THE RIBEYE BROS. BRING THE MEAT ‘N MORE, TO BLOCK PARTY & BEYOND

The Ribeye Brothers showcase some prime cuts during a prime slot at the Bond Street Block Party on Saturday, September 14…then return to Asbury town for a special “Taint at The Saint” evening on September 19. Photo by William DeVizia for Cool Dad Music

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), September 12, 2019

 They’re the indoor/outdoor carpeting that ties the music-mad ROOM together — connecting the 20th century Shore scene with the hypercurrent hipsterverse; the roots-rock traditionalists with the alt-rock trailblazers; the experience of playing before international stadium-size audiences, with the bump ‘n grind of an old neighborhood go-go bar.

Here in the Local Summer interlude — when many of the season’s busiest bands curtail their activities, and some of the Shore’s most venerable venues up and fold their patio umbrellas for a long winter’s nap — the year-round institution that is The Ribeye Brothers is perhaps more visible and audible than ever; pushing the open-air envelope well into the post-Labor Day afterbirth, seeking out and exploring strange new places to play, and boldly Going There with an all-new, as yet untitled, recorded music project.

Pretty ambitious and confident for a group whose thematic stock in trade has been the musical tale of woe — short and bitterly sweet blasts of “detached garage” rock with titles like “Drinkin’ and Stinkin,” “Swagger Turns to Stagger,” “D.W.I.,” “Disappointment Punch,” “Wrong End of the Leash,” and that crossover crowdpleaser, “Sh*t Car.” Working a side of the street once occupied by classic “tears in my beer” country, the songs of former Monster Magnet men Tim Cronin and Jon Kleiman are vroomed-up vignettes of rejection, recidivism and ruin, narrated by characters whose dreams of grandeur have been curb-jawed by store-brand booze, romantic betrayals, suicidal brooding, and an unerring instinct for the Bad Choice.

Even when Cronin and company channel Andy Griffith’s megalomaniacal Face in the Crowd character in “Lonesome Rhodes” (a purported favorite of no less a public figure than The Boss), or landing songs on the soundtracks of network TV shows (Criminal Minds) and indie features (Let Me Down Hard), there’s a fatalistic (but fun) vein of Eeyore-attitude soaked into every fiber of “the band who hates themselves more than you do.” But, whether the Sons of Mrs. Ribeye are stomping out a brand new number or cutting up on covers of old Black Sabbath (or very old Pink Floyd), the fact remains that, for the band’s devoted audience, a Ribeyes roast is a guaranteed and garage-rested good time — or, as this correspondent has said before, “the most raucously pounding pity party you’ll ever encounter.”

Though still a Red Bank-based band by pedigree, the lineup of Cronin (lead vocals), Brent Sisk (guitar), Kleiman (guitar, vocals), Joe Calandra (bass), and Neil O’Brien (drums) can stake just as much of a claim to the coverage area served by your friendly neighborhood Coaster and Link newsweeklies, with the latter three hanging their hats these days in Neptune, Eatontown, and Asbury Park respectively. In fact, Asbury habitues might better know O’Brien under his alter ego DJ Foggy Notion, with the man and his milk crates remaining a fixture at Anchor’s Bend, Salvation Lounge, AP Yacht Club and numerous other nightspots (in addition to the odd participation in performance-art events like Andrew Demirjian’s Lines in the Sand, presented on the AP beach this past August by DC’s Transformer collective).

This Saturday, September 14, the Brothers (with adopted sibling Sweet Joey filling in on drums) are among the featured acts taking it outside at the 2019 Bond Street Block Party, the annual presentation of the Bond Street Complex venues (about which more momentarily) that commandeers the stretch of Bond between Cookman and Mattison Aves for a festival of bands, beers and BBQ that runs from 1 to 10 pm. Then on the evening of Thursday, September 19, a busy-season Neil rejoins his mates; once more steering the back of the firetruck as the band opens for the satirically satanic stylings of Witch Taint (‘the most extreme Norwegian Black Metal band from Gary, Indiana ever, probably”) at that downtown boxcar berthplace of rock, chief engineer Scotty Stamper’s The Saint..

