The Music Roundup 24/05/23

Local music news & events

All inclusive: Million Dollar Quartet star and piano prodigy Nat Zegree’s The History of Rock ’n’ Roll is a Cliffs Notes version of Andrew Hickey’s 500 Songs podcast, charting the early days of the genre before it had a name. Follow the rise of Bill Haley & the Comets, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, as well as Jerry Lee Lewis, who Zegree portrayed in the musical. Thursday, May 23, 7:30 p.m., The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth, $42 and up at themusichall.org.

Ocean Stater: Though he calls Rhode Island home these days, J. Michael Graham is originally from New Hampshire and is pleased to be returning to perform at a favorite watering hole. The singer, songwriter and guitarist has released a pair of well-received original albums, and performed with a wide range of artists, from James Montgomery to Deer Tick and the Dresden Dolls. Friday, May 24, 8 p.m., Village Trestle, 25 Main St., Goffstown. More at jmgrahammusic.com.

Horror show: The EDM pop culture soiree Halloween Stories is set in fictitious Grimoire Village, where the spooky night never ends. Come dressed as a werewolf, witch, zombie or demon and experience house, drums n’ bass, dubstep and other beat-heavy sounds by Snaggletooth, Too Hard to Spell, and DJ LAWR. Advance purchase is required for the 21+ event. Saturday, May 24, 9 pm., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, $19.99 at grimoireacademy.com.

Boston laughs: Though his admiration of Bill Murray made him want to be an actor early on, Will Noonan has made his name as a comic, winning accolades from the now-defunct Improper Bostonian as the city’s best, and he recently appeared in the broadcast booth at Fenway Park alongside Sox legend Jim Rice. His relatable standup makes him a regular favorite in New Hampshire. Saturday, May 25, 8:30 p.m., Chunky’s Cinema, 707 Huse Road, Manchester, $20 at chunkys.com.

First nights: Outdoor concerts in the Lakes Region kick off for the summer. The Beach Boys headline the weekend-closing show, with Mike Love now the last of the band’s old guard, along with Bruce Johnston, who joined in 1965. Also on the bill is Dave Mason and Traffic Jam, reviving the group he co-founded; he wrote their early hit “Feelin’ Alright.” Sunday, May 26, 7:30 p.m., Bank of NH Pavilion, 72 Meadowbrook Lane, Gilford, $41 and up at livenation.com.

Scene of the crime

Clue comes to life in Concord

Who killed Mr. Boddy, with what weapon, and where? Was it Miss Peacock wielding a lead pipe in the library, or maybe Colonel Mustard with a dagger in the dining room? To anyone who’s ever played an iconic board game, this is a familiar question. It’s also the basis for a unique experience hosted by the Capitol Center for the Arts.

CLUE: A Walking Mystery invites participants, grouped into six five-person teams, to solve the now-cold case of Boddy’s demise. The quest begins at the historic Kimball House in downtown Concord, as two “butlers” who were there long ago when the crime was committed provide instructions to the sleuths-for-a-day.

The house was sold after the murder, they’re told, with all the furniture auctioned off. The butlers believe that in some hutch, dresser or desk is the key to identifying the criminal. Each item is now in a local business, like Teatotaller Café, Gibson’s Bookstore or the Barley House. Everyone is then handed an auction catalog.

The detectives go forth on a walk through the city, questing for answers, solving puzzles as they go.

“It’s like an escape room, but it’s broken up into nine different pieces around the city,” Kevin Hammonds, one of the game’s creators, said by phone recently. Hammonds added that it’s ideal for folks who find escape rooms claustrophobic.

“This is the opposite of being locked in a room,” he said. “You’re walking around, you’re getting a lot of great exercise and experiencing the best of Concord. It’s a great thing to do as a family, a group outing or for team-building. The puzzles are really original and creative and tricky.”

The immersive experience began during the pandemic as a way for L.A.-based touring company Right Angle Entertainment to keep employees busy. Initially it involved engaging suspects along the way, but that proved unwieldy. SoCal puzzle designers The Wild Optimists came up with a new vision. The retooled CLUE debuted in Chicago and ran for six months.

