RED BANK: BASIES GO TO RFH, RBC, RBR

Phoenix Productions exec director Tom Martini — pictured fifth from left, during the 2015 ribbon-cutting of the troupe’s new Chestnut Street headquarters — was honored with the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award during the 12th annual Basie Awards on Wednesday night. (photo by Rich Kowalski) 

Students and faculty from five high schools in the greater Red Bank area were honored for excellence in high school theater productions — and the co-founder of a favorite borough-based performing arts company received a Lifetime Achievement recognition — when the 12th annual Basie Awards ceremony took place at the Count Basie Theatre on the evening of May 24.

The big winner among local schools was Red Bank Catholic High School, whose nine nominations for the spring production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Cinderella resulted in three Basie wins: for Shawn Mack (Outstanding Musical Direction), Samantha Siriani (Outstanding Supporting Actress), and Kelly Gemellaro (Outstanding Choreography, shared with Jacqui Fisher for the Middletown High School South staging of The Producers).

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RED BANK: ‘BASIES’ BUZZ IN THE AIR TONIGHT

The Red Bank Regional production of Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ has garnered seven nominations in the Basie Awards for excellence in local high school theater, as the 12th annual ceremony rolls out the red carpet tonight.

In a pop-culture landscape that’s littered with the sharp metal edges of way too many awards and honors, you could make the case that this is the only trophyfest that matters — the kind that recognizes, nurtures and inspires the next generation of acting, singing, dancing and technical talent.

When the 12th annual Basie Awards ceremony takes the famous stage of the Count Basie Theatre tonight, May 24, students and faculty from nearly 20 public, private and parochial high schools in Monmouth County — seven of them located here within the Greater Red Bank Green — will be vying for a chance to deliver their acceptance speech, in a field that, in the words of Basie education director Yvonne Lamb Scudiery, continues “to set the bar higher and higher, resulting in outstanding professional quality work…and certainly making the job or our evaluation team a very difficult yet gratifying one.”

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RED BANK: A SPLASHY DEBUT FOR PHOENIX

little mermaidsCat Tierney, seen at right with the other Daughters of Triton, stars as Ariel in the staging of “The Little Mermaid that begins a Red Bank run Friday night. (Click to enlarge)

littlemermaid2016After rising to the occasion last year with such gravity-defying entertainments as Mary Poppins and Peter Pan, the folks at Phoenix Productions in Red Bank dive deep for their inaugural production of the 2016 season: the Disney musical The Little Mermaid, which surfaces for a two-weekend run at the Count Basie Theatre.

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RED BANK: PHOENIX LAUNCHES NEW HQ

PhoenixPhoenix Productions exec director Tom Martini (fifth from left) brandishes the scissors as the ribbon is cut for the theater company’s new home on Chestnut Street. Assisting during the May 8 gala party were (left to right) company president Lindsay Wood, plus board members Holly Hankins, Michael Dalberg, Bob Brown, Andrea Zawadzki, and James Marhold. (photos by Rich Kowalski)

It was a gala fundraiser and celebration unlike just about any other — one in which the “springtime casual” dress code abandoned the stodgy formalwear in favor of (in at least one case) full pirate regalia — an affair in which the microphone was commandeered for soaring Broadway-quality voices, rather than snoring speeches.

But then, this was no ordinary occasion for Phoenix Productions, the borough-based community stage company that recently fulfilled an ambitious relocation to (and renovation of) a spacious new rehearsal studio, craft shop, storage space and executive office complex at 59 Chestnut Street. More than a hundred guest well-wishers, community sponsors and alumni from past shows joined the Phoenix board of directors on the night of May 8, to cut the ribbon on the troupe’s new headquarters, to raise funds for ongoing projects, and to celebrate an entertainment legacy of more than a quarter century in song and in style.

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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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PHOENIX RISES TO THE OCCASION FOR 25th

Dan Peterson reprises the PRODUCERS showstopper “I Want to Be a Producer,” when Phoenix Productions celebrates its 25th anniversary this Saturday at the Count Basie.

They come from all walks of life — suits and students; public servants and professionals; homemakers and hobbyists. Some have even made a go at show business as a career — but if the hundreds of actors, singers and dancers who have appeared with Phoenix Productions have one great thing in common, it’s that they get to strut their stuff on the same stage that’s hosted the likes of Tony Bennett, George Carlin, Al Pacino, Cary Grant, and a Boss named Bruce.

That stage is of course the Count Basie Theatre, where for eight weekends out of each year the folks at Red Bank’s resident community theater company offer up an array of musical favorites that have ranged from old favorites (Annie, Fiddler, The King and I) to new phenoms (High School Musical, Hairspray, Rent). And this Saturday night, February 25, the Basie will serve as host venue for 25 Years of Phoenix: An Evening of Music and Memories — an event in which over two dozen veterans of past Phoenix productions perform a set of signature tunes from 20 of the more than 100 shows that Phoenix has mounted since their first summer-stock endeavors in 1988.

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