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REMEMBER JONES WELCOMES YOU TO TOMMY’S HOLIDAY CAMP

An all-star team of talents celebrates the 50th anniversary of The Who’s rock opera TOMMY, with three performances of a special concert adaptation in Ocean Township.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), September 5, 2019

Rain or shine, the Labor Day holiday just passed is traditionally a time of last-licks recreation and relaxation for most; a somewhat arbitrary DMZ between the interlude in which we are expected to “make memories,” and that in which we return our attentions to the great filled-beyond-capacity IN box of our lives.

Not so much Anthony D’Amato. Given his superhuman schedule and otherworldly work ethic, the singer/actor/ bandleader/ producer/ director and master-showman impresario best known these days as Remember Jones can be forgiven for maybe not knowing what season it is, which tour stop on the itinerary, or even exactly which full-length show he’s performing at this moment.

In truth, however, the new heir to the mantle of Hardest Working Man in Shore Business remains completely in command of his faculties, his frankly awesome musical organization, and his vision for a continuously evolving career that’s seen the big Remember Jones band crisscross the country as crowdpleasing ambassadors for the Jersey Shore scene — all the while continuing to explore (and stake a significant claim to) nearly every corner of the popular music landscape.

Having just come in off the road from an extensive 30-city tour — and keeping the momentum going with shows in Atlantic City and Long Beach Island — Mr. Jones and company ushered in September with a full-set outdoor concert at Asbury’s Springwood Park — the capper to a “Funky Fresh Market” event that found D’Amato also lining up the numerous opening acts, coordinating the food trucks, and pretty much taking on everything short of serving as parking valet.

Labor Day proper found the troupe devoting the entirety of that alleged day of rest to some intensive rehearsals for their latest project:, TOMMY in Concert — an all-star, golden anniversary salute to that game-changing album of the classic rock era; one that commandeers the auditorium of the Axelrod Performing Arts Center for three performances this Saturday and Sunday, September 7 and 8.

Speaking at the end of a ten-hour rehearsal session at the Ocean Township venue where he mounted an acclaimed concert version of HAIR in 2018, D’Amato/Jones confides that “they wanted me to do a Woodstock celebration as a follow-up, but I felt that it had kind of been played out by this point…I wanted to do something different; a full recreation of The Who’s original Tommy that will make you believe you’re ‘hearing it again for the first time’.”

While it shares a 50th anniversary with that generation-defining festival — and while it did manage to have a presence on the Woodstock stage, as The Who performed some of its score during their featured set — Pete Townshend’s rock opera of a deaf-dumb-and-blind kid represents a bit of of a break with the spirit of those Three Days of Mud and Music on Max Yasgur’s farm. Taking off from Townshend’s earlier character-driven songs (plus little mini-epics like “A Quick One While He’s Away”), and inspired in part by his own spiritual explorations, Tommy has some pointed things to say about twisted family dynamics, self-imposed isolation, cults of personality, plus the many temptations and weirdnesses of life on post-WWII planet Earth.

 As the Tommy phenomenon took hold of the popular imagination, the ambitious rock record project took on a whole other life of its own; first with a 1972 orchestral album that boasted contributions from Ringo Starr, Rod Stewart, and Richie Havens among others — and, eventually, a Tony winning Broadway musical that departed somewhat from past incarnations, in terms of song selection and the relationships of the characters.

In between appeared Tommy: The Movie, a 1975 carnival from director Ken Russell that starred Who singer Roger Daltrey in the title role — and that paired the first-time actor with a supporting cast that included Ann-Margret, Jack Nicholson, Oliver Reed, and (as the Pinball Wizard), a height-of-his-popularity Elton John. Still, while the Remember Jones conception of Tommy takes some crucial cues from these past endeavors, this golden-jubilee tribute promises to be a thing unto iteself.

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ANOTHER BAND OF BROS LIGHTS UP A.P., FOR A SPECIAL BROTHERVERSARY

L-R; Candle Brothers Phil Russo, Pat Guadagno and Frank Sabo are joined by Rich Oddo and specal guests, as they celebrate “45 Years of Harmony” in Supper Club style, this Labor Day weekend.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), August 29, 2019 

When word got out that those famous Brothers were due in Asbury Park, the waterfront became a supercharged hive of activity, as crews erected a custom-built stage, traffic was diverted from streets and sought-after parking spots, and the cameras rolled for the benefit of a fervent international fan base.

