IT’S WHAT’S UP FOR WEEK OF MAY 3 – 9

Big Pussy and li’l doggies at the Wonder Bar…the dogs also serve (and the bands let their flag-wavers flag fly), at a Headliner fundraiser function…magical butterflies and Cirque-Tacular skunks at Monmouth U…the hits of 1918 at Trinity Church, and a Class of ’77 CBGB legend at The Saint. It’s WHAT’S UP in and around Asbury town, for this first breath o’ May…so dig if you will these highlighted recommendations, and find the FULL rundown of music, movies, art, theater and MORE in the printed pages of this week’s COASTER intelligencer!

SOUNDS: The Gangster Squad at the Wonder Bar

It doesn’t get much more classically old-school than this sonic side-gig project from Vincent Pastore, known for all eternity as “Big Pussy” from the landmark HBO series The Sopranos. While Pastore has regularly rolled in to Asbury Park for such events as the annual Light of Day concerts and other big-hearted benefit affairs, his encore appearance TONIGHT, May 3 at The Wonder Bar strikes a bittersweet note, as it represents the farewell show for The Gangster Squad. The veteran thespian (whose screen exposures range from countless roles as mob guys, to memorable stints on Celebrity Fit Club, Celebrity Apprentice, and Celebrity Family Feud) has announced that he’ll be putting the focus on his acting career for the foreseeable future — but his buddies and bandmates aren’t about to let him go quietly, as Thursday’s set promises a Sunday-sauce banquet of vintage oldies, family-affair favorites, and quite possibly a few surprises, courtesy of musically-made guys like Tony “Bocci” Amato, Asbury’s own legendary Lance Larson, and who-knows-who from Pastore’s past. It’s $15 at the famous door (with a portion of proceeds dedicated to Debbie De Lisa’s Asbury Boardwalk Animal Rescue), but don’t be funereal about it — if we’ve all learned one thing about this music game, it’s that just when you think you’re done, they come pulling you back in!

STAGES: Cirque-Tacular’s Spring thing, at Monmouth U

The vivid creatures and features of springtime — including “jump-roping frogs, twirling flowers, dancing birds, glittering rain showers and even a contortionist earthworm” — are brought to life for young theatergoers by a troupe of acrobatically dynamic actors, as the Monmouth University Children’s Theatre series continues with the Cirque-Tacular company’s touring show Spring-A-Ding-DING! Hosted on the stage of the Pollak Theatre, the Friday morning earlybird 10 am performance is an “adventure through the seasons” in which charming and curious Brianna meets comical critters (including her fragrant new friend, a skunk), and learns new lessons as she searches for the butterfly that will usher in the next season, summer. It’s all conveyed through the talents of Cirque-Tacular’s dancers, circus artists and specialty variety performers, in a way that reinforces the ageless and all-ages appeal of entertainment and artistry that’s ALIVE and in the moment. Tickets ($15) can be reserved through the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at www.monmouth.edu/arts.

SCENES: A Pugapalooza weekend, at the Wonder

Bring your canine companion out to the Yappy Hour Deck at The Wonder Bar on Saturday, May 5 (and celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the process), for a matinee fundraiser benefiting the rescue pets of PugSquad.org. It’s the fifth annual edition of the event founded by Connie Breech of the Asbury Park Police Department; now a weekend-long affair that’s keynoted by a Friday evening meet-and-greet at Dark City Brewery (1001 Main Street; $5 suggested donation) from 5-8 pm. There will be food truck refreshments, vendors, music and gift baskets during Saturday’s 1-5 pm get-together ($10 donation requested), and a Pugapalooza Brunch at the Wonder on Sunday, May 6 from 11 am to 1 pm. It all leads up to Sunday’s 1 pm “Pink Your Pug Out Promenade” on the Boardwalk at Fifth Avenue, complete with prizes for Pinkest Pug, Pug Couple, and Pug Grumble. Take it to the Pugapalooza Asbury Park Facebook page for de tails!

