You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
In an interview that appeared almost four years ago on our since-skyfallen Red Bank oRBit site, Robert Pinsky waxed rhapsodic about Long Branch, the seaside city of his youth; telling us “In the Golden Age, you could have a Ballantine’s and a Max’s hot dog when Max’s was on the boardwalk side of Ocean Avenue. When there was a Long Branch boardwalk! Pizza at Freddie’s or Nunzio’s, clams at Danny Maher’s. Crabbing at Pleasure Bay, the circus at Flanagan’s Field. Tea dances at Red Bank Catholic.”
Pinsky — the internationally renowned, Pulitzer-lauded author of more than a dozen volumes of poetry and essays on art — was briefly back on his old turf for a reading appearance at Monmouth University, and a preview of his 2009 book Thousands of Broadways; a meditation on the “Dreams and Nightmares” of small town American life. The man who produced what for many is the definitive translation of Dante’s Inferno — and who served for an unprecedented three terms as Poet Laureate of the United States — had visited Monmouth U previously (even giving the commencement address one year). But when he stepped out onto the stage of the Pollak Theatre that March, he may not have realized at the time that he’d be making the West Long Branch campus a habit.
For a formidable figure who earned a doctorate in philosophy (in addition to many major awards and fellowships), Robert Pinsky has remained an approachable advocate for the role of poetry in mainstream 21st century life. It’s a mission that’s seen him consent to appearances on The Simpsons and The Colbert Report — and a calling that’s seen its purest expression in the Favorite Poem Project, in which Americans from all walks of life were recorded reading and discussing the works of verse that have meant the most to them.
The past few years have seen Pinsky — a genuine jazz aficionado and amateur saxophonist — step up his schedule of appearances in which he performs his poetry to the accompaniment of live jazz musicians. It’s a mode of expression that the Laureate has branded PoemJazz, and it’s an attraction that returns to the Pollak stage on Friday, February 15.
The 7:30pm performance is a followup to a 2012 event at Monmouth, in which Pinsky was joined by the New York-based double bassist Ben Allison. Since that time, Pinsky has released his first words-and-music CD, also called PoemJazz — a set that finds the poet collaborating with pianist Laurence Hobgood on an array of compositions that range from the intensely musical “The City” and the Pinsky favorite “Samurai Song,” to a rendition of the 17th century Ben Jonson verse “His Excuse for Loving.”
Pinsky — who’s jammed live with a variety of instrumentalists, and in settings ranging from duo to quintet — will be rejoined by Allison (as well as by guitarist and Allison bandmate Steve Cardenas) for Friday night’s fricassee of verse and vibe; an event that promises to recall some of the best sonic experiments of the Beats (minus the bongo’d cliches), while custom-crafting a zone that’s pure Pinsky perfection.
Your upperWETside correspondent had the tremendous honor of conducting a virtual interview with America’s pre-eminent ambassador of the spoken word, a few days prior to the Monmouth stopover….and it’s all here, at the flip of a pixelated page…
Broadway veterans Marc Kudisch and Jeffry Denman ARE The Holiday Guys, and they’re on a multi-show mission to spread some much needed seasonal cheer from the Monmouth University stage. (photo by Daryl Getman)
They’re called The Holiday Guys — a couple of Broadway-branded acting/ singing/ dancing/ musicmaking multi-taskers; each with an individual résumé longer than Santa’s Nice List, and a collective desire to redefine the experiences of Christmas and Hanukkah into a seasonal synergy known as Hanu-Mas.
With Superstorm Sandy dumping countless tons of water, woe, sand and debris on the threshold of the season, however, these gifted entertainers are being cast as something more than savvy RE-gifters of cheer and tradition. When The Holiday Guys bring their 2012 Hanu-Mas Concert Tour to the Pollak Theatre at Monmouth University for a four-day, four-show extended engagement that begins Thursday, November 29, it will be as messengers of morale-boosting merriment for a local audience that’s just gone through the most challenging interlude of its life and times. A couple of prophets and saviors, even; charged with sounding a keynote to the season of lights — even if it takes a billion battery-powered tea candles (and a gas generator or two) to stave off the darkness.
The Holiday Guys are Marc Kudisch — a three-time Tony nominee whose big-time Broadway bonafides include Thoroughly Modern Millie, Beauty and the Beast, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang — as well as Jeffry Denman, whose Great White Way wowzers include Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying), and the original Broadway cast of The Producers (an experience that was the subject of an acclaimed memoir by the first-time author). Together they’re teaming up for a project that’s been analyzed as “two parts Smothers Brothers quirkiness and sentimentality; one part nostalgic innocence and sincere goofiness of Laurel and Hardy, one part sophisticated and joy filled song and dance routines of Kelly and Kaye, and one part infectious humor and holiday variety show of Hope and Crosby.”
With Kudisch strumming guitar, and Denman (who’ll be channeling the hoofing skills that served him so well in his Fred Astaire tribute ) joining in on the most Yuletide ukelele this side of Christmas Island, The Guys will be putting their own silver-bells spin on a sleighload of seasonal songs, stories and snickers — all delivered by the light and crackle of a Yule-log fireplace. There’s even some talk of cameo appearances by some special guest stars — and with shows at 8pm on November 29 and 30, and 3pm on November 30 and December 2, you’ve little to no excuse for not making it home for Hanu-Mas.
Your upperWETside correspondent pulled up a fireside and chatted about the true meaning of HanuMas — and the need for a little extra light amid the blacked-out blitzkrieg of Sandy’s residual ill wind — with a couple of not-so-secret Santas named Kudisch and Denman. Open up that package (and save the bows; save the bows)…
Gentlemen, start your engineered-to-entertain diversions: the interlude prior to Halloweekend brings the end (for now) of some favorite things (including Asbury’s Showroom Cinema, shuttered now in its historic location but soon to re-open in its new ‘n improved Three Screen Circus) — as well as a gloriously sputtering spate of ongoing activities that range from the tried and true (Capitol Steps and David Bromberg at the Basie), the reimagined (once more into Shakespeare’s HENRY V), the NEW and never-seen (Chunksaah’s kid-friendly Playdate event at the Lanes, the area debut of Tinariwen), and the “new old school” thrill that is Mel Stultz’s highly anticipated Race of Gentlemen on the Allenhurst/Loch Arbour sands.
Take a whammy-eyed look at our Mad Monster Party Halloween roundup here on the upperWETside for deep dark details on excursions like Brookdale Haunted Theater, Camp Evans Base of Terror, Haunted Train Rides at Allaire, and the somewhat less campy but appreciably atmospheric Ghosts of Historic Fort Hancock walk. Then don your motoring cap, goggles and scarf, and meet us at the starting line for another dastardly dozen or so ways to decorate that gourd…
It’s a lovely frosty autumn mourning here in Asbury town, as we gear up for a busy Halloween interlude at our historically haunted Crane House digs; as the spicy crew at MOGO Korean Fusion Taco swears once ‘n for all that this will DEFINITELY be the final weekend of the season (and the long-looming Asbury Anchor website swears it’ll be going live so soon they can taste it); as the legendary Meldon Von Riper Stultz rolls the antique rods and bikes onto the beach for the impending Race of Gentlemen (see Richard Virgilio’s moto-touring story in this weeks B Plot) and the Powers What Am escort the bicycles and boards OFF the boardwalk in the wake of some heretofore unknown but newly enforced regulation (a development that’s got our friend Jeffrey Seeds fit to be chainlocked…see his passionate plaint on Asbury Pulp).