Well, okay, the superstar siblings were The Jonas Brothers, and the occasion was this past Sunday’s video shoot for the MTV Video Music Awards. But even as other Shore locales prepare to close the books on another summertime season, this coming Labor Day Weekend serves merely as a gateway to an action-packed Local Summer in Asbury Park — and another band of Brothers will help sound the keynote.

While the various members of The Candle Brothers are “family” in band-name only, the musical combo boasts a degree of fraternal solidarity that would make the figurative Mama Candle proud — and this Sunday, September the First, the veteran musicians celebrate “45 Years of Harmony” with a special retrospective concert, upside the space-age boardwalk landmark that is Tim McLoone’s Supper Club.

In a year of golden anniversaries (Woodstock, moon landing, Miracle Mets), that 45-year milestone might appear a bit less momentous, but for Pat Guadagno, it’s a can’t-miss opportunity to reconnect once more with some of his greatest and longest-running colllaborators — and, as the Monmouth County musical mainstay adds with a laugh, “we’re not sure if we can make it to 50!”

As legend has it, The Candle Brothers were born full-grown one night in 1974, when Guadagno and Frank Sabo were harmonizing on Everly Brothers songs at Merri Makers Magnolia Inn in Matawan — and a lounge patron referred to them as “The Candle Sisters…because they always go out together” (“guess you had to be there”). Well, the playful name stuck, sort of, and when the duo joined forces with fellow singer-musician Phil “Red River Russo, it was as The Candle Brothers that they sought out gigs at whatever bar, bistro, back deck, boardwalk or beachtop bandstand would have them.

These days, those Candles blowouts are down to an average of one per year, a state of affairs that dates to Sabo’s having relocated to Florida (‘maybe the secret to a successful musical marriage is living so far apart”). But even as Guadagno continues to navigate a solo career as a master entertainer who can command any room — from the iconic Count Basie Theatre (home now to the singer’s annual big-band Bobfest birthday salutes to Mr. Dylan), to the most intimate corners of your favorite friendly neighborhood watering hole — this Candle Brothers show represents a significant slice of living history, for a singer who’s been very much a part of it.

Having grown up in a household with “parents who were really into music,” young Pat took equal amounts of inspiration from seeing Sammy Davis Jr. at the Garden State Arts Center, as the Rolling Stones at Convention Hall. The future professional musician was there in the audience when the Freehold area teen band The Castiles played the Marlboro YMCA (“I knew then that their guy Bruce on guitar was something special”), — and he had already seen both Jimi and Janis, by the time that he (almost) made it to Woodstock.

“Me and my buds Tom and Charlie sent away for seven-dollar tickets that never came…so we never went,” he recalls of that weekend in August 1969; adding that “I wanted to go because I wanted to see Bert Sommer,” in reference to the late folk singer who’s been called “the forgotten man of Woodstock.”

As for the Candle boys, the little group of “saloon singers” from Jersey burned themselves into the memory of some huge audiences nationwide, with the help of a particular oldie-but-goodie.

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DIG IN TO THOSE IN-DIG-ENOUS SOUNDS THAT ABOUND ALL AROUND

L-R; Karl Denson (August 23), Billy Hector (August 24), JT Bowen (August 24) and The Sensational Soul Cruisers (August 25 PLUS August 27) are among the foundational sounds to be found in days to come, here within NJ’s capital community for live music.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), August 22, 2019

 It’s known as “indigenous music” in certain scholarly and appreciative circles — and, while it doesn’t connote the sort of sounds that might have been in the air before the first settles arrived on this shore, it’s all about the Jazz and the Blues (and, by extension, pretty much everything else) that form the backstory of America. Here in NJ’s capital community for live music, the place where the sand meets the surf has also historically been a place where diverse groups of people meet up; in ways that have spanned the spectrum from tinderbox-tense to terrifically tuneful.

