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Entertainment Highlights: Ode to the Unemployed

Ethan Lipton Lost His Day Job, and Turned to Music and Story

  • Alleigh Whiteside as Maria, sings and dances with the Von Trap Family children in NCCT's production of The Sound of Music. Final performances are July 18-20 at the Lebanon Opera House.. (Aurora Berger photograph)

    Alleigh Whiteside as Maria, sings and dances with the Von Trap Family children in NCCT's production of The Sound of Music. Final performances are July 18-20 at the Lebanon Opera House.. (Aurora Berger photograph)

  • Judi Daigle as Mother Abess sings Climb Every Mountain while the rest of the cast sings behind her in North Country Community Theatre's production of The Sound of Music put on at the Lebanon Opera House. Final performances are July 18, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. (Aurora Berger photograph)

    Judi Daigle as Mother Abess sings Climb Every Mountain while the rest of the cast sings behind her in North Country Community Theatre's production of The Sound of Music put on at the Lebanon Opera House. Final performances are July 18, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. (Aurora Berger photograph)

  • Alleigh Whiteside as Maria, sings and dances with the Von Trap Family children in NCCT's production of The Sound of Music. Final performances are July 18-20 at the Lebanon Opera House.. (Aurora Berger photograph)
  • Judi Daigle as Mother Abess sings Climb Every Mountain while the rest of the cast sings behind her in North Country Community Theatre's production of The Sound of Music put on at the Lebanon Opera House. Final performances are July 18, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. (Aurora Berger photograph)

Ethan Lipton’s realization he’d eventually lose his publishing job couldn’t have come at a better time.

Lipton, a Brooklyn-based playwright and musician, had just heard that the Joe’s Pub in New York was commissioning musical theater pieces, with an emphasis on the musical. He had a connection with the pub, and realized he had something to say, as his job security became more and more suspect.

No Place to Go, Lipton’s ode to joblessness in the down economy, premiered at the venue in early 2012, two months after Lipton lost his day job. Along with his “orchestra” (an upright bassist, a guitarist and a saxophonist), he’ll bring the show, a hybrid of narrative and music, to the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College on Friday.

The story is often a juxtaposition of the ordinary and absurd. The fact that the main character’s company is relocating to Mars carries the same weight as suite of songs from the point of view of a forgotten sandwich. The setting is never referred to as New York, but rather “our town,” and his job title is the nonsensical “information refiner.” If the character has done his job right, he says, you’d never know it.

“As refiners of information I’d give us a solid B-plus,” he says during a spoken portion of Soccer Song. “But as models of gentility and debaters of the ridiculous, we were the best there ever was.”

That general approach to the story has gotten a strong reaction from audiences, Lipton said. He hasn’t played a show where someone doesn’t come up to him afterward to relate his or her tale of getting laid off, or of realizing that the fabric of his or her life isn’t so strong.

“It’s not a tragic story. It’s not an exceptional story,” Lipton said in an interview. “It’s a kind of humdrum story that has become a lot more peoples’ stories, I think, in the last couple years, as people keep getting shuffled out of jobs.”

It was the first time Lipton combined his play writing with his music as part of Ethan Lipton and his Orchestra, which released an album in 2007 and another, crowd-funded one three years later. He said he wrote about 10 songs — most of which heavily rely on Lipton’s storytelling style — and then weaved a narrative through them.

During the show, his narration will slide into music cues, but will avoid the occasional bombast of Broadway. Hop staff will attempt to emulate the intimate feel of Joe’s Pub, said spokeswoman Rebecca Bailey, by moving the audience closer to the performers.

Also woven through the show are a host of slight stylistic deviations from the band’s “formula,” as it were. The band is often pegged as “lounge,” likely due to its singer’s wry delivery and, more likely, its jazzy instrumentation. Granted, there’s a reason for the stereotype, as it often holds true, but No Place to Go tries out bounding acoustic folk numbers, four-part harmonies of a particular unprintable word and a strange, percussive tune in which Lipton shouts out commands during a company soccer game.

At one point, he sings about the Works Progress Administration. Then there’s the three-part runner about the sandwich in the conference room, which sort of charts the state of the office over the show. Then there’s Thank You (Financial Crisis Blues), in which Lipton sings:

“On the third day of October, in the year 2008, the Troubled Asset Relief Program cooked up the United States./ First they dipped us in frosting and sprinkles, then they fed us to all of the banks./ They said now you’ve been eaten by zombies; how about giving some thanks?”

Ethan Lipton and His Orchestra will perform “No Place to Go” twice on Friday at the Hop. The first show is at 7 p.m., and the second starts at 9:30. Tickets range from $12.50 to $25, and can be purchased at https://hop.dartmouth.edu/Online/ethan_lipton.

Best Bets

∎ On her website, Northampton, Mass.-based singer-songwriter Heather Maloney characterizes her music as “adventurous folk,” which uses an adjective that’s just non-specific enough to work. Indeed, Maloney’s music is adventurous, ostensibly built on acoustic guitar, but eager to bound outward into different genres. Great Imposter, for instance, the first song on her self-titled record that came out this year, jumps effortlessly from plucked folk, to funky electric strums reminiscent of the early-2000s wave of British pop bands like Franz Ferdinand, to a twangy banjo refrain. But though Maloney flirts with all these different genres, she never goes far enough to sit comfortably in any one. So: adventurous, it is. Maloney will perform on the Quechee Green tonight at 6:30 p.m.

