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Entertainment Highlights: It’s “Beauty and the Beast,” and Singing Dinner Plates, Too

  • The Beast, played by Jay Swartz of Brookfield, laments that he will never find true love in Belle in the song "If I Can't Love Her," during rehearsal for  Beauty and The Beast at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vt., on July 1, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    The Beast, played by Jay Swartz of Brookfield, laments that he will never find true love in Belle in the song "If I Can't Love Her," during rehearsal for Beauty and The Beast at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vt., on July 1, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • Belle, played by Aenea Thorne of Vershire, is entertained by Lumiere, played by Amos Byrne of Chelsea, right, during "Be Our Guest" at a rehearsal of Beauty and The Beast at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vt., on July 1, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Belle, played by Aenea Thorne of Vershire, is entertained by Lumiere, played by Amos Byrne of Chelsea, right, during "Be Our Guest" at a rehearsal of Beauty and The Beast at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vt., on July 1, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • Bar patrons swoon over Gaston, played by Luke Farley of Northfield, and his muscles during a rehearsal of Beauty and The Beast at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vt., on July 1, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Bar patrons swoon over Gaston, played by Luke Farley of Northfield, and his muscles during a rehearsal of Beauty and The Beast at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vt., on July 1, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • The Beast, played by Jay Swartz of Brookfield, laments that he will never find true love in Belle in the song "If I Can't Love Her," during rehearsal for  Beauty and The Beast at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vt., on July 1, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Belle, played by Aenea Thorne of Vershire, is entertained by Lumiere, played by Amos Byrne of Chelsea, right, during "Be Our Guest" at a rehearsal of Beauty and The Beast at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vt., on July 1, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Bar patrons swoon over Gaston, played by Luke Farley of Northfield, and his muscles during a rehearsal of Beauty and The Beast at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vt., on July 1, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

As a director, Charlie McMeekin has always been attracted to large-scale productions. It makes sense, then, that he’s helmed the annual youth performances at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph for 15 years.

It also makes sense that last year’s show, Peter Pan, utilized 35 lost boys. In the Disney movie, there were six.

For this summer’s play, McMeekin is directing 25 dinner plates.

They’ll be plates of the anthropomorphic — or enchanted — kind, as the director marshals a cast of 130 around the stage in an adaptation of another Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast, which will start tonight and run through the weekend. It’s the biggest cast the Sharon Academy English teacher has ever taken on, if not by much.

The purpose behind these summer shows, McMeekin said, is to let kids connect on a level beyond normal school interactions. Maybe then they’d recognize one another while playing school sports, for instance.

“That just changes the shape of their universe, as far as I’m concerned,” McMeekin said. “It’s just got all kinds of what I think are healthy ripples.”

The cast, aged 7 to 17, comes from as far away as Burlington and Montpelier and as nearby as Sharon and Bethel, he said; though the leads are chosen via auditions, everyone who wants to act gets the chance. Sharon Academy senior Aenea Thorne will play Belle, McMeekin said. Recent Randolph Union High School graduate Jay Swartz will play the Beast, and recent Northfield High School graduate Luke Farley is Gaston.

The automatic acceptances lead to the enormous choruses, every member of which needs to be costumed.

That’s where LaRae Francis comes in. Francis, by day the project manager for Blueprint for Health and Randolph’s Gifford Medical Center, has been clothing the actors for seven years. A self-taught seamstress, she began helping her daughters with costumes when they were in grade school. They have long since graduated, but she’s stayed with the yearly productions.

“It’s my creative outlet,” Francis said. “It’s incredibly empowering and fun to take a concept and a script, and pull it all together so that the costuming enhances the production, and makes their role as actors easier because they’re wearing what they feel.”

In this case, they’ll be wearing pipes and tubing, plastic sheets and other unlikely items, as Francis and other volunteers were tasked with making costumes that could be seen as “enchanted” teapots and plates come to life.

That challenge was new, Francis said, but wasn’t too much of a roadblock. It required as many trips to the hardware store as the craft store.