Hammonds scouted Concord as a potential location and loved what he found.

“The thing about Chicago is that it visits all these iconic places but it’s spread out,” he said. “We tried to keep it under a mile, but it still takes some time and walking. Concord is a compact digestible version. It’s not quite as sprawled out, but it’s still incredibly satisfying.”

Choosing where to put furniture “was literally me walking up and down the streets of Concord,” he said. “You have to find a place that has the same hours as the game, will fit a piece of furniture, and also accommodate 30 people every 20 minutes to come in and play the game. … It also has to kind of fit the Clue vibe and aesthetic.”

The cast members “all love improv,” he continued. “Most of them are drama college students, but we have a college professor who loves murder mysteries and Clue, and he also acts part-time. I have another butler that’s a great improv actor that does a lot of work on Saturday Night Live.”

Similarly, participants are encouraged to follow a penchant for cosplay at the event.

“When the butlers greet them, they inform them that they are descendants of the OG suspects, like Miss Scarlet, or Colonel Mustard,” Hammonds said. “In Chicago we had a lot of people come dressed up as those characters or in those colors.”

Unlike the board game, there are no winners.

“It’s not a contest,” Hammonds said. “You’re not hunting for where you go next. It tells you go to Gibson’s Bookstore; this is the address; this is a picture of the bookcase. We also say, while you’re at Teatotaller Café looking for the kitchen hutch, enjoy 10 percent off, or have lunch at the Barley House…. We encourage people to stop and enjoy whatever each business has to offer.”

CLUE: A Walking Mystery
When: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through June 16, multiple time slots
Where: Kimball House, 16 S. Main St., Concord
Tickets: $34 at ccanh.com

Swing revivalists

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy hits Tupelo

Southern California in the 1980s was a melting pot of musical genres. Co-billed shows with punk bands, barrio rockers Los Lobos and twang master Dwight Yoakam were common. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy drummer Kurt Sodergren recalls seeing X and the Blasters at the country-centric Palomino Club in North Hollywood.

“It was really an exciting time and I felt like everyone was included,” he said by phone recently ahead of a May 18 show at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry. “To me, it had kind of that punk rock energy … if you want to do it, go on, let’s do it.”

This milieu was perfect for Sodergren and his friend Scotty Morris to explore a passion for swing music. With an upright bass player, they formed an unconventional trio late in the decade. Musical differences led to Dirk Shumaker taking over on bass, which led to the evolution of the band that made hits like “You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby).”

Wearing vintage suits, with Sodergren sporting bleached hair and Doc Martens boots, they served up a brand of swing that fit the cultural democracy well. “Not to knock Glenn Miller, but it wasn’t Glenn Miller, it wasn’t sleepy,” Sodergren said. “We did this one cover of ‘Sing, Sing, Sing!’ that was nothing like Benny Goodman’s version. It had all those elements, but it also had a really loud Fender Strat right by my drum set…. It was loud and exciting.”

In 1993 the band self-released an eponymous album, which led to a residency at L.A.’s famous Brown Derby. They broke out when their songs were included in the 1996 movie Swingers, signing with a major label and touring nationally. The peak of this heady time was an appearance in the 1999 Super Bowl halftime show. Writer Michael Weinreb called them “the last niche act” to grace that big stage.

The lineup included Gloria Estefan and Stevie Wonder, who drove a car onto the field. What stands out in his memory is bumping into Kiss, who’d played a pregame set. In full makeup, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers were standing near the field when Sodergren and his bandmates walked by.

“My first show was Kiss and Cheap Trick. I was a big fan, and they recognized us!” he recalled, adding that he and Peter Criss chatted for close to 15 minutes. Criss admired his drum set, a new Slingo Buddy Rich reissue. “I couldn’t believe it. If I was 12 again and said, ‘I’m going to meet Peter Criss,’ people would have laughed at me.”

