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The Count Basie Center for the Arts is a landmarked performing arts center in Red Bank, Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. The core structure opened as the Carlton Theater in 1926, became the Monmouth Arts Center in 1973, then was renamed to the Count Basie Theatre in 1984 to honor jazz great and Red Bank native William "Count" Basie. It was designed by William E. Lehman (architect) and has seating capacity for 1,568 patrons. In 2018, the venue changed its name to the Count Basie Center for the Arts to "raise the Basie name to represent all that this regional, center for the arts stands for: our nonprofit mission of arts and education, our work in schools and the community, and all of the excellence and excitement that comes from that." At the same time the theater itself had its name purchased and changed to the Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre.

Count Basie Center for the Arts
Count Basie Center for the Arts.jpg
Full nameCount Basie Center for the Arts
Former namesCarlton Theater
Monmouth Arts Center
Count Basie Theatre
Address99 Monmouth Street
Red Bank, New Jersey
United States
OwnerCount Basie Theatre, Inc.
OpenedNovember 11, 1926
The Carlton Theatre
Count Basie Theatre is located in Monmouth County, New Jersey
Count Basie Theatre
Count Basie Theatre is located in New Jersey
Count Basie Theatre
Count Basie Theatre is located in the United States
Count Basie Theatre
Coordinates40°20′56.4″N 74°4′12.36″W / 40.349000°N 74.0701000°W / 40.349000; -74.0701000Coordinates: 40°20′56.4″N 74°4′12.36″W / 40.349000°N 74.0701000°W / 40.349000; -74.0701000
NRHP reference #09001100
NJRHP #2042[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPDecember 18, 2009
Designated NJRHPMay 20, 2009


Theater marquee after the 2018 name change

Edward Franklin Albee II opened the Carlton on November 11, 1926 as one of a series of elaborate new Keith-Albee-Orpheum vaudeville theaters. The investment was ill-timed as the public was moving to less expensive movies, and Albee was soon pushed out. The theater chain was absorbed into Keith-Albee-Orpheum in 1928 and was soon controlled by Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.. Opening night in 1926 included vaudeville acts and the feature film The Quarterback, starring Richard Dix. Nearly 4,000 people attended two shows that night, 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]

The theater was one of the highlights of nightlife in downtown Red Bank for many years.[3] Finally, 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 better reflect the organization's work offstage in schools and the community. In October 2018, Hackensack-Meridian Health acquired naming rights for the Center's historic theater, rebranding it has Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre.


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 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.Cats performed there. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra are regularly scheduled.

Community outreachEdit

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 Broadway actress, Jillian Mueller,[4] The X Factor finalist Cari Fletcher,[5] The Voice runner-up, Jacquie Lee ,[6] and Steve Vai keyboardist, Michael Arrom.[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 (the apolitical Henry, who does weekend music shows rather than the weekday talk shows the station is most known for, being caught in the middle).[8]

The buildingEdit

Fans arriving for a 2018 concert, before the name change

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. Plans for future renovations include restoring and repainting the auditorium's decorative plaster, an expanded lobby, and backstage improvements.

Seating includes 1,008 orchestra, 121 loge, 402 balcony, and 12 wheelchair-accessible platforms.


  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. ^ "Nightlife". Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  4. ^[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Cari Fletcher Auditions for X-Factor". Rockit Live Foundation. April 8, 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  6. ^ "9 amazing Count Basie Theatre facts". Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  7. ^ O'Brien, Walter (July 10, 2013). "Warren keyboardist joins rock guitar legend Steve Vai for Australia, Pacific Rim tour". Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  8. ^ "Basies Hostless After Protest Threat", RedBank, 2010-05-25. Retrieved 2010-12-17.

External linksEdit