With arguably more original music organizations working this patch of sandy soil than ever before, more places to put ‘em in — and a heightened sense of the Shore scene’s past, present, and future — it’s no accident that numerous nonprofit entities have stepped up with a shared mission to both preserve the best of the past, and to promote the now and next generation of players. Orgs like the Asbury Park Music Foundation, the nascent African American Music Project, the Red Bank-based Jazz Arts Project, and the Lakehouse Academy continue to make their presence felt in a myriad of ways — but for sheer continuity and consistency of cause, they’ve all got to tip their hat to the 30-plus years’ mission of the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation.

“It’s a passion with me…I do it to support live music,” says Tom Baldino, a retired banker who first joined the all-volunteer JSJBF “around the turn of the century…that sounds like a long time ago!” — and who has served as the organization’s president for the past seven years.

“I go back a few years myself…the first show I ever saw was Jackie Wilson at Convention Hall, in 1959,” adds the graduate of Asbury Park High School (and veteran of numerous teen-years jobs on the boardwalk). “I was supposed to be at the movies that night…but I ditched the Mayfair to attend that show, and I’m glad I did.”

While the lifelong music fan remembers the Asbury of the late 1950s and 1960s as “a magical time to be there…I even got to sneak into the old Orchid Lounge once or twice,” his focus remains very much rooted in the here and now — with a particular emphasis on the annual Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Festival, the 2019 edition of which goes up this Saturday, August 24 on the Great Lawn area of the Long Branch boardwalk.

Running between 1 and 9 pm — and followed immediately thereafter by a display of fireworks — the one-day event assembles an eclectic collection of pure jazz, R&B, electric blues and bluesrock artists from across the region for the ninth year on the LB waterfront (following a single year’s stand at Monmouth Park). It’s a more concentrated successor to the weekend-long festivals that were once hosted at Red Bank’s Marine Park — large-scale affairs that, while regularly boasting some pretty awesome national/ international names, often had to take a seat as Mother Nature blew the meanest solos (folks still whisper of that fateful and fogged-out night when an allstar band of festival refugees, including Levon Helm, David Johansen, and Howlin’ Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin, commandeered the now-defunct Olde Union House restaurant for an impromptu jam that made Shore music history before getting shut down by the fire department after just two songs).

By contrast, “we’ve been really lucky with the weather since we moved to Long Branch…and the people of the city have been really supportive of us, beginning with Barry Stein, as well as the police, Public Works…and I’ve got to give a shout out to Mayor Pallone and his staff, who’ve been so accommodating, and who have allowed us to continue our mission.”

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NJ REP GOES BACK IN THE USSR…AND DOWN THE MEMORY HOLE

L-R: Steve Brady, Benjamin Satchel, Andrea Gallo, and Amie Bermowitz star in the NJ Repertory Company production of D.W. Gregory’s MEMOIRS OF A FORGOTTEN MAN, opening this weekend. (Photos by Andrea Phox)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), August 15, 2019

In the 2018 feature film The Death of Stalin, a cast of veteran comic character players (including Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, and Monty Python’s Michael Palin) has a blast detailing the often murderous machinations of a group of Russian Communist Party insiders, each one jockeying for top dog status after the longtime dictator Joseph Stalin drops dead on the carpet.

As D.W. Gregory reminds us, however, the transition between the uniformed Soviet strongman Stalin and the Cold War regime of the bullet-headed, business-suited Nikita Kruschev wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs — not for the various party functionaries who feared they were on the wrong side of history’s gun barrel, nor for the “ordinary people, who really aren’t political themselves…but who get caught up in massive political upheaval, when society is completely re-ordered.”

The award winning playwright who makes her home these days in West Virginia has been spending a good deal of time in the beachier setting of Long Branch in recent weeks, observing rehearsals of the New Jersey Repertory Company production of her script Memoirs of a Forgotten Man. Described as a work that “wrestles with the idea of public memory…and deals with what happens when a regime rewrites history,” the play opens this weekend as the latest offering at NJ Rep’s branded playhouse on downtown Broadway.

