Count Basie Theatre

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Coordinates: 40°20′56.4″N 74°4′12.36″W / 40.349000°N 74.0701000°W / 40.349000; -74.0701000

Count Basie Center for the Arts
Count Basie Center for the Arts.jpg
Entrance to venue (c. 2018)
Former namesCarlton Theater (1926-71)
Monmouth Arts Center (1973-84)
Count Basie Theatre (1984-2018)
Address99 Monmouth St
Red Bank, NJ 07701-1108
New Jersey
United States of America
OwnerNew Jersey State Council on the Arts
Capacity1,568 (Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre)
OpenedNovember 11, 1926 (1926-11-11)
  • 1971-73
  • 2008
  • 2017
Venue Website
Carlton Theater
NRHP reference No.09001100
NJRHP No.2042[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPDecember 18, 2009
Designated NJRHPMay 20, 2009

The Count Basie Center for the Arts is a landmarked performing arts center in Red Bank, New Jersey, United States.

The building opened as the "Carlton Theater" in 1926, became the "Monmouth Arts Center" in 1973, and was then renamed to the "Count Basie Theatre" in 1984 to honor jazz musician and Red Bank native William "Count" Basie.

In 2018, the venue changed its name again to the Count Basie Center for the Arts. At the same time the theater itself had its name purchased and changed to the "Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre".

The building's architecture was designed by William E. Lehman and has seating capacity for 1,568 patrons.


Theater marquee in 2018

Edward Franklin Albee II opened the Carlton on November 11, 1926 as one of a series of elaborate new Keith-Albee-Orpheum vaudeville theaters.

Opening night in 1926 included vaudeville acts and the feature film The Quarterback, starring Richard Dix. Nearly 4,000 people attended the two shows that evening, with crowds gathering two hours before the first performance. The New Jersey Register called the new theatre “…a marvel of beauty, convenience and comfort. Outside and inside it is a veritable and architectural triumph.”[2]

Due to financial struggles and lessening movie attendance nationally, Albee was soon removed from leadership. The theater chain was absorbed into Keith-Albee-Orpheum in 1928 and was soon led by Joseph P. Kennedy Sr.

In 1970, after the Strand, Palace, Empire, and Lyric theaters had closed, the Carlton did also. In 1973, a significant anonymous donation allowed the Monmouth County Arts Council to preserve and reopen the historic theater for cultural uses, and the theater was renamed the Monmouth Arts Center.

In 1984, it was again renamed as the Count Basie Theatre, in memorial to William “Count” Basie, the great jazz pianist, bandleader, composer, and Red Bank native, who had died that year. The arts council operated the theater until June 30, 1999, when the not-for-profit corporation Count Basie Theatre, Inc. was established to manage, program, and preserve the theater.

As part of its $26 million expansion, the theater adopted the name Count Basie Center For The Arts on May 14, 2018, to reflect the organization's community-wide outreach. Later that year, Hackensack-Meridian Health acquired naming rights for the Center's historic theater, rebranding it has Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre. In 2020, the Center's second venue, The Vogel, opened with small, 150-capacity performances on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Besides Count Basie, legends such as James Brown and Tony Bennett, as well as headline performers such as Al Green, George Carlin, Boz Scaggs, Counting Crows, Olivia Newton-John, Brian Wilson, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Ben E. King, Darlene Love and Jon Stewart, have performed at the Basie Center's historic theater. Jersey Shore legend Bruce Springsteen has made several surprise guest appearances and fellow New Jersey rock legend Jon Bon Jovi has attended and organized many charity concerts. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra are regularly scheduled.

Community outreach[edit]

Fans arriving for a 2018 concert, before the name change

The Count Basie Center Performing Arts Academy offers professional training courses in performance basics, audition techniques, professional development, and weekend workshops to aspiring actors, musicians, and dancers of all ages. Past participants in the Performing Arts Academy who have gone on to notable performance careers include singer, songwriter, and record producer, Charlie Puth, Broadway actress, Jillian Mueller,[3] The X Factor finalist Cari Fletcher,[4] The Voice runner-up, Jacquie Lee ,[5] Steve Vai keyboardist, Michael Arrom[6] and Conan Gray bassist Christine Meisenhelter.[7]

On May 26, 2006, the organization presented its first annual Basie Awards honoring excellence in high school theater in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The May 2008 presentations were hosted by Joe Piscopo, while the May 2009 presentations were hosted by Siobhan Fallon Hogan. The 2010 awards were not hosted. The announced host Big Joe Henry, a disk jockey for NJ 101.5 radio, pulled out due to a threat of protests by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the union representing teachers in New Jersey, which has disagreed with the radio station for political views and talks urging listeners to vote against state spending for education and the arts.[8]

The building[edit]

Between 1995 and 2001, the arts council/corporation conducted a series of phased projects to repair and stabilize the infrastructure of the building. Phase 1 of a new renovation series was completed in 2004, replacing all the seating with new, historically accurate seats; adding alabaster lighting fixtures to the auditorium; and restoring and painting a side-panel of plasterwork. Over $1 million has been spent on theater improvements to date, funded by donations and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. In 2016, an ambitious, $28mm capital campaign was started, culminating in an expansion that doubled the Center's footprint, adding a second venue, The Vogel, the Grunin Arts Education Building, a new member lounge, and significant increases in size to the Basie's original theater lobby.

Seating includes 1,008 orchestra, 121 loge, 402 balcony, and 12 wheelchair-accessible platforms. The Vogel holds 800 persons standing.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places - Monmouth County" (PDF). New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection - Historic Preservation Office. March 1, 2011. p. 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 4, 2011. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  2. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: The Carlton Theater". National Park Service.
  3. ^ "It's 'Hello, Broadway' in 'Bye Bye Birdie' | | News Transcript". Archived from the original on 9 September 2015. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  4. ^ "Cari Fletcher Auditions for X-Factor". Rockit Live Foundation. April 8, 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  5. ^ "9 amazing Count Basie Theatre facts". Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  6. ^ O'Brien, Walter (July 10, 2013). "Warren keyboardist joins rock guitar legend Steve Vai for Australia, Pacific Rim tour". Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  7. ^ "Christine Meisenhelter: Talking Music, Touring, and Taking Life Slowly".
  8. ^ "Basies Hostless After Protest Threat", RedBank, 2010-05-25. Retrieved 2010-12-17.