It’s getting quiet enough some nights for the Lone Saxman of the skeletal Casino to solo in his own private World of Pure Imagination (that’s an ultra-rare 1948 Tucker Torpedo, photographed and very nearly overlooked at the Casino on a recent autumnal early weeknight evening)…quiet enough to count the gunshots in the wee hours (we counted FIVE at 1:44am on October 11; later confirmed to have come from Stephen Manor)…but NOT quiet enough to skew the signal-to-noise ratio of the ongoing Stuff to Do parade in and around town AND the greater Upper Wet Side of NJ. Slip around the site some…we’ll wait…and catch up with our updated info on new things going up at New Jersey Repertory Company and Two River Theater, as well as a hearseload of HalloHappenings going on now thru Punkinmas. There’s lots more to discuss this weekend and in the days and nights further afield — and it all gets underway around the bloggin’ bend sinister…
Yes, Caldonia, there IS such a thing as a Louis Prima, Jr., and he’s coming to this weekend’s San Gennaro Festival of the Jersey Shore with his “rock band disguised as a swing band” The Witnesses (a combo that carries on in name from Sam Butera’s classic bunch of lounge lizards out of the golden age of Vegas) AND vocalist Sarah Spiegel (a locally bred lass who fulfills the role of the great Keely Smith and then some). The younger Prima picks up the legacy of the senior Louie — who your parents would know as the guy whose immortal rendition of “Just a Gigolo/ I Ain’t Got Nobody” was copped wholesale by David Lee Roth, and who your grandparents would know as the author of cross-generational swing monument “Sing Sing Sing” PLUS a performer whose “Wildest Show in Vegas” ate the lunches of every greenhorn rocker back in the day. Better still, it’s an act he’s polished to a sharkskin sheen over the course of several years and an increasingly high profile on the national stage — and Saturday night at 8pm, he’ll be taking it to the festival stage adjacent to Nicchio Ristorante in Belmar, as just one of many standout offerings in what’s shaping up as a way-out weekend of weirditude…
While we’re not necessarily going to join the raspy chorus of townies who greet the post-Labor Day outflux of summerers with a heartily predictable Good Riddance Bennys — we has met the Benny, and he is us — we do tend to dig this time of year before the zombie winds grow cold and the smoke detector batteries get replaced (let’s not and say we did). A time to reclaim beach spots, parking spaces, speed limits, and a certain degree of proprietary pride and pleasure in the place where you’ve opted to put down roots, all too often because you could’t afford a NJ Transit ticket to someplace closer to the electrified train lines.
That said, is it just us, or do we detect an extra little edge of weirdness in the happenings in and around the Upper Wet Side this week? Whether by hidebound tradition or happy accident, sometimes it seems as though we save the strangest (and hence most intriguing) stuff for the warm weeks in which we have the beat-up beach pad all to ourselves — a completely unscientific theory borne out by the humble handful of recommendations we’ve wrangled for you here. Sure, you could just as easily map out a strategy of safely stodgy fare (Darius Rucker at the Count Basie; The Offspring at Stone Pony SummerStage) and leave it at that, but at this late date, why go ANYwhich where but weird? Take a look behind the curtain, you don’t believe us…
AVENGERS ASSEMBLE! Clockwise from top: Joe Grushecky, Christine Martucci, Glen Burtnik, Sandy Mack, Billy Hector and Linda Chorney are just a few of the local lights ‘n luminaries dealing out 50 LICKS in honor of the Rolling Stones’ golden jubilee. The allstar assembly is going on Wednesday night at the Stone Pony, and it’s a benefit (for Asbury Angels, which is actually a thing) brought to you by the folks who shine the Light of Day on those dreariest days of January…
You can look ahead to our Humpday handicappings for the details on 50 LICKS…but meantime we’ve got 28 PICKS; an overwhelming onslaught of recommendations for the seven days ahead that we somehow fear STILL doesn’t begin to scratch the sun-damaged surface of the popular diversions going on ’round what we like to call Upper Wet Side of NJ. You be the judge…and FLIP if you like Kicks…
MONDAY! Open Call for BOLERO RED BANK. Our Red Bank pal and awesomely talented grafix/ fine artist Rob Leecock recently Facebonked to the effect that Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” was something akin to the Soundtrack of His Life these days; to which we partypooped that looking into THIS event might change his mind about the truly magnificent music machine best recalled from the dumbass 70s movie “10″. Those of us who are intrigued by such things should know that Larry Keigwin — the “visionary modern-dance choreographer” who’s presented original “large scale flash-mob” dance pieces based on Ravel’s work in cities across the USA — has partnered with Two River Theater Company for a two-week summer-vacation project called Bolero Red Bank. And they’re looking for enthusiastic local participants — no dance experience required — to rehearse and perform in a pro-quality “community art event” that hits the stage of the Bridge Avenue arts center for two public performances later this month.
Beginning at 5pm, Keigwin invites “members from Red Bank and the larger Monmouth County community from ages 2 to 102″ to try out for a performance piece in which more than 50 locals will appear alongside professional dancers from the Keigwin + Company troupe. Rehearsals are Monday-Friday from 5pm-9pm over the next two weeks, with the understanding that “participants have outside commitments and the company makes every effort to accommodate the busy schedules of the cast.” It’s all being done in the spirit of “collaborative process with the participants, capturing the unique qualities of their lives and celebrating the spirit of our community in the final performance.” We could weigh in with our opinions — on the needless trending toward “interactivity” in the arts; on RealiTV narcissism competing with the work of skilled pros; on the saddling of a great piece of music with the aftertaste of an unfortunate image — but really, who cares what we think. Go get ‘em kids; and Leecock, let’s get a drink.
