjoy engaging activities that bring a particular culture to life.

Each multi-sensory weekend will be a mini-cultural immersion meant to educate and entertain. The Savor the Arts series begins with a celebration of Italian culture from November 14-16. Events include armchair travel presentations on the Almafi Coast and Puglia, as well as culinary tastings, a Paint and Sip Workshop featuring an Italian scene, an exquisite presentation of Italian art and music, and the Off Broadway one-man production Blood Type: Ragu.

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Calendar1Students from several Middletown elementary schools pose with their contributions to a display of Calendar Project art, now on view at the township’s Arts Center.

Press release from Middletown Arts Center

In honor of the 350th Anniversary of Middletown, students from twelve township elementary schools reproduced their artwork from the annual “My Middletown School Year Calendar Project” on 4’ x 4’ mural panels, currently on view at the Middletown Arts Center (MAC). Having been displayed at the Church Street facility since the Middletown 350 Parade on June 21, the panels will be relocated for display to Croydon Hall on Leonardville Road, in conjunction with Middletown Day on Saturday, September 27.

The “My Middletown School Year Calendar Project” was initiated in 2010 by Linda Kish, who serves on the Board of Trustees of the Middletown Township Cultural and Arts Council. Participating Middletown elementary schools include Middletown Village, Harmony, Lincroft, Leonardo, New Monmouth, Ocean Avenue, Navesink, Fairview, Bayview, Nutswamp, Port Monmouth and River Plaza Elementary Schools.

The students worked with their art teachers to create pieces depicting places around Middletown Township. The selected entries were then forwarded to the MAC, which made the final selection of art featured in the calendar.

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LittleParadiseThe last outdoor concert of the summer season hits the lawn at Middletown Arts Center, with a Tuesday night performance by Pat Benatar tribute band Little Paradise.

She’s won a shopping cart of awards; platinum-plated an entire wall of her home, and topped more Billboards than a literal flock of seagulls — but when it comes to getting her due in tribute acts, Pat Benatar falls far short of the Beatles, Zep, Floyd, Dead, Springsteen, Sabbath, or even Sublime. That said, if you must see just one Benatar tribute band this summer — let it be Little Paradise, the five-piece salute fronted by vocalist Cathy DaPrato. Armed with a hopper of 1980s-era hits (“Love is a Battlefield,” “Hell is For Children,” “Shadows of the Night” and of course, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”), the band takes it to the north lawn of the Middletown Arts Center (MAC) this Tuesday evening, August 26, for the venue’s final free outdoor concert of 2014.

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BurgerBurtnikJimmyLeahyBob Burger and Glen Burtnik (left and center in photo, with Jimmy Leahy) bring a pedigreed and pro-ey tribute to The Beatles out on the lawn at Middletown Arts Center, this Tuesday evening.

No one will ever question the Beatle bonafides of Jersey music legend Glen Burtnik — not when the veteran solo artist, hit songwriter, and former member of Styx boasts a resume highlighted by scores of performances as Paul McCartney in the Broadway production of Beatlemania. It’s a pedigree that the New Brunswick-bred Asbury Park resident has put to dazzling good use, during his many retro-rocking revues at the Count Basie, and occasional Beatlefest sets with his Liverpool project.

What, then, could Bob Burger possibly do to top Burtnik at his Fab Four game? After all, it’s not as if the singer-songwriter-guitarist-attorney was ever called upon to…oh. That. All of which serves to prove that Burger and Burtnik — frequent songwriting partners (for Styx and others) and jam-session buds — mean Beatle-booted business when it comes to delivering a sonic salute that’s backed with authority and real affinity. They’ll be doing just that, and for free, when they take it to the north lawn outside the Middletown Arts Center this Tuesday evening, August 12, for a concert event that kicks off at 7 pm.

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MAC350building-pics-018-630x419The Middletown Arts Center is the scene for a Saturday afternoon celebration of the township’s big 350th birthday — as well as a night-before Gala party on Friday.

A bit lost, perhaps, amid all the historic hoopla over New Jersey’s 350th birthday is the fact that the Garden State shares an anniversary year with the largest municipality in Monmouth County AND the greater Green — Middletown Township. Officially first settled by the Quakers in 1664 (the year that the English acquired what was formerly called “New Netherland” from the Dutch), its nearly 60 square miles once sprawled even further into areas of what are now Atlantic Highlands, Hazlet, Highlands, Keansburg and other local communities.