Two factors fed Sodergren’s love for retro music. One, wanting to be the opposite of his older brother, a fan of bands like Foreigner and REO Speedwagon, and two, his dad’s big record collection. “He had Benny Goodman Live at Carnegie Hall,” he said. “I heard Gene Krupa’s drumming on it and just was blown away. I would play them all the time.”

He shifted into high gear at the urging of his teacher, who “really had a lot of jazz on his mind and told me, ‘You’ve got to know this music,’” and upon learning that his grandfather once played saxophone professionally. “He’d perform in a town for like two months and stay in an apartment above the venue and travel with my grandma. When they had my dad, he had to settle down; he got a job at Montgomery Ward. He still played in the local big band, but not for a living.”

Currently in the midst of a multi-week East Coast run, the band is a big favorite in New Hampshire. Sodergren said he’s excited to be back at Tupelo Music Hall. “It’s super intimate,” he said. “You can see people’s faces, the energy is great. I don’t feel like we have to hold back. Those kinds of venues are my favorite.”

After celebrating the 30th anniversary of their 1993 debut album last year, Sodergren is keen to work on new music, but expects the Tupelo show will be a retrospective of past material.

“We’ll probably rehearse some songs at soundcheck, but [it’s] really more celebration of the 30th. We’ll try and play something from every single record,” he said.

Unique in that their original lineup is mostly intact, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy have no plans to slow down.

“We really love what we do, and we bring a really great energy to it,” Sodergren said. “We don’t just get up there and open a book and start playing a song and then politely wait for applause. People get happy in my band, and it’s pretty great.”

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
When: Saturday, May 18, 8 p.m.
Where: Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry
Tickets: $45 at tupelohall.com

Featured photo: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 24/05/16

Local music news & events

Scotsman: Punk rock fans will delight in a multi-act downtown show headlined by Billy Liar. The Scotland native’s latest album, Crisis Actor, is a post-pandemic gem, with a guest appearance from Frank Turner and a batch of songs that rage, scream and snarl. Rounding out the bill are Oh The Humanity, regional favorites Jonee Earthquake Band and The Doldrums. Thursday, May 16, 7:30 p.m., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester, $5 at the door, 21+. See billyliarmusic.com.

Guitar man: Three decades after breaking through with his surf-shredding Endless Summer, Gary Hoey has been in a blues mood for the past few albums; his most recent is 2019’s Neon Highway Blues. More than a few polls list him among the top 100 guitarists in the world, and Hoey has performed with everyone from Johnny Winter to Jeff Beck and Queen’s Brian May. Friday, May 17, 8 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $40 at tupelohall.com.

Crowd work: When veteran standup comic Cory Gee bounds onstage, he’s almost immediately mixing with the crowd; learning who’s married, which couples are dating for the first time, and who might be celebrating a birthday. The rapid-fire back and forth helps him size up the audience, but it’s not a call for a longer conversation. He’s setting up jokes. Saturday, May 18, 8:30 pm., Headliners Comedy Club, 700 Elm St., Manchester, $23 at headlinersnh.com.

Blues contest: The road to Memphis 2025 begins at the Granite State Blues Challenge, where bands, solo and duo performers and youth acts compete for tops in the state. The event is presented by Granite State Blues Society, which is dedicated to preserving the blues while raising money for children’s charities. Winners will perform at the International Blues Competition next year. Sunday, May 19, 1 p.m., Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord, $15 at ccanh.com.

Trumpeter: Legendary horn player, composer and producer Herb Albert and singer Lani Hall perform. With Tijuana Brass, the album cover of his Whipped Cream & Other Delights was the ’60s version of clickbait; interestingly Alpert was also the co-owner of the label that released it, A&M Records. A decade later, Alpert hit with the dance floor classic Rise. Monday, May 20, 8 p.m., Nashua Center for the Arts, 33 Main St., Nashua, $49 at nashuacenterforthearts.com.

Toasting the arts

Celebrating creativity in Sunapee

Wine and chocolate will flow amidst paintings, photography and piano music at an upcoming event in New London to showcase the Lake Sunapee Region Center for the Arts. The Raise a Glass to the Arts! reception will serve as a reminder of the Center’s many efforts to support expression throughout the area, which include micro-galleries in local businesses, festivals, seminars, concerts and youth programs.

