It was a seasonably frigid but frightfully eventful week down at The Press Room, the downtown destination rockbar launched just a week or so ago (by Alecia and Trip Brooks with Tim Donnelly) in the Bangs Avenue bailiwick most recently occupied by Asbury Blues — and, another lifetime ago, by the Asbury Park Press (which reminds us: what the hell is a press room?).
First they packed the place for a first-nighter on a dreadful Jerseyshore January night better suited to Scrabble, Snuggies and Sunny marathons. They brought in migrating Shore songbird Nicole Atkins for an official kickoff that caught a healthy amount of solar wind from the concurrent Light of Day hullabaloo going on about town. They introduced a staff that boasted every unimpeachably accredited music heavy from Hinge to (program director of the much-missed Modern Rock FM 106.3 back in th’ day) Rich Robinson.
Oh, and they accommodated a daytime walk-in customer by the name of Bruce Springsteen, who lensed part of his new video in and around the bar — although we’re told that this well-circulated clip (an effort that’s copyrighted to the Boss himself rather than to Sony) is a “place holder” for a forthcoming, formalized vid that’s expected to feature more than a glimpse of the Press Room.
We’ve had our say on the new Bosssong in this forum, of course, and we could surely be babbling over any one of a number of Brooks-based excitements in the works (including a new Italian ristorante, the ongoing restoration of the Savoy Theatre, and another development so brain-tilting that we’re not sure we hallucinated it all). Still, the next time we ventured over to the Press (as the kids are most surely not calling it), we had an altogether different reason for being there — and a meeting about a pretty intriguing new project that involves Our Mrs. Brooks with two of the more dynamic personalities we’ve encountered on the regional theater scene.
If you’ve come across mention of something called Live! Asbury Park in regard to The Press Room, let it be known that the name connotes a professional company for the presentation of theatrical and performing arts productions at venues around town — with the accent on the ever-morphing sonic legacy of the seaside city Where Music Lives (and laughs, and loves).
The endeavor reunites three creative people who were involved to various degrees with ReVision Theatre — former ReVision producing partner Alecia Brooks as Creative Producer, Carlos Armesto (director of several of the most acclaimed ReVision offerings — including a Spring Awakening that we described as the show in which the troupe had “truly hit its mark”) as Artistic Director, and Michael Thomas Murray (music director for the majority of the company’s rock-infused musicals) as what could ONLY be called music impresario.
Together they’re teaming up to fight crime — or at least the criminal lack of live professional theatrical productions in an arts-charged city that by all rights should be dripping with dramaturgs — with The Press Room as headquarters for the initial phase of the project.
While we’re confident that you’ll be hearing a lot from the Live! Asbury Park triumvirate in the coming weeks, no specific events have been announced or scheduled just yet — that said, upperWETside was pleased and proud to be the first boutique media outlet to introduce you to this crew, and for the deep-dish detail we respectfully turn the floor over to Carlos, Alecia and Mike…
ALECIA: We expect to be up and running within the year…this year is our intro to the audience. Things are becoming very aligned for us now. I’m not used to this much positive all at once! We have the Press Room to work with for our first events, and we’re close to lining up a regular venue for larger scale events.
We’ve also got a board of hungry individuals who have a stake in this community, and who are ready to get things accomplished. Apart from Carlos and myself and Trip, we have Robert and Anita Weiner, along with Robert and Roberta Obler.
MIKE: We’ll be starting with some concert-based sort of presentations here at The Press Room, maybe in March — and we’ll have a bit of nostalgia in the beginning, with a show that I’ve been involved with for about four years in various incarnations. It’s a tribute to a musical figure from years back, along the lines of Jersey Boys. We’ll be programming other concert-based events, as theatrical as we can make them in this space…think Joe’s Pub.
CARLOS: All of the programming is rooted in the musical history of the city.
ALECIA: We love music way too much…we take it very seriously. The music’s really got to be up to par, with anything that we do.
MIKE: I’ve always been committed to a certain level of quality in the projects that I take on…that’s why I still wanted to continue working with Carlos and Alecia when I got the opportunity. We like the idea of immersing the audience in the time and the place that’s represented by the music in a show.
ALECIA: We’re proud of the work we did for ReVision. It brought us together as a team, and we’re committed to maintaining that same level of quality with our new projects. We were always interested in the process of how the three of us worked together…the infrastructure was already in place for us to continue to do quality work, and we took away a tremendous amount of positive experiences and support from what we did in the past.
ALECIA: And people are going to see Tommy again from us!
MIKE: Tommy to me was a moment of real clarity, collaborative purity, when you find the right people to make it happen. There have been many versions of Tommy, but what we did was our own thing. And we can do it again.
CARLOS: It’s all part of a six-year plan…down the road we’d like to do a season of four mainstage productions and a concert series, along with a workshop program and an education program. There’s this wonderful synergy at work. It’s about the business mind, as well as the artistic mind. Eventually I could see us presenting dance, puppetry…anything LIVE!
ALECIA: It’s kind of like what we’re doing with the music here at The Press Room. There was a whole hippie world that was not being catered to…all these artists who deserve to be recognized.
CARLOS: We want to speak to all the diverse communities here.
MIKE: Those moments when you can bring those communities together, as we did with Kingdom, Tommy and Rocky Horror, are some of the most exciting things you can experience. There’s this energy of acceptance; a big part of the spirit of what we love about Asbury Park.