Performances will be at 8pm on July 20 and 21 — right on the same Rechnitz Stage that’s hosted the likes of Alec Baldwin, Bruce Springsteen, Judy Collins and Kevin Smith — as part of a program that also features four pieces from the company’s professional repertoire: Caffeinated (2007), Love Songs (2006), Triptych (2009) and Contact Sport (2012). To sign up, call the Boléro hotline at 732.345.1400, ext. 1815 — and take it here if you just like to watch.Two River Theater, Bridge Ave., Red Bank • 5 – 8pm
MONDAY! Brookdale Summer Lecture Series at Porta. Absolutely no offense to the good people of Asbury hotspot Porta, but we do tend to give the uber-popular progressive pizza/pastaria a block west of the Stone Pony (former home to everything from Club Xanadu to Swell) a W-I-D-E berth on summer-season weekends, for reasons that have everything to do with our preferences for off-peak train travel and autumn. On Monday nights it’s a different story — not only are you more likely to saunter on in and get a table without a wrap-around-the-block wait, but on select Mundanes you can partake of a surprisingly sophisticated offering that you’ll find nowhere else on the Wet Side map. Sponsored by Brookdale Community College — not that you’ll find updated details on their lousy website — the Summer Lecture Series brings a bracing discussion of a now/wow topic of interest to the table, along with expert presenters and of course the intriguing creations of Head Pizzaiola Freddi Vilardi. Tonight it’s something about “the ideologies embedded in today’s politics and the power they have at the polls,” while July 23 brings guitarist Doug Clarke in for a slice of “All That Jazz: History and Performance.” Porta, 911 Kingsley St. and Second Ave., Asbury Park • 7pm/ $7
MONDAY! Michael Amante at Surflight. He’s “The People’s Tenor” — and to prove it, any attempts to go to his website are met with a window that reads “Warning: Visiting this website may harm your computer” (now THAT’s sticking it to the SkyNet overlords!). A regional favorite and an exemplar of the overwrought-but-oh-so-romantic “Phantom” style of coffee-table crooning, Michael Amante visits Surflight Theatre, as part of the summertime comedy/ concert series presented in partnership with Catch A Rising Star. It’s one show only, and it’s a classier corollary to a slate that brings such sophisticated fare as Joe Piscopo (7/16), Jackie the Joke Man (7/25), Pat Cooper (8/20) and Uncle Floyd (8/29) to the LBI landmark. Surflight Theatre, Beach and Engleside Aves., Beach Haven • 8pm/ $89
WEDNESDAY! 50 LICKS at the Pony. Hard to believe that it’s been a full half-century since The Rolling Stones made their debut — actually, wait, have you looked at those yobs lately? I mean, ancent UFO astronauts could use their faces as navigational aids to land their Chariots of the Gods on the geoglyphs of the Nazca desert. And don’t even attempt to Bowmar the math on Bill Wyman’s age.
Anyway, it is very easy to believe that England’s Newest Hitmakers have now as a unit both predated AND outlasted such been-and-gone artifacts as Shea Stadium, the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the Concorde SST. In recognition of the first gig by future game-changers “The Rollin’ Stones” (that was Mick, Keith and Brian Jones — Bill, Charlie and the final letter ‘g’ would join up some six months later), a veritable Just-Us League of local/regional/even national musical movers ‘n shakers have answered the call to assemble at The Stone Pony for a one-night-only hullabaloo hootenanny that can ONLY be called 50 LICKS — a “dynamic two-hour show that you’ll wish the Stones had performed,” consisting of “hits, nuggets, deep cuts, live faves and fan faves” drawn from the best–of collections Hot Rocks and Forty Licks.
It’s a benefit for The Asbury Angels Foundation — whose mission is “to honor and memorialize the lives and significant contributions of members of the Asbury Park musical community who have passed on, including but not limited to, musicians, songwriters, tech support persons, DJs, writers, club owners and promoters” — and among its presening entities is the Light of Day Foundation, meaning that you can bet your Asbury the evening’s rolling roster is highlighted by the man who’s been the public performing face of the annual LOD benefit concerts since their inception, Pittsburgh poet-priest Joe Grushecky. The Boss bud and foreman of the Iron City Houserockers (who appeared in town as recently as this past weekend) will be joined by a heavyweight card of top-ranked talent, including such (inter)nationally noted figures as supersongwriter, impresario and go-to great Glen Burtnik, First Lady of Rock Bebe Buell and Grammy-nommy Linda Chorney. You’ll find a who’s-who of musician’s-musicians (bandleader Marc Ribler, Joe Jackson bassist Graham Maby), bonafide Shore music legends (Billy Hector, Tommy LaBella, Sandy Mack, JT Bowen, Ricky DeSarno, Joel Krauss), some dynamic headliners in their own right (James Maddock, Christine Martucci) and a whole lot more worthy colleagues, each putting their own reverently subjective spin on the Glimmer Twins catalog. Our only quibble? The absence of ultimate blues authority (and professorial Stones fan) Gary Wright, whose participation here would have batted this one straight into McCovey Cove at first pitch.
The event — co-presented by LOD with the Asbury Park Press, the Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce and the Asbury Park Musical Heritage Foundation — will honor the first group of “Asbury Angels” inductees, with the date of the first dedication ceremony announced for later this summer, so follow that halo. Stone Pony, Ocean and Second Aves., Asbury Park • 7:30pm/ $20
WEDNESDAY! Ben Bailey at Surflight. The Emmy-winning host of TV’s Cash Cab — who, in a reversal of the standard showbiz story, was a stand-up comic BEFORE he took to driving a cab for a living — takes the tunnel out to his native NJ for his first fare at the Surflight Theatre, and don’t even BEGIN to fathom how much a trip to the LBI landmark would be from midtown Manhattan. The one-nighter is part of the summertime comedy/ concert series presented in partnership with Catch A Rising Star, and he’ll be spinning some tales from the road, demonstrating his deft dexterity with an audience, and doing everything short of paying you cash to watch. Surflight Theatre, Beach and Engleside Aves., Beach Haven • 8pm/ $50 – $89
WEDNESDAY! Bob Marley’s Legendary Wailers at The Surf Club…and THURSDAY! The Original Wailers at The Stone Pony. It’s duelling Wailers, in back-to-back midweek concert appearances — and may the winners wail on the losers for bonafide bragging rights to the sonic legacy of Bob Marley. Wednesday sees Bob Marley’s Legendary Wailers — a touring unit fronted by frequent Bob bassman, even more frequent Marley family plaintiff (and prolific-in-more-ways-than-one) Aston “Family Man” Barrett — takes the stage of Joey Harrison’s Ocean County landmark atop a bill that features Flight’s Kool and Milan & The Sour Goat. Tix from Ticketmaster or the Surf box office. The Surf Club, 1900 Ocean Ave., Ortley Beach • 8pm/ $20 Then on Thursnight, NJ-born guitarist Al Anderson — a contemporary with Barrett in those great mid-1970s Marley bands — brings his own highly regarded mix of tributes and Marley-inspired new music The Original Wailers to The Stone Pony, with Loose Fit and From the Ground trying things on for size. Stone Pony, Ocean and Second Aves., Asbury Park • 7:30pm/ $22 advance, $25 door
THURSDAY! Jazz in the Park at Riverside Gardens. The popular jazz ‘n blues series of outdoor concerts reclaims its bragging rights as one of the longest running outdoor music offerings in Monmouth County, when Jazz in the Park returns to the sculpted terraces and waterfront walkways of Riverside Gardens, with the “Foreign Funk” of jazz flautist Keith Marks (pictured above) and his combo inaugurating a six-week round of lawnside seating, seductive sounds and complimentary Navesink River sunsets.