“We wanted to create a wonderful evening to celebrate with our donors and members, our artists and our community, what the arts are all about when it comes to the Center,” CFA Executive Director Dina Stahlheber said by phone recently. “It’s a moment to step back and think about the wonderful talent here, and all the different things that are able to come together.”

The Center’s mission encompasses visual, performing and literary arts, Stahlheber said.

“They’re very closely intertwined, yet each one of themselves are quite vast,” she said. “Many of our painters are poets and many of our poets are performers or musicians. We have singer-songwriters that dip their toes into both writing and music. We have quite a variety here.”

She envisions the event, happening at Colby-Sawyer College’s Wheeler Hall, as a way to “celebrate these three different key aspects of what the organization does, as well as its love and focus on youth. We also offer some great scholarships, school grant programs, and activities for our youth and families.” To underscore this cross-pollination, ticket holders will be entered to win a pair of seats to the New London Barn Playhouse’s June production of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Stahlheber added that a past scholarship winner will perform at the gathering, along with veteran pianist and composer Will Ogmundson. This and other CFA endeavors serve to highlight the importance of human expression, something that’s particularly critical in an age that sees it threatened by machine learning.

The latter is a topic that Stahlheber spoke eloquently about in a press release last March.

“In a landscape increasingly shaped by artificial intelligence and algorithms, the essence of human experience embedded within artistic expression becomes ever more poignant,” she said. “While technology can assemble stories and generate visually stunning images, it cannot convey the personal journey behind the creation of art.”

During the interview, Stahlheber was quick to point out that she’s no Luddite.

“I appreciate technology,” she said. “I just want to be sure that we don’t forget or lose sight of the fact that artificial intelligence still cannot communicate the human essence of the arts as humans can.”

She continued, “AI can replicate stories and even make them very moving, but at the end of the day, there’s something about someone having lived … when they share their story, the pain and glory of overcoming a situation, that is what’s authentic, powerful and meaningful.”

Stahlheber took over the reins at CFA just over a year ago and has focused many of her efforts on messaging. “I wanted to be more intentional about what we’re doing, why are we doing it, and how it fits into our mission,” she explained. “Not everyone in the community realizes how much we’ve done and the large role it plays, the many places and connections the Center for the Arts has in this region.”

To that end, an event later this summer will shine a light not only on the CFA’s work but also on the region it serves.

“I am so excited for our July Arts Week in Sunapee Harbor,” Stahlheber said. “It has been a year-long planning session with a group of wonderful organizations, [and] we have been trying to put together a really special weekend. But also, to promote Sunapee Harbor. It is super-beloved, but not everyone, even in the surrounding area, remembers it’s here.”

Raise a Glass to the Arts!
When: Saturday, May 18, 7 p.m.
Where: Wheeler Hall, 541 Main St., New London
Tickets: $55 members, $65 non-members at centerfortheartsnh.org

New art for the Gate City

Work begins at the Nashua International Sculpture Symposium

By Zachary Lewis
zlewis@hippopress.com

The Nashua International Sculpture Symposium was started in 2008 and is now on its 17th consecutive year of inviting world-class artists to come to the city to make unique public art to be placed on public property for everyone to enjoy. It is funded by private donations.

It’s a common practice across cities and towns around the globe but Nashua is the only city in the U.S. that does this kind of symposium for sculptors.

“When they come here, we’re the only ones. It’s pretty cool,” said Gail Moriarty, President of the Nashua International Sculpture Symposium.

The sculptors live in the city for the length of the symposium. Donations pay for their food and lodging, and each sculpture costs around $10,000 to $15,000. There are varying levels of donations and residents can even donate their own lodging or in lieu of monetary support can bring in a meal. T-shirts are available to raise funds and a sponsorship is $4,000 and can be split between multiple people. More information can be found on their website.

The Symposium runs from Monday, May 13, to Saturday, June 1, at 3 Pine St. in Nashua. Residents are invited to come see the sculptors work their artistic magic on three huge hunks of white marble this year and transform them into any number of creations. The material can change year to year and is based on the sculptors’ preference.

