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Entertainment Highlights: Tom Chapin Wants to Keep the Kids Entertained, and the Parents, Too

As a family-oriented musician, singer-songwriter Tom Chapin hopes to create music that’s, in his words, “kid-friendly and adult-safe.” It’s a challenge that has blocked many musicians from trying to write songs with a multi-generational appeal. But for Chapin, who performs Sunday afternoon in a family concert at Plainfield Town Hall, writing music for parents, children and grandparents has been one of the most fulfilling experiences in his 50-year career.

“If you’re successful and do a really good record, you’re touching the entire family,” Chapin said earlier this week in a phone interview from Lexington, Ky., where he appeared on the Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour. “The highest praise I get is from parents who say, ‘Yours are the CDs we take on long car trips.’ And that’s indicative that the parents can listen to it over and over again.”

Over the last half century, Chapin has made a name for himself in the separate yet related realms of folk and family music. Performing folk was very much a family affair; Chapin is the son of jazz drummer Tim Chapin, and he performed in The Chapin Brothers with his brothers Steve and Harry, who later scored a hit with Cat’s in the Cradle before his death in 1981.

The move into family entertainment came naturally for Tom Chapin. He’d already starred in a children’s TV show, Make A Wish, in the early ‘70s. Then as a father of two young daughters in the 1980s, Chapin was disheartened by the lack of music that could appeal to his girls, then ages 6 and 8, who were too old for kids’ singer Raffi, but “not ready, really, for rebellion and love songs, which is what pop radio is.”

Since his first family CD, Family Tree, was released in 1988, Chapin’s contributions to the family music field have ranged from the 2011 CD Give Peas a Chance, which talked about the environment and healthy eating, to his most recent album, The Incredible Flexible You, released earlier this month. With each album, “Parents can listen over and over to it with their kids, and if you’re really successful, it will open discussions between them,” he said.

The Incredible Flexible You shares a name with Michelle Garcia Winner’s children’s book of the same name, which emphasizes the Social Thinking method of helping children with autism learn social skills. But the album “works for any elementary child,” Chapin said, “especially the younger children, because this is a world now where kids don’t play with each other as much as they used to. … Now very often, kids are stuck in front of a TV or Game Boy or some other thing, where it’s not person to person, it’s person to machine.

“You talk to teachers, and they really have to teach some social skills,” Chapin continued. “I’m loving the fact that this recording is really about those preschool and early elementary social skills. It was very fun and very informative for me to write this.”

As he tours the country, Chapin still performs plenty of shows for his longtime adult listeners. There’s nothing about the songs he sings or the stories he tells that would make these shows off-limits for kids. But Chapin’s family shows, including the one he’ll perform Sunday in Plainfield, are meant to bring parents and children together for entertainment that all ages can enjoy.

“I’m not expecting kids (to sit) through two one-hour sets of me talking about my love life and politics. It’s really well-sung songs that are well-played and interesting, but clear, so that a 5-, a 6-, a 10-year-old, can understand, and fun and delightful enough that parents will enjoy it as well.”

Tom Chapin performs at 2 p.m. Sunday at Plainfield Town Hall ($25, adults; $15, children; contact 603-675-5454 to purchase tickets).

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Travis Tritt needs no introduction to the country music faithful. A two-time Grammy winner and member of the Grand Ole Opry, Tritt, who performs a solo acoustic show at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Lebanon Opera House, has carved a musical name for himself for his unique contribution to country, drawing inspiration from Southern rock, honky-tonk and folk influences ($39-$59).

∎ The dance ensemble Ultima Vez is currently touring the country to perform the piece What the Body Does Not Remember, choreographed by Wim Vandekeybus when he was only 23 years old. The company will perform the high-energy, Bessie Award-winning piece at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday in the Moore Theater at the Hopkins Center for the Arts in Hanover ($17-$40). During their residency in Hanover, Ultima Vez will also offer a dance master class for teen and adult dancers of all abilities and backgrounds at 6 p.m. Monday in Straus Dance Studio ($10).

∎ One man’s journey from unseemly construction worker and lousy husband to transvestite is explored in David Schein’s one-man show Out Comes Butch. Schein has performed the show in New York, London and Berkeley, Calif., and Out Comes Butch will have its Upper Valley premiere at The Main Street Museum in White River Junction at 8 p.m. Saturday. After the show, the group Aporia and musicians from Windsor’s What Doth Life collective will play into the evening, and before the show, there will be appetizers from the Crop Bistro in Stowe, Vt., and the New England Culinary Institute ($45 for dinner and show; $15 for show only).

∎ The top talents in Woodstock will show what they’re made of at the 16th annual Woodstock Community Showcase at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Woodstock Town Hall Theatre. Organized by music director Bob Merrill and produced by Kevin Fitzpatrick, the evening will feature belly dancing from Gina Capossela and the Raqs Salaam Dance Theater, comedy from Valley Improv, tap dancing from Sharon Groblicki, and much more ($10; $8, students).

∎ Newport’s up-and-coming actors will bring to life the beloved songs of the Schoolhouse Rock catalogue in Schoolhouse Rock Live Jr.! at 7 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Newport Opera House. Expect to revisit old grammar, history and civics lessons via old hits like Unpack Your Adjectives and Just A Bill ($12-$16).

On Stage

Northern Stage concludes its production of David Mamet’s Race, a co-production with Capital Repertory Theater in Albany, N.Y., with performances at 7:30 p.m. tonight through Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday. Visit www.northernstage.org to purchase tickets.

Blues/Soul

The Upper Valley soul, funk and dance band Dr. Burma return to their old haunt, Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction, for a show at 8 p.m. tomorrow. During Dr. Burma’s quarter-century of performing, they’ve shared stages with Fontella Bass and Bo Diddley and opened for B.B. King. Be sure and bring your dancing shoes ($15).