SOUNDS: NJ Gay Men’s Chorus at Trinity Church

It was a pivotal moment in time for America, both on the home front and in the greater world beyond. On Saturday evening, May 5, the year 1918 is evoked through the voices of the soldiers who served their country in “The War to End All Wars” — as well as the peacemakers, the suffragettes, and the workers who marched and fought their own battles for social justice on the streets of our nation’s cities — when the New Jersey Gay Men’s Chorus returns to Asbury Park with the spring concert presentation 1918: A Musical Time Capsule of Remembrance and Resistance. Hosted inside the lovely and historic Trinity Episcopal Church at 503 Asbury Avenue, the 8 pm performance finds the NJGMC celebrating “the quiet power of music made popular a century ago” through songs of camaraderie (“Hail! Hail! The Gang’s All Here,” “Solidarity”), remembrance (“Flanders Field,” “Armistice 1918”), and love in bloom (“Let Me Call You Sweetheart”). The legacy of the Armenian Genocide will also be honored, with the inclusion of the Armenian folk song “Loosin Yelav.”  Available tickets ($20) can be reserved in advance at njgmc.org or 732-579-8449, or purchased at the door for $25.

STAGES: THE MUSIC MAN at the APAC

There’s “Trouble” again in River City, as the much-loved Meredith Willson musical The Music Man brings that traveling huckster Professor Harold Hill back to the local stage, for four performances at Ocean Township’s Axelrod Performing Arts Center. It’s a production of the APAC’s Rising Stars Youth Performing Arts Program, with Lisa Goldfarb directing a cast that’s highlighted by Joseph Grisanzio as the title character whose grand schemes of “Seventy-Six Trombones” turn a small Midwestern community on its ear. Carlie Goldfarb is Marian Paroo, the librarian who turns the con artist around in turn — with Simon Clissold, Gillian Finnegan and Max Borish heading up the supporting players in the hit show that also boasts the romantic “Til There Was You” and the showstopping “Shipoopi.”  Choreography’s by Wendy Roman, with musical director Randal Hurst leading the band. Performances are at 1 and 5 pm on Sunday, May 6 (as well as May 13), and tickets ($22) can be reserved by calling 732-531-9106 ext. 14, or visiting axelrodartscenter.com.

SCENES: Rebuilding Warriors Benefit at the Headliner

They’re known far and wide as “America’s Most Patriotic Band” — fronted by a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, and spangling their stars-and-stripes message with the shock ‘n awe of a “post-grunge hard rock” sonic salvo. On Sunday, May 6, Jersey’s own Madison Rising will be the special musical guests (along with fellow Garden Stater and country artist Nikki Briar) for a Rebuilding Warriors Fundraiser at The Headliner in Neptune. Going on from 2 to 7 pm, it’s a fourth annual benefit for the Fords-based nonprofit that “provides highly trained and socialized service/ companion dogs to veterans diagnosed as amputees, as well those with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).” A $25 donation at the door allows patrons ages 21 and up access to free food, happy hour drink specials, and a chance to enter a 50-50 raffle (kids 13 and under will also be admitted during this special “most ages” event). A service dog presentation will also be featured at 4 pm, with more info on the nonprofit’s work available at RebuildingWarriors.com.

SOUNDS: Richard Lloyd at The Saint

While he’s still not a household word among mainstream rock fans, the guitar ace, singer-songwriter and producer Richard Lloyd has been there, time and again, wherever and whenever history was being made. A “student of a student” of no less than Jimi Hendrix, the kid from Pittsburgh met the master and studied his game-changing technique in real time — while his travels brought him from the legendary 1970s industry parties of LA, to the stage of NYC’s CBGB, where his long association with the one-of-a-kind band Television found him present at the creation of a scene that shook the world. Having released seven albums across the decades (and lent his breathtaking fretwork to projects by Matthew Sweet, John Doe and others), this relatively low-key member of punk/new wave’s “Class of ‘77” continues to illuminate his retrospective sets (ranging from psych-garage oldies like “Fire Engine” to selections from his 2016 release Rosedale) with passionate, eloquent solos that transcend words. Returning to Asbury town for the first time in several years, he arrives Saint-side for a compelling reason to venture out and kick things Main Street on a Monday night; ably appetized by garage-rock popular mechanics The Ribeye Brothers and gods, all for a $15 ticket and a 7:30 pm door.

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, May 3 2018