“These forms emerge and these designs emerge and people get really excited and the kids get really excited and they come to the closing and they can’t believe what we’ve created in the city,” she said. Spectators can come every day if they are so inclined. “We’re so proud of that.”

The sculptors are selected by the Symposium’s Artistic Director, Jim Larson, who has held the role since 2018, along with the approval of their board of directors. The International Sculpture Symposium was created 17 years ago with the help of John Weidman, Director of the Andres Institute of Art in Brookline and was originally inspired by the late Meri Goyette, an art lover and key supporter of those arts and who happened to live in Nashua.

“It’s very much a public engagement event,” Moriarty said. “It’s sponsored by the general public. The general public is the reason why we can do this. … It is a community-driven event, and that’s the best part about it. It brings communities together.”

A closing ceremony will be held on June 1. It will start with a brief talk and then everyone will drive to the spots that have been selected for the new white marble sculptures.

2024’s sculptors

Anna Korver

Anna Korver is a New Zealand / Benenise artist working nationally and internationally and has been a full-time professional sculptor since completing a BFA in sculpture from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, in 2003, according to the symposium website and her art has been selected for the Wallace awards, Brick Bay sculpture trail, and Tai Tapu sculpture garden and received first prize at the second Tuwaiq International symposium in Saudi Arabia.

Evan Morse

Evan Morse was born in Boston and received an M.F.A. from Boston University and a B.A. from Wheaton College in Massachusetts; he studied traditional sculpture techniques, including stone-carving in Florence and Carrara, Italy, according to the website. He worked on marble monuments at The Carving Studio in West Rutland, Vermont, as part of Rutland’s Sculpture Trail, according to the same website.

KōV, aka Kevin Percevault

KōV, aka Kevin Percevault, was born in France and learned a lot from his grandfather, a stonemason; at 14 he began his apprenticeship with stonecutter masters via Les Compagnons du Devoir, a French organization of craftsmen and artisans dating back to the Middle Ages, according to the symposium website. He traveled throughout France and Switzerland to hone his craft and six years ago left Switzerland for the U.K., where he has been working on elite projects (such as “floating” stone staircases) developing new techniques in stone masonry, according to the website.

Nashua International Sculpture Symposium
Where: The Picker Artists, 3 Pine St., Nashua
When: Monday, May 13, through Saturday, June 1, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Closing ceremony: See the works on Saturday, June 1, at 1 p.m. starting at the Picker Artists Studios and traveling to the new sites of the sculptures, the website said.
More info: nashuasculpturesymposium.org

Joni’s spark

Tribute show recalls landmark album

There’s a line in Joni Mitchell’s song “For the Roses” about a moment when “the lights go down and it’s just you up there, getting them to feel like that.” That’s the challenge for anyone bold enough to launch a tribute act to her. It’s better to try and convey the singular singer-songwriter’s essence. Replication is a fool’s errand; there’s only one Joni.

Further, she’s a moving target. From the spare acoustic era of “Both Sides Now” and “Circle Game” to the ethereal jazz in Hejira and Mingus, Joni Mitchell was and is always moving forward. Yet Big Yellow Taxi, a six-piece group led by singer Teresa Lorenço as Mitchell, accomplishes the not-small miracle of capturing her.

For a show in Dover on May 10, they’ll perform Mitchell’s breakthrough Court and Spark from start to finish. The 1973 album has many moods but contains a common thread, Lorenço said by phone recently: “There’s real, profound honesty and vulnerability to whatever she’s doing …. Hooking into that is what helped me make the whole thing cohesive.”

Lorenço never planned on dedicating herself to performing Mitchell’s music; she arrived by acclimation.

“I’d been singing a little bit of her songs in a duo that I was in, and people kept saying, wow, you can really do her,” she recalled. “I thought, OK, then let’s do it.”