That return visti by is followed on July 19 by local “kindie rocker” Miss Sherri — here exploring her music-for-grownups project known as Sherri Pie. Another returning favorite, Little Silver jazz chanteuse Hollie Baines, headlines on July 26 — followed on August 2 by an act making its Riverside debut, trumpeter David Cedeño and his Latin Jazz infused Orchestra. The evening of August 9 will star an act to be announced at a later date, and the series is scheduled to wrap on August 16 with the much-anticipated annual appearance by zydeco partystarters The VooDudes (August 23 and 30 have been reserved as rain dates for any of the featured acts). Riverside Gardens Park, West Front St., Red Bank • 7pm/ FREE
THURSDAY! THE MERCHANT at BCC. Their many slings and arrows of community-theater misfortune have included sudden tempests, blaring ambulance sirens and the occasional stray bicyclist making an unscripted cameo on the open-air “set” — to say nothing of the epic tragedies posed by fur-lined costumes in 100 degree weather. Yea verily, if it’s July, it must be the season for the Summer Shakespeare Ensemble at Brookdale Community College, as the Lincroft campus of BCC prepares to host its annual presentation of classic drama the way The Bard intended it — outdoors, under the sun and stars, on the lawn adjacent to the school’s Performing Arts Center. John Bukovec directs a cast of returning Shakespeareans and newcomers in an airing of The Merchant of Venice, the still controversial “tragic comedy” (best known for its character of Shylock, the Jewish moneylender) that mixes the eternal marriage of love and money with the complexities of pride and prejudice. Get thee to the seasonal aisle of your local supermarket for your lawn chairs and cooler, and make time on a midsummer’s night for an entertainment in truly classic style. Admission to all performances is free; so call 732.224-2411 for weather-related updates and additional info on parking and such. Brookdale Community College, Newman Springs Rd., Lincroft • 7pm/ FREE/ also FRIDAY and SATURDAY at 7pm; SUNDAY at 6pm (through July 22)
THURSDAY! Kristen Butcher at The Supper Club. The Ocean Grove-based nonprofit Cabaret for Life, Inc. continues its productive partnership with Tim McLoone’s Supper Club — and as part of an ongoing series of showcase events, that sophisticated space-age saucer on the Asbury Park boards hosts Kristen Butcher in an evening of showtunes and standards under the title Love Is In the Air. The young veteran of local stages (who lists her special skills as “tongue tricks, Stitch voice, scary low voice, arm trick”) takes the famous bandstand at 7pm; tix can be reserved by calling 1.877.CFL.TKTS — and we guarantee you’ll walk away with a completely reversed and revised definition of the phrase “Butcher-ing a song.” Tim McLoone’s Supper Club, 1200 Ocean Ave. (at Fifth Ave.), Asbury Park • 7pm/ $25
THURSDAY! CELEBRATE SUMMER at Days. Happy we were to welcome Ocean Grove landmark Days Ice Cream to its new outpost on the Asbury Par boardwalk (the pavilion space vacated last year by Candyteria) — and equally pleased are we to note the return of the summertime performance-on-the-porch presentations at the original Starving Artist at Days. The dynamic duo of producer-director Nick Montesano (NENAproductions Theater Project) and Starving Artist co-owner Arnold Teixera have made it a recently minted tradition to entertain seasonal crowds with an award winning series of relaxed but rollicking rain-or-shine revues (presented on the restaurant’s outdoor porch area) under such titles as Summer Summer, Summer Summer Too and Summer: The Prequel — all this in between feeding townies, tourists and visiting luminaries who are appearing in concert at the Great Auditorium.
Here in 2012, it’s Celebrate Summer, a collection of songs from such past/present Broadway musicals from A Little Night Music, Cinderella and Gypsy to Little Shop of Horrors, Grease and Rock of Ages. Montesano (who co-conceived the show with Jessica Berger) directs a cast that spotlights Jennifer Nelson, Casey Grady Surgent, Heather McLaughlin, and Bryan Vitalo — as well as Berger, Montesano and Teixera — with musical direction by Jeff Brown. As the intrepid troupe says, “Open rehearsals on the porch provide passersby with a glimpse of the process needed to mount such a production. Summer audiences have embraced the whimsy of these productions and make it a tradition to attend.” Seating for the six scheduled performances is finite, so reserve those ducats at 732.988.1007. The Starving Artist at Days, 47 Olin St., Ocean Grove • 7:30pm/ $20/ also FRIDAY and SATURDAY at 7:30pm (through July 21)
John T. Lynes and Sydney Turner star as TEDDY & ALICE in the summer stage musical going up at Monmouth U’s Woods Theatre on Thursday…while Kristin Giaritta Lanko and Colin Earyes feature as Sally and The Emcee in Premier Theatre’s intimately scaled conception of CABARET at Asbury’s Berkeley Hotel.
THURSDAY! TEDDY & ALICE at Monmouth U. “I can either be President of the United States or I can control Alice,” declares Teddy Roosevelt in Teddy and Alice, the musical slice of Americana going up at Monmouth U. “I cannot possibly do both!” The man who led the Rough Riders, hunted elephant in Africa, and delivered a campaign speech after being shot in the chest was as “larger than life” as they come. But in “Princess Alice” — a young woman with a taste for smoking, fast cars and headline-making behavior in the corseted climate of Victorian-era America — Teddy had met his match.
The relationship between the 26th President and his famous First Daughter is at the heart of the 1987 musical with book by Jerome Alden, plus songs by Hal Hackaday and Richard Kapp, adapted from the rip-roaring music of the only composer robust enough to capture the essence of these American originals — John Philip Sousa. Keyed to the centennial of Roosevelt’s unsuccessful but spirited run on the Bull Moose Party ticket — and presented at the historic Lauren K. Woods Theatre as the Summer 2012 production of the professional Shadow Lawn Stage at Monmouth — the show stars John T. Lynes and Sydney Turner in the title roles, both reprising their acclaimed turns from a recent staging at Connecticut’s Seven Angels Theatre. They’re joined in the cast of 25 actors by fellow Connecticut cast member Jimmy Donohue, with Deborah Murad (as Teddy’s wife Edith) and Andrew Foote (as Alice’s future husband Sen. Longworth) under the direction of MU faculty member John J. Burke. Here in the heat of a Presidential election season, it’s a rare opportunity to catch a musical at one of our best-kept-secret fave venues — the recently renovated, historic (and historically haunted) playhouse that once served as carriage house for the Guggenheim family’s sprawling “summer cottage.” Tickets for any of the 15 scheduled performances can be reserved by calling 732.263.6889, or taking it here. Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, Cedar and Norwood Aves., West Long Branch • 8pm/ $25 – $35/ also FRIDAY at 2pm and 8pm; SATURDAY at 8pm; SUNDAY at 7pm (through July 29)
