If you grew up in Monmouth County, especially if you’re into the Arts, you know what the Basie’s are.
For those of you who don’t, let me fill you in. Every Spring the Count Basie Theater, named after the great himself, hosts an awards ceremony/show honoring the talent of that school year.
30 high schools in Monmouth County participated this year. There are too many awards for me to remember but they’re broken up into the Fall drama and the Spring Musical. The major awards are outstanding performance of a lead actor/actress in a drama/musical but the major award is the outstanding musical. Aka the best musical of that school year. This year “Annie,” performed by Shore Regional, took that prize.
The schools range from public to private. My school got two nominations this year and a friend I graduated with won a Basie two years ago. We have a pretty good track record.
I have to say, the talent is nothing short of amazing. If you didn’t tell me those were high school kids (who are younger than me now which is even scarier to think about) I would have thought I was watching off-Broadway talent. I’m serious. These kids are that good.
The plays range from the serious to the satirical. “Much Ado About Nothing” was one of the dramas nominated this year (My friend Katherine won an award for that show) and “Curtains,” one of my personal favorites, was one of the musicals nominated. One of the coolest things this year, however, is that one of the schools WROTE their own drama.
Well, they adapted it into a drama from F. Scott Fitzgerald. Middletown South did “A Diamond as Big as the Ritz.” It was never done as a production before and what do you know? They won. I couldn’t believe it, the cast couldn’t believe it, even the director was in shock. But that’s one of the things I love most about the Basie’s. There are always surprises and it is always chock full of amazing talent. Every performance or teaser is nothing short of wonderful.
Now, the last time I was on a stage was when I graduated high school. My sister, however, she is the actress in the family. Her stage presence blows mine out of the water. I shake, she swims. It’s because of her that I was introduced to the Basie’s and the high school world of theater. I was always on the field and left my acting days in elementary school. Luckily I have her to keep me in the loop on the side I missed.
This is the third Basie I have been to and I hope that there are many more in my future. For those of you who are looking for some pure, raw talent in the middle of the week in May, go check it out. Unfortunately you have to wait until next year. Though don’t worry, the performances are always good and the seats just got much more comfortable. And I swear half of those kids are going to have Tony’s one day.