The first iteration of Big Yellow Taxi formed in late 2019 but dissipated as the pandemic took hold. When it got safer to book shows again, she sought out new musicians and hit the jackpot. The current band convincingly channels Tom Scott & the LA Express, who Mitchell worked with on Miles of Aisles, considered by many her best live album, as well as her ethereal late ’70s band featuring Pat Metheny on guitar and bassist Jaco Pastorius.

Guitarist John Cabán has played with many musicians, from Bo Diddley to Gloria Gaynor; Robert Sherwood’s keyboard credits include beloved mid-2000s band Ware River Club. On drums is Joe Fitzpatrick, a veteran of many stage musicals, and backing singer Annie Patterson conveys the multi-tracked vocals on Mitchell’s studio albums. Finally, there’s electric bass player Rich Cahillane, who also accompanies Lorenço on acoustic songs.

Cahillane, who was also at the interview, noted a split between audience members who lean toward early Mitchell albums like Ladies of the Canyon and Blue (a favorite of Lorenço’s) versus later songs.

“Folky fans want to hear Teresa and I play acoustic guitar or dulcimer,” he said. “Then we get those wanting to hear Jaco and the jazz…. It’s hard to satisfy all her fans.”

However, accomplishing that “definitely is our goal,” Lorenço interjected. “We want to have this ability to showcase any of her stuff from any time that she was writing. We don’t really want to focus on one style or the other. It keeps it fresh for us even, because we’re consistently looking at new things.”

One of the most difficult numbers from Court and Spark is “Down To You,” she continued. “We had to make up our own way to do this fully orchestrated part in the middle, and we definitely thought of some new swear words during that time,” she said, adding with a laugh, “If Joni ever calls and needs a backup band, we want to be prepared. Only about a hundred songs more to go.”

Taking on the catalog of an icon, Lorenço understands her primary task.

“Everyone really gets the emotionality of the music, and I think that’s the most important piece, that is what I focus on,” she said. “I’m no trained musician compared to these incredible people that bless me by working with me. They talk about music theory, and I sit there with static in my mind. All I know for sure is the way she’s expressing her emotions in song. That’s what I get; that’s what I feel in me.

Big Yellow Taxi – The Music of Joni Mitchell
When: Friday, May 10, 8 p.m.
Where: The Strand, 20 Third St., Dover
Tickets: $22 and up at eventbrite.com

Featured photo: Big Yellow Taxi. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 24/05/09

Local music news & events

Musical meetup: This week’s Blues Therapy gathering has Willie J. Laws, a Texas guitar slinger who’s been in New Hampshire long enough to win a New England Music Award twice. Hosted by local maven Mickey Maguire, currently bass player for Frankie Boy & The Blues Express, the regular event always has a headliner and is a hub for the regional blues scene. Thursday, May 9, 8 p.m., Stonecutters Pub, Downstairs, 63 Union Square, Milford. See williejlawsband.com.

Classic brand: With drummer Phil Ehart sidelined by a heart attack, Kansas has one remaining original member, lead guitarist Rich Williams. Beginning as a progressive rock band, and one of the first to feature violin as a lead instrument, the group streamlined its sound and had a series of AOR and Top 40 hits starting with 1977’s “Carry On My Wayward Son.” Friday, May 10, 8 p.m., Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord, $67.75 and up at ccanh.com.

Funny women: Celebrate the maternal side of life at Mother of a Comedy Show, with Kerri Louise, Christine Hurley and Kelly MacFarland providing the laughs. For those who prefer their entertainment before dinner, there’s a late afternoon matinee along with an evening set. Saturday, May 11, 5 and 8 pm., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, $30 at palacetheatre.org.

Treasured songs: A reunion with producer Russ Titelman helped Rickie Lee Jones earn a Grammy nomination for her 2023 album Pieces of Treasure, her first foray into the Great American Songbook. Titelman helmed Jones’ eponymous debut, with the hit “Chuck E’s In Love,” and her follow-up, Pirates. Jones is a celebrated writer; her memoir Last Chance Texaco won several awards. Sunday, May 12, 8 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $45 and up at tupelohall.com.