THURSDAY! CABARET at the Berkeley Hotel. “What good is sitting alone in your room,” you ask? Well, when it’s a Room of One’s Own, you invite a few dozen friends and Come Hear the Music Play, as they say. Last month’s production of Grease at the Paramount Theatre was abruptly cancelled due to rights-clearance tangles, but producer-director Mark Fleming and the folks at Asbury Park’s Premier Theatre Company rebound in July with a return to The Premier Room — their all-new, custom-crafted, 120-seat space inside the ever-accommodating Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel. The venue that hosted the area debut of the rock-musical drama Next to Normal) promises to make a suitably intimate setting for a fresh look at the Kander-Ebb classic Cabaret, the musicalization of John Van Druten’s “I Am a Camera” that’s set in a seedy German nightclub between the world wars. Remembered for such instant standards as “The Money Song,” “Wilkommen” and the title tune, — as well as for Bob Fosse’s 1972 film version starring an iconic Liza Minelli and Joel Grey — the Broadway show was remade/remodeled in the 1990s, becoming in the process a flexible favorite for venues that are smaller or (in the case of Studio 54) weirder than traditional theaters. Kristin Giaritta Lanko and Colin Earyes head the cast (as expatriate Sally Bowles and the inscrutably sinister Emcee), and tickets for any of the eight scheduled performances can be reserved via the Premier website or by calling 732.774.STAR. Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel, 1401 Ocean Ave. at Sixth Ave., Asbury Park • 8pm/ $28 (discounts for students and seniors)/ also FRIDAY and SATURDAY at 8pm; SUNDAY at 2pm (through July 22)
FRIDAY! Vans Warped Tour at Pee ‘N See. In an earlier, drearier Asbury era, it made itself a hobo-home in the “festival area” of a largely neglected, just-reawakening seaside city of Asbury Park. For the past three years, it staked out space in the parking-lot hell of Monmouth Park Racetrack — a brief but blaring disruption to local suburban life that made traffic headlines on local thoroughfares, if not much of an economic or cultural ripple in the larger landscape. Beginning with this year’s edition, the traveling medicine show that is the Vans Warped Tour comes for the first time to the only area venue that’s sufficiently self-contained to trump its own scrupulously controlled celebrations of “anarchy,” “spontaneity” and “choice” — the colossal lawn mushroom that is the PNC Bank Arts Center. As with the recently re-Asbury’d Bamboozle Fest, it’s a fully branded, multi-stage blast of music, merch, munch and muchmore that’s highlighted by a collection of bands — some veteran, some rookie — that have been known to play regional venues like the Starland for a fraction of the ticket price. The roster for Friday the 13th includes All Time Low, Bayside, Blood on the Dance Floor, New Found Glory, Streetlight Manifesto, Taking Back Sunday, Yellowcard and dozens of other acts, at least one of which is claimed by someone in your life as the all and everything of existence. If participating in the festival vibe (training for your spot in the global economy, pleasing your alien insect overlords) is YOUR thing, get those tix from the Warped webber or from Live Nation, with all the restrictions, surcharges, pat-downs, confiscations, mark-ups, waits, walks and weather issues that make summer in the Holmdel hills such a magical interlude. PNC Bank Arts Center, Garden State Parkway in Holmdel • doors 11am/ $46.50
FRIDAY! The Mastersons at Riverside Gardens. It looked for a little touch ‘n go for a while there, but this Friday marks the welcome return of one of the most listener-friendly seasonal offerings anywhere up and down the Upper Wet Side — the Songwriters in the Park slate that takes over Red Bank’s jewel-in-the-downtown-crown Riverside Gardens for some seven Friday evenings of superior sounds. Produced for a seventh(?) season by Brookdale Community College listener-supported radio station 90.5 The Night, the series pairs a genuinely buzzworthy, better-radio approved, national-profile act with a likeminded local/regional artist — and places them in a setting that’s insanely convenient to the best of in-town life, with great sight lines all around, excellent sound and of course those aforementioned complimentary Navesink sunsets.
In other words, this is a series that music snobs can really sink their teeth into; a sophisticated cut above from the plein-air partybands and sunstroked saloonsters that you’ll encounter at most beachtowel-and-lawnchair extravaganzas — and a look at some of the previous Park-lurkers (Dramarama, Steve Forbert, Jeffrey Gaines, John Wesley Harding, Bongos frontman Richard Barone and the Smithereens’ Pat DiNizio) attests to the quality of the carefully cultivated fare. The addition of that glorious Red Bank noise factor (always a grand parade on Friday nights, main-drag West Front is of course the direct route to the nearby emergency room of Riverview Medical Center) can only make it an even more welcome alternative to the chirp of suburban crickets.
There’ll be NO chirping allowed during the inaugural act of the 2012 sked, when The Mastersons — that wife/husband duo who otherwise serve as crucial components of country contrarian Steve Earle‘s ace band The Dukes — take the stage with their wry and pleasing take on hipster-Americana pop that’s made them darlings of the houseparty-and-festival circuit; coming on kind of like city-slicker strawdogs burnin’ down a Hooterville barnraising (or a harmonious guitar-and-fiddle version of Poison Ivy and the late Lux Interior of The Cramps).Opening is former Elefant frontguy Diego Garcia, who “draws from his Argentine roots” and “explores his Latin hertiatge” with a sound that “conjures the spirit of 1970′s troubadours like Sandro and Jobim as well as singer-songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Harry Nilsson.” Future Fridays feature the likes of Scars On 45, Jukebox the Ghost, River City Extension and songwriter’s songwriter Willie Nile; watch this space for more recommendations as the July-August schedule goes deep. Riverside Gardens Park, West Front St., Red Bank • 7pm/ FREE
FRIDAY! The English Beat at the Stoney. In an interview that you’ll find archived here on upperWETside, The English Beat founder and frontbloke Dave Wakeling described the origins of those great 2 Tone second-wave ska bands who came roaring fullstop out of the seedy cityscapes of a post-Pistols UK, telling us “I can safely say that the Beat started with the music of oppression. The people who developed this music had to put up with lives of deprivation, and given the reality of what things were like in England in the 70s, it’s what my life felt like at the time. It combined an upbeat spirit with a downbeat lyric, and I rather liked the happy/sad message.” Long since relocated to sunny California, the affable singer-guitarist who also co-founded General Public also told us, “The challenge for this generation of kids is to be twice as happy, on half as much as their parents had. You’d do better teaching that to them than School of Rock!”
