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We promised that we wouldn’t continue to kill ourselves with these increasingly complicated Weekend Roundup features, but these particularly blastworthy last-gasp days of August simply cannot be ignored…so we’re gonna drop and give you a fast 28 from NOW thru Sunday, beginning TONIGHT with the return of the eber-intriguing, eber-elegant CHRISTINE EBERSOLE to the Upper Wet Side of NJ. Read on for more, much more…
THURSDAY: Christine Ebersole at the AxPAC. This is one of those events that we really should have been “on toppa” like flies on sherbert; like an arts journalist-slash-theater correspondent putting in for an interview with one of the most multi-faceted talents in the modern biz of stage. But we let the beat drop, and now we are “Ebersole humbled” so that we can only say Sorry About That, Chief, and Missed It By That Much.
A 2007 Tony winner for her vivid star turn in the improbable musical adaptation of Grey Gardens; a costar with Rupert Everett and Angela Lansbury in the 2K9 revival of Blithe Spirit; a winner of another, earlier Tony for 42nd Street and a much-lauded star of everything from Steel Magnolias to Dinner at Eight, Christine_Ebersole is brought down to earth only by some sillier TV work (Sullivan and Son; Retired at 35) and a not-so-A-list movie resume (uh, My Favorite Martian? My Girl 2? Richie Rich? Tom Selleck’s Folks!?!). And so we concentrate here upon her critic-conquering cabaret skills, her major concert work and the fact that this platinum-plated performer is appearing tonight right here on the Upper Wet Side of NJ, in the intimate auditorium of the AxPAC (at the JCC of Monmouth in Ocean Township). Tickets are not so much as you might think, too, and the opportunity to see this caliber of performer, in this custom-crafted a setting, might not soon present itself again. Axelrod Performing Arts Center, 100 Grant Ave., Ocean Township • 8pm/ $45 – $75 (reserve in advance)
But wait, there’s more: order in the next ten minutes and you’ll get…
Gorillas, Gorillas for sale: Rick Fink and his Gas House Gorillas will bring their well-oiled olio of “Jump Blues, Gypsy Swing, early Rock ‘n Roll, Cajun music and even the occasional funk groove” anywhere that’ll have them, be it a sawdust-floored saloon or a swanky society soiree. This Friday, they’re at a bowling alley.
There, we’ve said it again: these guys are a buncha apes — and their frontman is a Fink.
That said, the name Gas House Gorillas has come to stand as something of a Good Housewrecking Seal whenever and wherever the party is in peril. Their name may have been filched wholesale from a classic Bugs Bunny toon, but these gorillas in our midst — tattooed tenor Rick Fink, string strangler Dean Shot, bigmouth bassbird Jerry “The Chicken” Scaringe, quackin’ saxsmith Seltzer Jim Davis and drumthwackit guv’nor Noel Sagerman — are the very soul of integrity when it comes to rockin’ the joint in classic fashion. We’re not saying they can heal lepers or teach the blind to see or anything like that — but they have been known to transform a roomful of Cooler Than Thou clubkids into doofy dancers; turn a family-friendly funnelcake-and-facepaint festival into a funked-up fracas; set society sweet sixteens to swingin’ from the sconces, and recombobulate a rowdy roadhouse into a revved-up revival.
Of course, the 900-pound gorilla in the room that needs addressing is the fact that Fink and friends tend to put on a better, tighter, sugarshit-sharp show than many more famous acts that regularly pack the prosceniums of theatres and stadia (which probably keeps them from scoring opening gigs for said acts). Thus, just within the past couple of years and strictly around the Upper Wet Side of NJ, the band has played everywhere and everything from pocket-park freebies, deconsecrated churches and banquet-hall ballrooms to, this Friday night September the 16th, the local bowling alley.
Granted, the Asbury Lanes isn’t just any neighborhood tenpins tap house — as the Shore’s retro rec room and atom-age alterna-arts odditorium, its one-of-a-kind burlesque grind of Pop Art madness, Corny Collins musicology and Pabst/Tots legitimacy promises to provide a cozy cove for that thing the Gorillas do. Blending bontemps-steeped originals like “Hep Cat King of Everything” and “Burglar in the House of Love” with the odd (very odd) cover like “Everyone Says I Love You” (written for the Four Marx Brothers!) and the Looney Tunes staple “Powerhouse,” a Gorillas set is a heady cocktail with a surprisingly smooth ‘n sweet high note, masking a kick-ass Shot of hardstuff, mixed with effervescent Seltzer, chased with bass and ending on the hangover pound of those incessant drums drums drums…
It’s a sound beyond your puny human notions of Time and, since these mugs seem to be everywhere at once, WAY-outta-space as well. Suffice to say you hear Spike Jones, Jerry Colonna and Rosco Gordon, as well as Ted Healy-era Stooges, Weegee the Famous and Toots Shor. UpperWETside interrogated the Gas House gangleader on the eve of this weekend’s return to Asbury town (and a two-day bender at a winery, during which the band might even crawl out from under the tasting table long enough to play some music). As you’ll see, it didn’t take much to get the Fink to talk.