“I adapt to the show,” she said. “Costuming something like Beauty and the Beast is vastly different than costuming Peter Pan.”

For McMeekin, who has no formal drama background but has been directing students for more than three decades, it only gets easier over the years, as many of the same cast members come back every summer. He estimated that about 80 percent of the cast is made up of returnees.

“It’s just a spectacle,” he said.

Beauty & The Beast will run tonight through Sunday at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph. Shows tonight, tomorrow and Saturday begin at 7 p.m. and the Sunday matinee begins at 2 p.m. Tickets are $19.25 for adults and $12.75 for students. 802-728-6464.

Best Bets

∎ The Vox Theater ensemble, which works on projects connecting Dartmouth College artists, will continue VoxFest through the weekend. The festival is a partnership with Dartmouth’s Department of Theater, in which at least nine alumni have created or directed plays and musicals, which are works in progress. All will be presented as readings or staged readings.

Though one show has already been performed, five more will be staged over the course of tomorrow and Saturday. The next performance is By So Falling, at 6 p.m. tomorrow in the Warner Bentley Theater at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, and follows two people experiencing odd, unexpected encounters with others. It’s written and directed by 2005 alumnus Thom Pasculli.

Other shows occur at 8 p.m. tomorrow, and 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and deal with everything from the relationship between war and health care to Jimmy Carter. All shows are at the Warner Bentley Theater except for the musical Oneida, at 3 p.m. Saturday, which will be at the Moore Theater. For more information, go to www.voxtheater.org/voxfest/ or www.hop.dartmouth.edu/Online/2013_voxfest.

∎ English soul singer James Hunter has, over the years, toured with Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Willie Nelson. He’s contributed backup vocals to two Van Morrison albums. And his 2006 album, People Gonna Talk, was nominated for a Grammy Award. Tomorrow, he and his band will come to Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction for an 8 p.m. show.

The group — now called The James Hunter Six, to recognize the musicians in the band not named James Hunter — released its most recent album, Minute by Minute, this February. The title track is especially worth a look, with its skittery guitar line and smooth horn breaks. Tickets for the show are $35, and can be purchased from www.tupelohallvermont.com.

Outdoor Concerts

∎ Philadelphia-based singer Carmen Magro will perform his brand of passionate piano pop — check out the single America, which soars as high as We Are the World and is just as earnest — at Lyman Point Park in White River Junction on Wednesday. Show begins at 6:30 p.m.

∎ Multi-faceted music maker Rick Davis, who lives in Ascutney and runs karaoke, a recording studio and more, will perform on the Windsor Common on Wednesday. The show goes from 6 to 8 p.m.

∎ The funky Sensible Shoes Band, led by pianist Barbara Blaisdell and guitarist and singer Tim Utt, will bring a mix of originals and covers to the Strafford Green for the town’s summer concert series on Tuesday. The show goes from 6 to 7:30 p.m. In case of rain, they will move indoors to the Town House.

Other Music

∎ Classicopia, the non-profit Upper Valley chamber music group, will bring the one-time-only show A Woman’s Voice to Hanover on Wednesday. The group’s artistic director, Daniel Weiser, will perform solo piano songs written by female composers such as Clara Schumann and Amy Beach, and talk about the difficulties they faced getting their music heard. Wednesday’s show will take place at 7 p.m. at 2 Ridge Road, the home of Al and Marilyn Austin-Nelson. The performance, which includes light food and drink, costs $40. Call or email Marcia Colligan at 603-643-3337 or marcia@classicopia.org to reserve seats.

∎ Tomorrow is First Friday, and White River Junction’s Main Street Museum will celebrate by bringing in country-rockers James McSheffrey and Donna Thunders. The show starts at 8 p.m., and donations ranging from $2 to $20 are encouraged.