That milestone birthday hasn’t gone overlooked in M’town, however, as the township gears up for an official observance that begins Friday evening, June 20, with an Anniversary Gala that takes place both inside and outside the Middletown Arts Center. Going on from 7 to 11 pm, the formal affair features dinner, dancing, fundraising casino tables, “tricky tray” prizes, and a sneak peek at the “50 Year Time Capsule” of Middletown memorabilia that’s scheduled to be interred the next day. Take it here for reservations of last-minute tix ($85 per person; includes two glasses of beer or wine) — and take it around the corner for more public-welcome birthday excitement this weekend.

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Press release from Middletown Arts Council

The Middletown Township Cultural and Arts Council is excited to launch a brick campaign to celebrate Middletown’s 350th Anniversary and raise funds for arts programming. A 50-year time capsule will be buried on the lawn at the Middletown Arts Center, surrounded by an “Anniversary Plaza” designed with personalized  bricks. Donors who purchase a brick will have their special message be part of this beautiful plaza for years to come, and also will help the Arts Council continue its mission of bringing enriching arts programming to the community.

The Arts Center’s Executive Director Maggie O’Brien has been thrilled to receive donations of bricks from several of her volunteers. “These are individuals who have donated their time and now their dollars to express their appreciation for the organization,” said O’Brien. “It’s touching to read their messages and realize just how much the Arts Center means to them. It’s also wonderful to see members of the community express themselves in these bricks.”

Nineteen-year-old CJ Marsini of Middletown stepped up with a brick donation. Marsini, who will be attending Boston’s Berklee College of Music this fall,  performed in the Arts Council’s first talent show at the age of seven. He has grown up on the Middletown Arts Center’s stage and has volunteered at the MAC in numerous capacities from performer to summer camp counselor. His mother, photographer Tammy Marsini, serves on the Board of the non-profit Middletown Township Cultural and Arts Council, which operates the Arts Center.

To Kathy Rauffer and her late husband, Walt Rauffer, a pioneer in television broadcasting and engineering, the Middletown Arts Center meant more to them than just bricks and mortar. Walt donated his expertise and time to create the Art Center’s state-of-the-art theater sound and lighting system and worked the equipment for performances. The Rauffer Family purchased a brick in his honor.

“Walt started volunteering in 2007. He felt the organization was truly community focused and he loved the diversity there,” says Kathy. “With so many threats to the arts, Walt wanted others to see the value the Arts Center offered, and he praised its value every chance he had. He wanted people to embrace it, and get behind everything it offered.”

Walt was Technical Director for the Children’s Television Network’s Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and many other commercial sets. He worked with stars like Big Bird, Jim Henson and the Muppets, Misterodgers and Bill Cosby.  Highlights from Walt’s career include the creation of the first mobile news truck,  the creation of Sesame Street’s first tape room at its 81st Street Theater set, and a 1978 Emmy Win for Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.

According to Kathy,  “Walt told me that when he graduated from RCA Institute and told his father he was getting a job in television, his father said ‘why don’t you get a job in something that will last?’ — Walt just knew when something felt right and had the potential to grow and take off.  That’s the way he felt about the Middletown Arts Center –he knew it would succeed. ”

The Arts Center relies on donor contributions to maintain its affordable, year-round arts and cultural programs. In 2013, the MAC  boasted over 60,000 visits from area residents of  all ages and abilities. Those interested in purchasing a brick can download an order form at www.middletownarts.org or visit the Arts Center.

The public is invited to the Time Capsule Celebration on June 21. This free, family friendly event will feature a parade, the burying of the time capsule, entertainment and more!  Brick donors will be recognized at this event and the “Anniversary Plaza” will be dedicated later in the year.


This Thursday evening, May 14, the public is invited to take part in “an honest discussion about the legal, health and personal consequences of alcohol and drug abuse,” during the 11th annual Reaching Out community conference in Middletown.

Presented by the Middletown Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, the 7 pm event will be held in the auditorium of the Middletown Arts Center, adjacent to the train station on Church Street.

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