Going up for a pair of preview performances beginning tonight, August 15, the drama is also the latest in a long line of partnerships with the National New Play Network, the organization through which nonprofit theaters like NJ Rep share in the “rolling world premiere” of a featured show, which is produced in several member locales, each with its own director and cast.

While the Long Branch-based professional troupe has often been first out of the box with NNPN shows, in this case Memoirs has been seen by audiences in West Virginia (at Shepherd University’s Contemporary American Theater Festival), and upstate New York (at Shadowland Stages in Ellenville). And, as the playwright (who has had two of her earlier scripts become fully staged productions at NJ Rep) sees it, that’s a good thing.

“As a writer who likes to stay involved with my work, I get to refine the script as it moves from theater to theater…which is great,” she says. “I actually wrote this play with NJ Rep in mind…I often think of their space when I’m writing…and I have to say I was a little dubious about the first production, which took place in a 400 seat house, although they did an amazing job with it!”

Moving back and forth in time between the 1930s era when Stalin cemented his grip on absolute power, and the space-age span of Kruschev, Memoirs of a Forgotten Man displays the signature fascination with 20th century history that served the veteran journalist well in past works like her celebrated Radium Girls (and particularly October 1962, the tense period piece that brought the Cuban Missile Crisis to the NJ Rep home front in 2004). There’s also an implicit parallel to our own American moment, in which the concept of “fake news” and some time-tested tenets of propaganda have combined with some previously unimaginable teechnologies to create a cultural environment in which (as she observed on the Shepherd University website) “we’re losing our grip on realiity because we can’t agree on the fundamentals of facts themselves.”

According to Gregory, “I had the idea for the play well before the 2016 presidential campaign…things like Fox News and Alex Jones, Infowars were on my mind…but I didn’t have a story to hang it on.” That all changed, however, when the author “stumbled across” two books that would bring the project into sharp focus.

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THE ASBURY PARK THEATER CO. SALLY’S FORTH

TV legend Sally Struthers is the special guest host — and Broadway actress-singer Carter Calvert headlines the eve’s featured musical talent — whn the new Asbury Park Theater Company makes its bow with a Friday fundraiser at The Asbury Hotel.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), August 1, 2019

As the iconic hard-hatted Construction Worker character of The Village People — a role that he’s performed countless times in the latter-day edition of that disco-era institution — William Whitefield can be said to truly know what it takes to put on a show; both the choreographed spectacle that plays out to the crowd, as well as the brick ‘n mortar, hammers ‘n nails, elbow-grease reality required to present and sustain the whole grand illuson.

These days, the longtime resident of Asbury Park is trying on another hat — that of producing artistic director for the Asbury Park Theater Company, an ambitious new entity that makes its public bow this Friday, August 2, with a special fundraiser show at The Asbury Hotel.

As the veteran actor, singer, producer, director, composer and arts administrator tells it, “people come here for the culture, but an established theater has been a missing piece…we aim to create a professional theater company for this community, for Asbury Park.”

To make that happen, the Construction Worker teamed up with the Cop — Robert Angelini, the retired law enforcement professional turned multi-tasking player on the area’s stage scene. Angelini served as a founding board member (and artistic director in its later seasons) of ReVision Theater, the professional company that once upon a time staged some memorable entertainments at various bars, bingo halls, basilica, and boardwalk landmarks in the earlier years of the century.

“Both Bob and I are actors and directors, and we have an understanding of what it takes to put on a show,” says Whitefiled, whose tenure as executive director of the Algonquin Arts Theatre saw him play an instrumental role in the establishment of that Manasquan mainstay’s popular Broadway Series of self-produced musicals. “We really wanted to do something here in Asbury Park, and we believe that we’ve got a grip on what’s good for the city.”

With a handful of other professional stage concerns operating in nearby locales like Red Bank, Long Branch and Ocean Township — and with another fledgling troupe of pros (Boardwalk Theater) having announced plans to bring an original musical on the life of Rosa Parks to Asbury Park at some point in 2020 — the APTCo principals look to stake out a distinct streetcorner in which, as Whitefield says, “the idea is to do cutting-edge stuff…we’re not looking to do family theater.”