Country kid: Up and coming singer-songwriter Taylor Hughes plays an intimate midweek set at a favorite restaurant and bar. Hughes offers up aching originals like “Dear Today” and “Deadman” along with covers of Chris Stapleton and Tyler Childers, and the buzz on him is so strong that his upcoming showcase at Bank of NH Stage in Concord is close to sold out. Wednesday, May 15, 7 p.m., The Forum Pub, 15 Village St., Concord. See facebook.com/tayhughesmusic.

Forever young

Tuck Everlasting latest musical from Powerhouse

An upcoming show at Laconia’s Colonial Theatre explores the idea of eternal life, how desire to live forever can be all-consuming, and what the consequences of achieving immortality might be.

Tuck Everlasting began as a children’s novel by New Hampshire writer Natalie Babbitt that later became a movie in 2002. A Broadway adaptation was nominated for a Tony but only lasted for 39 performances. Fortunately, Bryan Halperin, who runs the Powerhouse Theatre Collaborative with his wife, Johanna, caught one and was enamored.

It was part of “a string of shows we saw for a couple of years where we really enjoyed them and they all flopped,” he said by phone recently. Halperin has learned firsthand how a show can come up short in New York but make it elsewhere. Last year he directed Captains Courageous and won for Best Musical at the New Hampshire Theatre Awards, even though an off-Broadway production of it opened and closed quickly.

“How something does on Broadway is not necessarily reflective of it as a musical property that actually moves people, and people love,” he said.

Tuck Everlasting, he continued, is an uplifting musical, and wonderful songs are just one reason. Particularly moving is a 10-minute dance sequence that traces the arc of the main character’s life. “It’s the climax of the musical, without singing, just music and dance,” he said. “We wanted to do it someday, and this was the day.”

Choreographer Meg King will oversee dancing for Powerhouse’s three-day run.

“That’s the most exciting thing for me in this production,” Halperin said. “Meg is doing some legitimate lyrical ballet dance that we don’t usually get in musicals [and] the last sequence is astounding to watch; people in the cast get tears in their eyes every time they see the dancing.”

In 2004, the Halperin family relocated from Massachusetts to the Lakes Region and opened the Winnipesaukee Playhouse, which they ran for 10 years. After, Halperin said, “we were nomads for a while, doing stuff with Hatbox and Community Players of Concord. Then we got kind of recruited out of our full-time retirement to start up again.”

Powerhouse Theatre Collaborative was formed in 2020 as a way to continue a program of performances at Belknap Mill and got its name from the historic facility. It became an independent nonprofit last year. It has also been the Colonial’s resident theater company since it opened.

“We constantly pinch ourselves that we get to do theater and rehearse in this beautiful space.” Halperin said. “For a 750-seat theater, it has an intimacy to it…. We feel very lucky that it’s our home.”

Powerhouse always looks to spur involvement in its work, for actors and people who love theater.

“To really emphasize the community building nature of community theater,” Halperin said. “It’s about collecting people into the family, finding ways for them to shine on stage no matter what role they’re in, and surrounding them with high-quality production values.”

One example is the annual performance of A Christmas Carol. Over the years, they’ve added a choir that performs prior to the show and later adds vocal color from the boxes. “That allowed more people to get involved than we could fit on the stage in character roles,” Halperin said. “We try to find ways to engage as many people as possible for each production.”

Looking back, Bryan and Johanna are still happy with their decision to move north.

“We do think about how our life changed by making that choice to leave our careers and start a theater company,” he said. “But the rewards of community and artistic expression, being in a job that our children could be involved with and grow to love as well, far exceeded our expectations. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has definitely been emotionally rewarding.”

Halperin encouraged people to come out for Tuck Everlasting.

“Everyone involved gets such joy out of singing the music and telling the story,” he said. “It’s a great Mother’s Day weekend, take the family show, kids of all ages are appropriate. I’m pretty sure you will love it if you come to see it.”

Tuck Everlasting
When: Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, May 12, at 2 p.m.
Where: Colonial Theatre, 609 Main St., Laconia
Tickets: $18 to $22 at etix.com

Featured Photo: Nikolai Fernandez and Maci Johnson as Jesse Tuck and Winnie Foster in Tuck Everlasting. Courtesy photo.