∎ The Vermont Symphony Orchestra will present Summer Songbook, this year’s iteration of its annual show at the Suicide Six Ski Resort in South Pomfret, tomorrow. The program will feature guest vocalist Sara Jean Ford — who has experience on Broadway — and will include numbers by Cole Porter and George Gershwin, as well as a version of the 1812 Overture set to a fireworks display. Gates open at 5 p.m., and the concert starts at 7:30. Chairs and blankets are recommended, unless the weather is bad, in which case the show will move to Woodstock Union High School. Tickets are $36 at the gate for adults ($31 in advance), and $12 at the gates for those under 18 (free in advance).

Theater

∎ This week’s Children’s Theater performance, The Jungle Book, will come to the Upper Valley on Monday. The show, which is put on by a troupe within the Lincoln, N.H.-based Jean’s Playhouse Performing Arts Center, is based on the Rudyard Kipling book and subsequent Disney film about a young boy named Mowgli raised by jungle animals. The troupe will perform the 30-minute show, which is suitable for ages 3 and up, at the Claremont Opera House at 10 a.m. and the Plainfield Town Hall at 1 p.m. Single tickets are $6 each or $5 each for groups of 20 or more, which also require advance notice. Every audience member age 1 and up requires a ticket.

∎ The Parish Players will present the first of three Eclipse Grange Shorts: An Evening of Short Story Performances Saturday evening. The show, at the Eclipse Grange Theater in Thetford, will focus on the works of leading American writers. It will include readings of Ernest Hemingway’s Indian Camp by Neal Meglathery, William Faulkner’s A Rose For Emily by Kim Meredith, John Updike’s Trust Me by Kevin Fitzpatrick and Annie Proulx’s The Unclouded Day by Alan Haehnel. Saturday’s show will be at 7:30 p.m. Next weekend’s performances will be at 7:30 Saturday night and 3 p.m. on Sunday.

∎ The Music Man continues at the New London Barn Playhouse. There are shows tonight through Sunday, and then Tuesday through July 14. For show times and tickets, go to www.nlbarn.org/box-office/current-season/.

Bar and Club Circuit

∎ Upper Valley supergroup The Elmores, a blues trio featuring members of Dr. Burma, The Squids and more, will perform at the Salt hill Pub in Lebanon tomorrow at 9 p.m. On Saturday night, Frydaddy will play at the same place and time.

∎ Spare Parts comes to Jesse’s in Hanover tomorrow. Music starts at 5 p.m.

∎ Members of the Mad Beach Band will be on hand when two of their own, Tom & Melanie, play classic rock at Newport’s Salt hill Pub tomorrow at 9 p.m. The next night, Vermont’s Malicious Brothers perform at 9 p.m. The pub’s website describes the duo as “backwoods blues and swamp boogie,” an apt description of the multi-instrumentalists’ soulful, driving music.

∎ Boston duo The Whiskey Geese will visit Salt hill Pub in Hanover tomorrow at 9 p.m. The next night, Sunapee-based indie-acoustic duo Andrew & Kitch will perform, bringing a sort of whispery sensitivity to their originals and covers, which include Coldplay, Tom Petty and John Mayer.

∎ Marko the Magician will bring table-side magic to Bradford’s Colatina Exit on Sunday, starting at 5:30 p.m. For kids, too.

∎ Grafton-based hard rock band Jester Jigs will head over to the Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon tomorrow. Show starts at 10 p.m.

∎ Jim Yeager will perform at Bentleys Restaurant in Woodstock tonight at 8 p.m.

Open Mics

∎ The Salt hill Pub in Hanover will run an open mic, hosted by Chad Gibbs, at 9 p.m. on Monday. The Lebanon Salt hill Pub’s normal Thursday open mic is canceled this week due to the Fourth of July.

∎ Colatina Exit in Bradford will host an open mic on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

∎ The Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland runs an open mic on Wednesday, beginning at 8:30 p.m.

∎ West Lebanon’s Seven Barrel Brewery hosts an open mic night on Wednesdays, starting at 8 p.m.

∎ Bentleys Restaurant in Woodstock holds an open mic, with Brian Warren hosting, at 8:30 p.m. on Monday.

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