That chat with one of our all-time favorite interview subjects (a man whose extra-musical endeavors have included a family, a gig as a kids’ soccer coach and a serious stint working for Greenpeace) was done in advance of a show at The Stone Pony that got called on account of blizzard — and some three and a half years later, the 2012 edition of the band who brought us “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Save It For Later,” “Ranking Full Stop” and a whole lot more FINALLY makes good on the Stoney stop, atop a bill that further features The Skels, Sunny Gang, Political Party Crashers and absolutely NO snow in the forecast. Stone Pony, Ocean and Second Aves., Asbury Park • 7:30pm/ $22 advance, $25 door
FRIDAY! The Chop Tops at The Brighton Bar. It’s a Rockbilly Hot Rod Motorcycle Show and Parking Lot Pig Roast, as the insides and outsides of the everlovin’ Home of Original Music on the Jersey Shore shudder and shake with the vibrations, noise and fumes of the Cali-based Chop Tops (kicking it Right Coast in the thick of their Revved Up Rockabilly Tour). The headliners hit the famous Brighton stage at 10:30, preceded by Decrepit Youth (8pm), Radio Threat (8:30), The Strikers (9:15) and Danny B. Harvey (10pm). Brighton Bar, 121 Brighton Ave., Long Branch • 8pm/ $9
FRIDAY! LEGALLY BLONDE at the Count Basie. Back on the Basie boards for their annual July show — a production that traditionally offers a recent Broadway hit and a young cast — Red Bank’s own Phoenix Productions returns with their first staging of Legally Blonde: The Musical — an adaptation (with songs by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin) that’s apparently well on its way to achieving a life of its own apart from Amanda Brown’s novel and its 2001 screen version starring Reese Witherspoon. Real life law student Leigh Emery (pictured above) stars here as sorority girl Elle Woods, a pink-obsessed stranger in the seemingly sober setting of Harvard Law School — and the cast of 40 players (under the direction of Anthony Greco) features Phoenix veteran Phil Mazzara, newcomer John Caliendo and a whole lot more. As per custom, the show that brought us such standards as “Bend and Snap” and “Omigod You Guys” plays for two consecutive weekends at the Count’s crib, whereupon it moves to the historic Strand in Lakewood for two performances on July 28. Take it here for tickets. Count Basie Theatre, 99 Monmouth St., Red Bank • 8pm/ $22 – $29/ also SATURDAY at 8pm; SUNDAY at 3pm (through July 22)
FRIDAY! THE 39 STEPS at the Algonquin. In Patrick Barlow’s Tony-winning whirlwind take on a vintage John Buchan suspense novel — itself best remembered as a 1935 Alfred Hitchcock McGuffin — a cast of four actors (a leading man as our harried hero Richard Hannay, and three other players as everybody else) take on dozens of parts, in a series of lightning quick-changes that become a show in themselves. Beginning tonight and for the next couple of weekends, Shore Rep (the community company founded by our favorite frequent Shore stage actor-director and recovering New Wave musician Jan Topoleski) slams onto the stage of Manasquan’s Algonquin ARTS Theatre with this tale of mistaken manhunts, stolen secrets and confounding conspiracies — a romp that also manages to fold in numerous sly references to other Hitchcockian favorites. Take it here to reserve tickets ($28-$33 adults; discounts for seniors and students). Algonquin ARTS Theatre, 173 Main St., Manasquan • 8pm/ $28 – $33 (senior and student discounts)/ also SATURDAY at 8pm; SUNDAY at 3pm (through July 22)
FRIDAY! Matt O’Ree at The Saint. Years of gigging the stageless saloons, dart-league pubs and package-goods pitstops of the Jersey Shore have helped him transition from fresh-faced prodigy to “gruff but loveable” exemplar of the Blues — but not even the most pointed darts of the millennial Music Business could puncture the firefingered passion that made Matt O’Ree a genuine World Champion player of Blues guitar. Friday night at The Saint, Matt-O gets his best local spotlight set in months — and YOU get a chance to “be part of history” — as Matt and his Band record their show at Scott Stamper’s Main Street music box for DVD-release posterity. It’s scheduled for 10pm, with Eryn Shewell setting things up in sultry style as opener. The Saint, 601 Main St., Asbury Park • doors 8:30pm/ $10
FRIDAY! Lord Gunner at Wonder Bar. When Bon Jovi played Bamboozle as the last-call headline act for the three-day Flim Flam Fest, the best “seat” in the “house” was outside by the north-side “smokers lounge” and snack-bar window of Lance and Debbie’s circuitside landmark, the Wonder Bar — and when JBJ name-checked Asbury’s legendary Lord Gunner band as a personal Wonder-Years muse, he wasn’t just saying that ’cause Lance Larson might have been within earshot. Many have paid their S.O.A.P.-soaked respects to the 1970s-era classic rock unit which, despite a frustrating dearth of recorded legacy, looms large in the scene that eventually promoted The Boss to the greater glory — and when Lance (whose latest project Werewolves of London is a tribute in turn to one of HIS personal saints, the late Warren Zevon) pulled the trigger on a long-awaited Gunner reunion show last year, the repercussions were sufficient to warrant an encore here in the burger-grill heat of another milestone Asbury summer. Lance and Ricky De Sarno are joined by Steve Rava, John Mulrenan — and Ernest “Boom” Carter, the man who singlehandedly supercharged Springsteen’s career vector by putting the BIG roll in the “Born to Run.” Wonder Bar, Ocean and Fifth Aves., Asbury Park • 8pm/ $15 advance, $20 door
Turning The Summer Stage into The Big Casino are LOU CHRISTIE, headlining the first of this year’s West End Cruise Night events in Long Branch — and FRANK SINATRA JR., coming to Ocean Grove’s Great Auditorium for a tribute to his dad that was originally blown off by the “summer wind” of Hurricane Irene.
SATURDAY! Lou Christie in West End. Hey, lightning’s gotta strike a FIRST time in order to strike again — and for the first of two West End Cruise Night events here in summer 2012, the crowdpleasing event sponsored by the City of Long Branch returns to the east end of Brighton Avenue in wild West End. The showy sheetmetal and bodacious Dagmars of the classic/custom cars are augmented by live music from area cover combos Familar Faces and Buddy Holly tributeers Rave On — plus special star attraction Lou Christie, the 60s chart-topper whose unearthly vocal skills supercharged such fantastic perennials as “Lightning Strikes Again” and “Two Faces Have I.” Ocean and Brighton Aves., Long Branch • 6pm/ FREE
SATURDAY! Street Life in Red Bank. Red Bank Rivercenter‘s Saturday night series of free local music showcases returns to the sidewalks and storefronts of the borough’s business district; tonight featuring The Wag at Danny’s on Bridge Avenue; The Al Wright Unit (the cool jazz combo whose elegant drummer/leader and vocalist wife Ruth Wright are both veterans of the cosmic big-band Sun Ra Arkestra!) at The Dublin House; the always impressive Mary McCrink at Bienvenue; The Middlemen at Temple Gourmet Chinese — and the Red Bank Barbershop Quartet dealing out the Sweet Adelines whilst strolling around downtown. 6-9pm/ FREE
SATURDAY! Jersey Shore Roller Girls in Asbury Park. The fast-track, flat-track rollerderby action returns to the space above the briny surf, when the Jersey Shore Roller Girls All Stars meet the CT Roller Girls, in a DOUBLE HEADER that further features a preliminary event that matches the junior unit JSRG Beat Down against the Nickel City Knockouts. The first whistle blows at 6:30pm inside ConHall (with the main event at 8pm) for the all ages evening (21 to drink, natch), with discounts or kids 12 and under or active military, and tix available here or from your favorite local Roller. Keep your wristband for entry to an After Party across the street at the Wonder Bar, following the match. Convention Hall, Ocean and Fifth Aves., Asbury Park • 6:30pm / $20 – $25 ($15 military; $10 kids under 10)
SATURDAY! Sinatra Sings Sinatra in Ocean Grove. In an interview that you’ll find here on upperWETside, Mr. Frank Sinatra Jr. told us with all the candor of a man who’s spent his whole life as The Kid, “the ONLY reason I’ve lasted 49 years in this business is because I’m the son of Frank Sinatra — otherwise I’m just another guy in a tux singing old songs.”