Hometown heroes

Donaher back with new song, local show

In October, internet ‘zine The Hard Times called Donaher “massively underrated” and the best pop-punk band in New Hampshire, part of a nationwide survey that also included Green Day and the Ataris. It’s well-deserved praise; the Manchester quartet — lead singer and guitarist Nick Lavallee, Tristan Omand on guitar and backing vocals, bassist Adam Wood and drummer Nick Lee — plays buoyant, infectious music.

Since forming in 2017, the group has amassed a solid fan base, via its recorded output — two albums and an EP — and high-energy live shows. They’re a solid draw at local spots, on the Seacoast and down into Boston. With a sensibility harkening back to the days of Weezer and the Replacements, they acquire new adherents every time they walk on stage or leap out of a car speaker.

Their latest single, “Stay Up,” continues the trend, though unlike 2022’s sometimes dour LP Gravity and the Stars Above, this ode to wholesome lust is brimming with good vibes. There’s love in the air when Lavallee sings of wanting only to be “kissing on my couch” with his intended, presumably as a rented copy of Can’t Hardly Wait plays on the VCR. ’90s nostalgia is brimming on the song, right down to its floppy disc packaging.

Apart from time in the studio working on a new album, Donaher took the winter off, but now it’s back with a few local shows. This includes one at The Shaskeen on May 4, where, uncharacteristically, the hometown favorites are the opening band. In a recent phone interview, Lavallee said the move reflected his mood of late, as well as Donaher’s many Gen X fans.

“Let the bands in their 20s stay up late,” he said. “Their friends, and the people that come to see them, are going to be juiced up whether it’s 9 or 11:30. It doesn’t matter.”

Not that Lavallee isn’t busy; far from it. The pop culture polymath runs Wicked Joyful, a company that began by making bespoke action figures, a wildly successful effort. Most recently, comedian Jim Gaffigan commissioned one to mark a run of shows at Boston’s Wilbur Theatre. Later this year the company will open a physical store in Queen City Center, when work on the Canal Street entertainment center is completed.

He also created a campaign to recognize Manchester as the birthplace of the chicken tender. Wicked Joyful now sells Tender Town clothing that includes a T-shirt at this year’s Taco Tour in downtown Manchester on Thursday, May 2, from 4 to 8 p.m. (see tacotourmanchester.com for more information on that event). The company is both hosting a pop-up merch tent and curating a Shaskeen afterparty at the foodie event. A free 21+ show starting at 9 p.m. has the Carissa Johnson Band, indie rockers Cozy Throne and god.damn.chan playing hip-hop, trip-hop and trap.

“It’s an eclectic mix of live music to extend your Taco Tour experience,” Lavallee said.

Lavallee is an unabashed booster of his hometown.

“I love Manchester and I’m tired of hearing that Manchester has potential,” he said. “Actually, Manchester’s pretty awesome, it’s just that no one’s figured out how to elevate the awesomeness of Manchester. That’s what I’ve been trying to do the past few years, if not the past decade. It’s not about potential, it’s here.”

Of his initiative to enshrine the crispy treat invented at The Puritan restaurant, Lavallee noted, “One person said to me, ‘Oh, that just seems like low-hanging fruit.’ I was like, ‘low-hanging fruit? No one’s done it! What are you talking about?’ It’s been there for 40 to 50 years, and no one thought, ‘Hey, let’s associate a brand identity for Manchester with a food that nearly everybody loves that was created here.”

Beyond that, while linking the word “tender” to a scrappy recovered mill town seems counterintuitive to some, it makes complete sense to Lavallee. “It is this kind of rugged industrial place,” he said. “But Manchester is like a chicken tender…. It’s salty and sweet. That’s who we’re like, that’s the Manchester I know. We’re resilient, we’re a different shade of New England.”

Donaher opening for Keep Flying, Waiver & everway
When: Saturday, May 4, 8 p.m.
Where: Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester
Tickets: $10 at the door. See linktr.ee/donaher.

Featured photo: Donaher. Photo By Cat Confrancisco.

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