“We want to keep it edgy, keep it rock and roll, along the lines of what ReVision used to do,” says Angelini. “In addition, we’d want to do small cast plays; the sort of current things that other companies don’t touch.”

Having been formally founded mere weeks ago — and having just been accredited as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — APTCo is hardly positioned to announce an inaugural slate of productions. But, ready or not, the company prepares to make its first big splash with Friday night’s event, a benefit concert (presented under the semi-Sondheimy title A Little Musical Night) that’s headlined by some familiar favorites from Algonquin seasons past.

Of course, most immediately familiar is the event’s host, Sally Struthers. The Emmy and Golden Globe winning actress who gained fame as Gloria on the groundbreaking sitcom All in the Family (and the character’s self-titled spinoff) previously worked with Whitefield and his Manasquan team on hit stagings of Always, Patsy Cline — and the event inside The Asbury’s ballroom space reunites her with her co-star in that two-woman show, Broadway veteran and frequent Algonquin guest artist Carter Calvert.

“When we found out that Sally was going to be in the area, and that we had the opportunity to snag her for the evening, we said that’s it; we’re going to jumpstart this thing,” Whitefield explains. “We’re getting ready to jump into the deep end.”     Continue reading

EASDALE AND CO. RETURN WITH LESS DRAMA, MORE ‘RAMA

John Easdale (second from left) leads the re-energized lineup of Jersey-bred modern rock favorites DRAMARAMA back to the Shore circuit on August 1st. (photo by Amy Martin Friedman)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), July 25, 2019

As John Easdale recalled it a few years back, “they showed up at my front door one day, when I’m not wearing a shirt…and they worked to make it happen.”

“They” were the folks from a new VH-1 TV series entitled Bands Reunited — and the thing they were looking to make happen, even as Easdale stood there looking more like something out of an episode of COPS — was the reunion, by popular demand, of a little project known as Dramarama.

“It was remarkably flattering that they would even think of us that way,” said the singer, songwriter and forever frontman of the bi-coastally based band that made its reputation in the “modern rock” glory days of The Green Parrot rock club and WHTG-FM — and which returns Shoreside once more next Thursday, August the First.

”It felt like I won some sort of prize; the Publishers Clearing House.”

As it turned out, the cable series spotlight was exactly the thing that the members of Dramarama needed to heal from an early 1990s break-up; to cement their standing as a favorite of fanbases on both the Atlantic and Pacific (plus, for whatever reason, a fairly fervent following in France) — and to enter the new century as an institution that materializes regularly, like some kind of alterna-rock Avengers, whenever and wherever the situation demands the band’s signature mix of supercharged powerpop and sardonic social commentary.

Born and bred on the mean streets of Wayne, NJ; relocated to Southern California (when legendary KROQ deejay Rodney Bingenheimer’s stamp of approval granted them godhood within the greater LA region), the five-man Dramarama returns to Asbury Park’s Wonder Bar with three charter members intact (Easdale, plus guitarists Mark Englert and Peter Wood), an all-new album in the pipeline (their first since 2005’s Everybody Dies) — and a hard-earned cred that’s seen them record and perform with former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor, Blondie drummer Clem Burke, and iconic session man Jim Keltner (they also count Ellen De Generes among their biggest fans, even appearing on her show as her “birthday present” several years back).

With doors opening at 7:30 pm, it’s a Very Special Episode in the club’s summertime-Thursday series of After Party events, keyed to the open-air Jams on the Sand concerts on the beachtop bandstand outside the nearby Anchor’s Bend bar. It’s also the first local appearance of 2019 for the perennial Shore faves, who were forced to cancel a scheduled January appearance when Easdale was diagnosed with melanoma just days before the band’s customary contribution to the annual Light of Day festival.

Speaking from his home in Whittier, CA (historic spawning/stomping grounds of Richard M. Nixon), the singer assures his public that the health scare “was just that, a scare…they took a chunk out of my arm, and now everything is fine.”

“In the months since then, I’ve realized that I didn’t need to react as much as I did,” Easdale insists. “I went and looked at WebMD, and read about how it’s the deadliest form of skin cancer, and how it killed Danny Federici…I was just isolating myself within my fear at the time.”