∎ Much like Maloney, calling Todd Snider a folk singer, or Americana musician, or anything of the sort wouldn’t quite be fair. On his 2012 album Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables, the veteran musician, who has been releasing albums at a quick clip since the early 1990s, tells his stories atop chunky, oft-distorted guitar contrasted with pretty violin parts. The songs thump along confidently, which speaks to nearly two decades of song craft. Snider will play the Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction on Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30.

A Look Ahead

∎ The Hop will hold a free, hour-long preview of its 2013-14 season, (which will include visits from banjoist Bela Fleck, musician/weird comedian Reggie Watts, and singer Bobby McFerrin) tonight at 5:30 p.m. It’s in the Moore Theater, and will have free snacks courtesy of the Canoe Club.

Music

∎ Dance-able blues and funk trio About Gladys will play the latest in Windsor’s Concerts on the Common series, coming to the town on Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

∎ The Yankee Brass Band, which performs old music scores on authentic, 19th-century band instruments, will perform at Lyman Point Park in White River Junction on Wednesday. The show begins at 6:30 p.m.

∎ Green Room, a multifaceted band dabbling in funk, jazz and more, will play Friday at White River Junction’s Main Street Museum. The show begins at 8 p.m., and donations will be requested.

Theater

A series of performances of the Broadway classic Singin’ in the Rain, which began yesterday, will continue tonight at the New London Barn Playhouse. The show, which is directed by Robert Sella, will play tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday at 5 p.m. Tickets range from $23.50 to $33. For information go to www.nlbarn.org/.

∎ The Summer Pride Festival at Randolph’s Chandler Music Hall will end this weekend with repeat performances of last week’s three plays, though with a few different tweaks. At 7 p.m. Friday,Vermont Law School Professor Greg Johnson will introduce the repeat performance of Hannah Free, and speak about the recent Defense of Marriage Act Supreme Court case. At 6:30 p.m. Saturday, photographer Evie Lovett and interviewer Greg Sharrow will host a look at “Backstage at the Rainbow Cattle Company,” an audio-visual exhibit focusing on drag queens in rural Vermont. A repeat performance of Martin Casella’s Directions for Restoring the Apparently Dead will follow. And at 7 p.m. Sunday, Gov. Peter Shumlin will introduce a repeat performance of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde. Adult tickets are $17 in advance, $20 day of show; student tickets are $12 in advance, $15 day of show. They can be purchased at www.chandler-arts.org.

∎ The Children’s Theatre will bring The Hunchback of Notre Dame to Plainfield and Claremont on Monday, the fifth show in its eight-week summer schedule. The troupe, which is based in Lincoln, N.H., will perform at the Claremont Opera House at 10 a.m. ($6 at the door) and at the Plainfield Town Hall at 1 p.m. ($7 at the door, and $25 for a four-pack). The shows are about a half-hour long.

∎ The National Marionette Theater, which is based in Brattleboro, Vt., will bring a performance of Peter and the Wolf to the Alumni Hall in Haverhill. The show is Saturday at 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $5 for kids.

∎ An adaptation of Heidi at the Old Church Theater in Bradford will continue through this weekend, with shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. They can be purchased by emailing reservations@oldchurchtheater.org or calling 802-222-3322.

Bar and Club Circuit

The versatile New England group The Party Crashers, which adds horns and percussion to its tight lineup, will play at Skunk Hollow Tavern Friday at 9 p.m. They’ll play the tavern again Aug. 29.

∎ The John Lackard Blues Band hits the Upper Valley with a show at the Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon. It starts Friday at 9 p.m.

∎ Blues, rock and ragtime performer Will Michaels will make his way to the Salt hill Pub in Newport tonight. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. On Friday at 9 p.m., Wayne Canney, who played at the pub in Hanover last week, will perform classic rock and country songs at the bar’s Newport iteration. And on Saturday, the Dusty Gray Band, which earlier this month opened for the Zac Brown Band in Gilford, N.H., will bring its country rock to the pub at 9 p.m.

∎ Bluegrass duo The Sky Blue Boys will make its Salt hill Lebanon debut Friday at 9 p.m. The next night at the same time, blues, funk and rock group Mo’Combo will swing by the pub.

∎ Jim Hollis, who specializes in pop and rock classics from the 1960s and 1970s, will perform at Salt hill Hanover Friday at 9 p.m. The next night at the same time, rock-and-folk trio Borderstone will make its pub debut.

∎ Bobbi & Me will perform at Jesse’s in Hanover on Friday. Music begins at 5 p.m.

∎ Pete Meijer & Friends will perform tonight at Bentleys Restaurant in Woodstock, beginning at 8 p.m.

∎ On Friday, Gregory Brown — the same one who hosts the Skunk Hollow open mic — will perform at River Stones Tavern in Quechee. Show starts at 8 p.m.

Open Mics

∎ Salt hill Pub in Hanover runs an open mic, hosted by Chad Gibbs, on Mondays at 9 p.m.

∎ At the Salt hill in Lebanon, Brian Warren and Seth Barbiero will host an open mic tonight starting at 8.

∎ Brian Warren also hosts an open mic at Bentleys Restaurant in Woodstock. It’s on Mondays, starting at 8:30 p.m.

∎ Bradford’s Colatina Exit hosts an open mic on Tuesdays starting at 8 p.m.

∎ The Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon runs an open mic night on Wednesday, beginning at 8 p.m.

∎ Gregory Brown hosts an open mic at Hartland’s Skunk Hollow Tavern, beginning at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3242. Send Highlights to Highlights@vnews.com.