∎ The Sensible Shoes duo of Tim Utt and Barbara Blaisdell will be joined by guest vocalist Tom Lord in a free show at 7 p.m. tomorrow at ArtisTree Community Arts Center and Gallery in Woodstock.

Jazz

Jazz vocalist and trumpetist Christine Fawson has performed with the group Syncopation at jazz festivals nationwide and at the 2009 Boston Pops 4th of July celebration. Fawson next performs in the Jazz On A Sunday Afternoon series at 4 p.m. Sunday at The Center at Eastman in Grantham ($18, adults; $16, students and seniors).

Family Entertainment

The children’s theater ensemble TheatreWorksUSA will bring to life the story of the explorers William Clark and Meriwether Lewis and their journey through the Louisiana Purchase in Lewis & Clark: A Celebration of American Teamwork at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. tomorrow at Woodstock Town Hall Theatre ($5).

∎ The Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia has applied the magic of puppetry to beloved children’s books such as Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. They’ll return to the Hopkins Center for the Arts in Hanover this weekend to perform their adaptation of Sam McBratney’s story Guess How Much I Love You at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Hop’s Moore Theater ($10-$23).

∎ The touring theater company ArtsPower will come to Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph at 10 a.m. Wednesday to present Rainbow Fish, a musical theater adaptation of Marcus Pfister’s story about a fish who must decide whether to share his silver scales, the thing that makes him the most beautiful fish in the sea ($6).

School Performances

Middle school students at The Sharon Academy present the 7th annual Middle School Circus at 7 p.m. tomorrow and 5 p.m. Saturday at TSA’s high school campus. Students have created the show over the past few weeks with the help of Troy Wunderle, the director of clowning for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus ($3).

Choral Music

The Bel Canto Chamber Singers will perform jovial music to ring in the new season in their third annual “BHAM!” concert at 3 p.m. Saturday at Lebanon’s First Congregational Church ($15, adults; $10, students).

Comedy

Comedians Jimmy “PJ” Walsh, Ryan Gartley and Will Betts will provide the laughs for a night of comedy at Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction at 7 p.m. Saturday ($17).

Dance Music

Cuckoo’s Nest provides the music and Adina Gordon will call at Saturday night’s contradance and potluck dinner at Tracy Hall in Norwich. A family dance begins at 5 p.m., followed by the potluck dinner at 6:30 and the dance at 8 ($5-$8; seniors by donation; children 16 and younger free).

∎ Generations Collide plays Saturday night’s dance at the White River Junction VFW Hall, starting at 8 ($5, members; $6, non-members).

∎ DJ Shar4 spins dance music at Salt hill Pub in Hanover at 10 p.m. Saturday.

Bar and Club Circuit

Jason Cann plays his weekly set at Harpoon Brewery in Windsor at 6 tonight.

∎ The Second Wind duo of Suzi Hastings and Terry Ray Gould will play for diners at Jesse’s Restaurant in Hanover starting at 5 p.m. tomorrow.

∎ Jester Jigs performs at Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. tomorrow.

∎ Vermont rocker Chad Hollister plays a set at Salt hill Pub in Newport tonight at 8:30. The pub also has music from Brooks Hubbard tomorrow and The Road Trash Band on Saturday; both shows start at 9 p.m.

∎ Salt hill Pub in Lebanon has music this weekend from Dixie Dee and the Diamonds tomorrow and Baldilocks on Saturday; both shows start at 9 p.m. As always, the pub has live traditional Irish music sessions at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

∎ The Party Crashers play Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland at 9 p.m. tomorrow.

∎ Dave Bundza travels from Manchester, N.H. to Hanover for a show at Salt hill Pub at 9 p.m. tomorrow. The pub also has live traditional Irish music sessions led by Randy Miller and Roger Kahle at 6 tonight.

∎ The Common Man Restaurant in Claremont has music from Jim Hollis at 5 p.m. Sunday.

∎ Gregory Brown plays a set at Shepard’s Pie Restaurant on Route 4 in Quechee at 7 p.m. tomorrow.

∎ Joice Marie performs cover songs for diners in the Blue Bar at Juniper Hill Inn in Windsor, starting at 6 p.m. Sunday.

∎ These musicians perform at Canoe Club in Hanover: tonight, guitarist Ted Mortimer; tomorrow, the Second Wind duo; Saturday, Joshua Hall; and Tuesday, Dave Sicilia.

Open Mics, Jams

Singer-songwriter James Krueger, whom the judges of the Great American Song Contest deemed “an extraordinarily talented writer with a real talent for poetic imagery,” plays in the next installment of the Sunapee Community Coffeehouse at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the basement of the Sunapee Methodist Church. A hat will be passed for the performer.

∎ The Corinth Historical Society’s “Cookeville Cafe” series presents an evening with folk performers Tracie Potochnik and Bill Michalski at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Corinth Town Hall. An open mic follows the performance.

∎ Tonight, Salt hill Pub in Lebanon has an open mic hosted by Seth Barbiero and Brian Warren from 8 to 11.

∎ Chad Gibbs hosts Salt hill Pub in Hanover’s open mic at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

∎ Shepard’s Pie Restaurant on Route 4 in Quechee is the site of a Tuesday night open mic, starting at 6.

∎ The Colatina Exit in Bradford has an open mic on Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

∎ There’s an open jam every Tuesday night from 7 to 9 at Tuck’s Rock Dojo in Etna.

∎ Wednesday night is open mic night at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland. It’s led by Gregory Brown and starts at 8:30.

∎ Anthony Furnari hosts an open mic at Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Katie Beth Ryan can be reached at kbryan@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.