“ I feel bad about missing that show,” says the artist whose extracurricular solo projects have also taken him to such area stages as the Stone Pony, the old Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright, and Joey Harrison’s Surf Club in Ortley Beach. “We’ve been doing Light of Day each year, along with another show in late summer, and we’re definitely gonna try and make it back next time out.” Continue reading

CFL’S SUMMER STAND IS A CABARET LICENSE TO THRILL

Felix Truex does it up GRAND, in a Wednesday night STAND that heralds the continuation of a beautiful relationship between Tim McLoone’s Supper Club, and the nonprofit Cabaret For Life. (photos courtesy Tara Feeley)

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), July 11, 2019

While he acknowledges the fact that “Asbury Park has been coming back in the most amazing ways,” Andrew De Prisco emphasizes that for many of the city’s neediest inhabitants, the story remains much the same as it’s been for more than a quarter of a century. And when the need continues, The Show Must Go On — in the form of Cabaret For Life, Inc.

Established in the fall of 1995 by De Prisco, his artistic producing partner Fred Mayo, and John and Carole Hessel of Bradley Beach, the Ocean Grove-based nonprofit has kept the focus on “raising funds for service organizations that help people coping with life-threatening diseases, especially HIV/AIDS and cancer, through the production of musical theater.”

Any doubts as to the verifiable healing powers of a well-turned showtune should immediately take a back seat to the evidence of Cabaret For Life’s successful mission; particularly its track record of having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities that range from such nationally known entities as the American Cancer Society and St. Jude Children’s Hospital, to Monmouth County-based nonprofits Ronald McDonald House of Long Branch, Mary’s Place by the Sea, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital, the Ashley Lauren Foundation, the VNA Health Center, and The Center in Asbury Park’s Center House facility.

Speaking during a rehearsal for the upcoming De Prisco-produced staging of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Ocean Township’s Axelrod Performing Arts Center — about which more in a moment — the org’s co-founder notes that The Center has been the principal beneficiary of his group’s endeavors from the start, with the Cabaret crew raising an average of $10,000 per year for the Rev. Robert “Father Bob” Kaeding and his volunteer service organization for those living with HIV/AIDS. It’s an affiliation that dates back even before the official inception of Cabaret For Life, when Andrew and company staged their upbeat entertainments at Father Bob’s former post, the Church of St. Anselm in Tinton Falls — and as the new century enters its third decade, Cabaret For Life remains steadfastly committed to a community leader who “does a great deal of outreach…the people who live at Center House have a real need of their services, and when it comes to Father Bob we love to lift him up; to give a voice to his work.”

Following a “pretty peripatetic” interlude in which the Cabaret troupe did their thing at venues that included The Old Mill in Spring Lake, McLoone’s Rum Runner in Sea Bright, and Jumping Brook Country Club in Neptune, De Prisco landed at what would become Cabaret For Life’s regular home stage, when the company presented its first summer season of shows at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in 2009.

“McLoone’s helped us re-invent ourselves for our second chapter,” the producer says of the elegant upstairs space located within the space-age “doo wop” saucer that once housed the late George Panas’s stalwart Howard Johnson’s during some of Asbury Park’s most challenging times. “It seemed the ideal place to create real cabaret…and for the first time, we were able to do single-person shows.”

A summertime staple that’s now in its 11th Supper Club season, the 2019 Cabaret For Life slate got underway on June 27 with The Dolly Parton Songbook, a tribute set that dedicated a full 100 percent of proceeds to local charities. As De Prisco tells it, the show’s success “speaks to the unique way that we operate, where our annual membership people help us to cover all of the expenses involved with putting on a show…and help us in turn to give all to charity.”

The summer schedule resumes once more this coming Wednesday, July 17, when Cabaret For Life welcomes back a performing partner who’s been with them from the get-go — singer, musician, and all-around entertainer Felix Truex — for the first of two one-man extravaganzas entitled Ain’t It Grand! Drawing from his prodigious mental songbook of Broadway, jazz, pop and rock standards, Truex performs a 7 pm solo set for which admission (a $35 donation) can be reserved at timmcloonessupperclub.com.

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