If that sounds a bit harsh, bear in mind that the veteran vocalist, conductor and pianist who’s “never had a hit movie, a hit TV show, or even a hit record” has acquired a newfound confidence — AND an all-important sense of humor about himself and his place in the popular culture — that’s allowed him and his smooth fine bourbon of a Voice to truly honor the classic Sinatra catalog with a mature mastery that sends all those piker “tribute artists” back to waiting tables at the Clam Broth House. Fronting a 20 piece big band in a program entitled Sinatra Sings Sinatra, the 68 year old Son of the Chairman (whose radar sightings have included appearances on The Sopranos, Family Guy and the Ralph Bakshi film Cool World) comes to the Ocean Grove’s great wooden flagship of family entertainment for a concert that was originally scheduled for August 27, 2011 — a date that was blown clear into THIS year by the “Summer Wind” we call Hurricane Irene. Ticket reservations from that postponed show are being honored this Saturday night, and new tix can be had right here. Great Auditorium, Pitman Ave., Ocean Grove • 8pm/ $45 – $55
SATURDAY! Songwriters at The Strand. Burger/ Ribler/ Wymer Strand. It’s another one of those up-close-and-personal — by which we mean YOU GET TO SIT RIGHT UP THERE ON THE STAGE WITH THE PERFORMERS — songwriter showcases at the historic Strand; this one spotlighting THREE local luminaries on the Wet Side scenescape. A tireless performer in solo, duo AND combo contexts, moonlighting tech guy/ attorney and “go-to guy of the greats” Bob Burger (pictured above) has long served up crowdpleasing favorites augmented by a secret-sauce recipe of original compositions. The bespectacled Burger shares the Strand stage with singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer (jingle specialist, Amateur Night at the Apollo winner) Marc Ribler, as well as with the blues-infused rock chantooze Jo Wymer in a rare unplugged setting. Only 165 tickets are being made available, so get ‘em here. Strand Center for the Arts, Fourth St. and Clifton Ave., Lakewood • 8pm/ $29
SATURDAY! Saturday Stand-Up at The Showroom. While the new and expanded location of The ShowRoom takes shape on the Cookman Avenue Arts Bloc, Nancy and Mike’s original storefront screening space — the nifty neighborhood nickelodeon that’s hosted everything from guerrilla theater to multimedia concerts to spoken word to appearances by Pulitzer Prize winning authors — becomes once more a venue for standup and improv sketch comedy, with this first in what promises to be a regularly featured “showcase of fresh comedic talent.” The evening kicks off with the Rutgers-based improv troupe A 4 Effort — taking suggestions from the audience to incorporate into their high energy games of spontaneous comedy-bustion — followed by sets spotlighting young ha-ha hopefuls Rich McDonald, Denis Daley, Steven Hilger, Dina Hashem, John Post, and Sean Newman. The Showroom, 708 Cookman Ave., Asbury Park • 10pm/ $10 ($5 students with valid ID)
SUNDAY! John Sebastian at The Supper Club. Last seen locally on a Monmouth University double bill with fellow Sixties traveler Roger McGuinn, John Sebastian showed that the title of his oft-covered song “Stories We Could Tell” was no idle arrangement of words. The Hall o’ Famer founder and fearless leader of The Lovin’ Spoonful probably did more to establish the bond between the folkie/jugband tradition and the “hip” rock band template than anyone before and maybe even since — and whatever you think of his musical legacy, you can’t deny that the Greenwich Village-bred godson of Vivian “Ethel Mertz” Vance is of that generation that’s got story to spare. Sebastian takes the stage of Tim McLoone’s Supper Club as the latest guest of honor in the “Masters of Music” series, produced by Sammy Boyd and hosted by McLoone on the stage of the fabuluxe Howard Jetsons hotspot above the Asbury boards. Expect to hear the songs (Top Ten Spoonful singles “Do You Believe in Magic,” “Daydream,” “Summer in the City,” “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” and “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?”), his chart-topping theme to TV’s Welcome Back Kotter, and stories — of staggering early-career success; of a “stoned” solo set at Woodstock; of early forays into Hollywood and Broadway; of TV hosting gigs, instructional harmonica tapes and all manner of later-life projects. Call 732.774.1400 to reserve table. Tim McLoone’s Supper Club, 1200 Ocean Ave. (at Fifth Ave.), Asbury Park • 8pm/ $20 – $45 (show only)
We spoke of many things — of baseball (esp. the Cubs and the Mets) and Spider-Man; of a band named XTC, and what it’s like to have a father in law who won the Nobel Prize. We even found a few moments to speak of a little phenom called Rent.
Illinois native Anthony Rapp was already a seasoned veteran of the stage (at age ten, he played the title role in the ill-fated musical The Little Prince) and screen (Adventures in Babysitting, Dazed and Confused) — and Adam Pascal was a native New Yorker whose only stage experience was in fronting a band called Mute — when the two became castmates (and their characters became roommates) in a show that did nothing less than change the face of latter-day Broadway.
Set in the once-forgotten but fast-transitioning landscape of Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the AIDS-ravaged 1980s, Jonathan Larson’s magnum opus borrowed the framework of Puccini’s La Boheme for a production that would win a fistful of Tonys AND a Pulitzer (not to mention a whole new generation of diehard Rentheads), fueled by real grass-roots buzz and the mind-bogglingly sudden death of its creator on the eve of the show’s first preview.
In the original cast of the 1996 Off Broadway premiere and its Broadway incarnation later that same year — a cast that also boasted Idina Menzel, Taye Diggs and Law & Order‘s Jesse L. Martin — Pascal played Roger Davis, the HIV-positive musician, with Rapp as Mark Cohen, Roger’s filmmaker friend and roomie (the two roles were riffs on Boheme‘s Rodolfo and Marcello).
The actors would eventually go their own ways — Anthony would come out and advocate tirelessly for LGBT rights, while Adam would “marry up” and form a partnership with playwright and superstar cookbook author Cybele Pascal (prominent in the food allergy community, and daughter to the Nobel-winning Eric Chivian). And, while the show would launch the Broadway careers of the two young stars in earnest (Pascal would play lead roles in the Elton John-Tim Rice Aida, in David (Bon Jovi) Bryan’s Memphis, and in the 1998 revival of Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret; Rapp would essay the title role in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown), it would also draw the Adam & Anthony team back together for the 2005 film version, and a 2009 tour.
On Saturday night, April 21, the colleagues reunite once more, in a concert presented under the name Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp: Original Stars of Broadway’s RENT — a touring production that comes to Monmouth University‘s Pollak Theatre for one 8pm show.
The three-part program is set to kick off with Pascal performing with his three-piece combo “Me & Larry,” a project that finds the singer adding his powerhouse vocals (as well as his underrated guitar and bass skills) to pianist Larry Edoff’s bold sound in a set that draws from their album Blinding Light, with some eye-opening new takes on some familiar showtune standards, to boot.
Rapp, who documented his own voyage through life and Rent in his memoir Without You, will be performing a mix of savvy originals and surprising covers with his own five piece band — and the two co-headliners team up again for the concert’s climactic segment, an interlude in which the stars share stories and signature songs from that most game-changing (and career-defining) of shows.
UpperWETside spoke to Adam and Anthony separately, and in that order. What follows is a merry mashup of those back-to-back phone conversations.
Ah, the Theatah…”the thrill of first nighting,” as they say in “Autumn in New York;” only this ain’t autumn, New York, or even opening weekend for much of what we’re about to describe. Still, it IS worth our while to do the occasional Footlight Parade Roundup, especially given that it remains the primary beat of this correspondent (who admittedly doesn’t follow the music thing like he used to). To those who believe we’ve been dwelling upon stage stuff pretty heavily in recent days (see our home page for timely stories on the latest offerings from New Jersey Repertory Company, Two River Theater, and the all new L!VE Asbury Park), you’re absolutely right…but as we “spring ahead” clockwise and leave the Winter That Wasn’t in our periscope, we find much randomness of interest to call your attention to, here on the Upper Wet Side of NJ…
DOGS and CARNAGE on First Avenue. We’ve always been fond of the scrappy little storefront “dessert theatre” known as First Avenue Playhouse, but all those who think of the year-round Atlantic Highlands institution as purely the province of Neil Simon and Nunsense might want to take a closer look as March 2012 transitions quickly from Lion-esque to Lamb-y. On stage NOW and continuing through March 24 is a very recent international comic favorite that’s being seen ’round these parts for the first time — God of Carnage, adapted by Christopher Hampton from the French script by Yasmina Reza (Art).
Reset for American audiences to the gentrified precincts of millennial Brooklyn, the four-character comedy centers around a very civilized discussion between two sets of parents, one of whom have a son that injured the son of the others. To say that the level of discourse doesn’t stay civil for too long would be an understatement of course, and things devolve to a point that makes the playground seem like the Oxford Union by comparison. This is the play that netted a Tony for Marcia Gay Harden (who shared the Broadway stage with Jeff Daniels and James Gandolfini), and was filmed last year by Roman Polanski with an Oscar-lauded cast (Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly). Samantha Ambler, one of our fave players on the local community stage scene (and one of the people who’ve brought you the offbeat entertainments of Thirst-E Productions), joins Laurie Devino, Carl J. Nolan and James Walsh for a show that gets served up with dessert TONIGHT, Fridays, Saturdays (plus March 22) at 8:30pm, with a Sunday matinee on March 18.
But that’s not all: Atlantic Highlands-based playwright Joe Simonelli — a prolific creator of original comedies AND dramas who’s premiered many of his works right there on First Avenue — returns to First Ave this Sunday, March 11, for the first in an “every second Sunday” stand of Men Are Dogs, his most popular play and an ensemble piece that’s been published and produced Off Broadway. This exclusive NJ engagement of the comedy (in which a therapist who runs a support group for single and divorced women has issues of her own with Mom and that new delivery guy) has Roberta Davis directing a show that’s been a proven crowdpleaser AND a hit with area actresses. First Avenue Playhouse, 123 First Ave., Atlantic Highlands • all tickets $20 (check website for info on dinner theater packages)
…and there’s more where that came from, theater fans…
Upstairs, Downstairs: In a career that presaged the whole Ameri-cousticana thing, Cowboy Junkies have had their share of…well, you know…but when they hit Monmouth U on Friday night, they’ll be bringing some delightful stylistic swerves from just this side of No-Mad’s Land…
It’s no exaggeration to suggest that it took an obscure band from Canada, recording with a single microphone in an old church, to chart a new course for American music in the new millennium. That the band was rather casually named Cowboy Junkies should never detract from the seriousness of the accomplishment.
Arriving as it did in the thick of a decade defined by synth drums, moussed hair and video playlists, 1988’s double platinum album The Trinity Session came as a breath of cool and refreshing air, from a place where “roots” didn’t necessarily refer to a problem for one’s stylist to address.
On Trinity, the Ontario-based Junkies — siblings Margo, Michael and Peter Timmins on vocals, guitar and drums respectively, plus Alan Anton on bass — brought a deceptively simple, quiet power to a set of originals and covers that ranged from Hank Williams and Patsy Cline to the Velvet Underground; propelling their next four albums to gold or platinum status, and helping to blaze a trail for the back-to-basics Americana musical movement of the 21st century.
Still together in its original lineup, the band has logged many miles on the road and issued many more releases on its own Latent Records label — including 2007’s Trinity Revisited, a new version of the breakthrough album recorded with guests that included Ryan Adams and Natalie Merchant. In 2010, the members of Cowboy Junkies embarked on an ambitious, four-album project entitled The Nomad Series — a cycle of self-released works that includes an entire set of songs by the late Vic Chesnutt (Demons) and the surprisingly hard-edged, electric Sing in My Meadow. Really, at a time when a new hypie generation trips over itself to come off Rootsier Than Thou, the folks who pretty much started this whole thing have taken a turn for the Sonic Youth side of the street.
Just days before the scheduled release of The Wilderness, the fourth and final entry in the series — the musical nomads from Toronto journey to the West Long Branch campus of Monmouth University, for an 8pm performance on the stage of the Pollak Theatre this Friday night, Feb the 24.
Presented by the Center for the Arts at Monmouth as part of the 2011-2012 Performing Arts series, the concert will showcase numbers from the new, all original set of songs; many of which have been part of the band’s live sets in recent years (and several of which are said to have been inspired by Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead).
With the core quartet joined by multi-instrumentalist Jeff Bird, audience members can expect an evening that runs the gamut from the folky intimacy of the band’s earliest efforts, to an always surprising selection of covers (Springsteen, Stones, Talking Heads, The Cure) to the “acid blues” and sonic experiments of recent seasons — although to be sure, delivering “the expected” has never been part of the Cowboy Junkies playbook. Pollak Theatre at Monmouth University, Cedar and Norwood Aves., West Long Branch • Friday 2/24 at 8pm/ $35 – $55
But why stop there? Flip the rekkid over for MORE picks toward the weekend ahead…
Ace portraitist Danny Sanchez — pictured at work and in a self-snap — helps the Monmouth County Arts Council celebrate a milestone anniversary with FORTY FACES, a display of studio studies that marks his first-ever solo gallery exhibit.
The way Danny Sanchez tells it, “I’m basically a working stiff…I don’t think of anything I do in terms of artistic value; I’m just fortunate to be shooting stuff that people like.”
Regardless of how he spins it, however, the veteran portrait paparazzo — a fixture of Red Bank life for decades — has long been a sought-after snapster for scores of headshot hopefuls, CEOs, celebs, senior partners and cherished toddlers.
It stands to reason then that when the Monmouth County Arts Council went looking to assemble a little gallery exhibit in honor of the nonprofit org’s 40th anniversary, they called on the man who’s quietly amassed a groaning file cabinet full of faces — the faces of the people who make the arts happen here in Monmouth County. The visionaries and the volunteers; the educators and the entertainers. The manipulators of paint and pen and pixels, or the sculptors in sound and stone. The character players and choreographers; the philanthropists, and the occasional phreeloader.
The exhibit called Forty Faces — with a tip of the hat to the concurrent 20th birthday of the Two River Times — goes up on the evening of Friday, June 10 with a 6pm reception inside the Pollak Gallery on the West Long Branch campus of Monmouth University. It’s a display of images culled from nearly a quarter century’s worth of Sanchez favorites — and, incredible as it may seem, it’s the first-ever gallery exhibit that the veteran lensman has ever consented to.