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Highlights: ArtisTree Music Theatre Festival Returns

  • From left, Christopher Sutton, Renée Kathleen Koher, Lyn Philistine and Scott Moreau constitute the cast of "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," the opening show of the second annual AritisTree Music Theatre Festival. (Courtesy photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, August 23, 2018

On the stage of South Pomfret’s new Grange Theatre, Ariel, her crustacean confidant Sebastian and the rest of the aquatic menagerie of The Little Mermaid Jr. sang and danced to Under the Sea and other show-stoppers.

In the wings and behind the curtain those first few nights in mid-August 2017, the production team was resisting the temptation to describe the ArtisTree Music Theatre Festival as the “inaugural” or the “first,” at least out loud.

“We really didn’t know whether it was a one-shot deal,” Josh Smith, the festival’s artistic director and accompanying pianist, recalled this week. “I had the hope it was something that would live on, but there was no guarantee.”

Then Mermaid started selling out the 90-seat venue that ArtisTree Community Arts Center had fashioned out of the former Teago Grange Hall. Soon, advance ticket sales mounted for the festival’s subsequent productions of Always … Patsy Cline, of Godspell and of The Marvelous Wonderettes.

“You could see it on people’s faces as the festival went on,” Smith, a New York-based theater professional who lives in Barnard during the festival, said during a phone conversation from the sound booth in the Grange Theatre on Tuesday. “They were so happy. They were coming up to me in the general store and the market and thanking me for helping to make this happen.

“And they were asking if it was going to happen again.”

And so it was that during Wonderettes, Smith and his collaborators were “already perusing titles and figuring out logistics” for the second annual festival.

This year’s parade of musicals opens tonight with a preview performance of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and runs into foliage season with productions of The Fantasticks and Suds — The Rocking ’60s Musical Soap Opera.

For this second edition, “ticket sales are already strong with many shows already past half capacity,” ArtisTree marketing director Tayo Skarrow said on Tuesday. “We even have a few dates with only a few seats left. We expect shows to sell out, especially after this first opening weekend and the fall traffic in the area picks up.”

Audiences who attended last year’s stagings of Godspell and The Marvelous Wonderettes will see a familiar face in the four-person cast of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change in the form of Renee Kathleen Koher. Joining her in Perfect are Scott Moreau and the husband-and-wife team of Lyn Philistine and Christopher Sutton, who was in the play’s original off-Broadway cast.

In September, Koher will appear in The Fantasticks with Sutton. Headlining the cast are Ken Prymus — a star of CATS at Northern Stage and Pentangle as well as on Broadway — and Broadway cabaret standout Michael McAssey. Gary John La Rosa, who directed and choreographed Wonderettes, will assume those duties in this production.

From Oct. 4 to 20, Suds co-creator Melinda Gib will direct the family-friendly romp set in a laundromat in the years before the British Invasion turned the music world on its head.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Smith said of Suds. “I’ve done it twice in the last 15 years, at regional theaters in Syracuse and Maine. It’s going to be the perfect show for this space here.”

The second annual ArtisTree Music Theatre Festival opens tonight at 7:30 at the Grange Theatre in South Pomfret, with a preview performance of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. This production runs through Sept. 8. For tickets ($18 to $25 for tonight’s preview, $28 to $35 for all others) and information about the festival’s subsequent productions, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

Best Bets

The Conniption Fits perform on the downtown Lebanon mall tonight from 7 to 10, during the Lebanon Recreation Department’s Dance Fest.

The Wailin’ Jennys — aka the folk sirens Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Heather Masse — sing at the Flying Monkey Performance Center in Plymouth, N.H., on Friday night at 7:30. For tickets ($49 to $50) and more information, call 603-536-2551 or visit flyingmonkeynh.com.

Four musical acts from around the Twin States perform on the north common of Chelsea village on Saturday, during the Arts on the Green Market and Festival. The lineup includes Burlington singer-songwriter Jason Baker, the West African drummers of Arabalon from Concord, the Chelsea-based folk trio Hen of the Woods, Chelsea’s Jazz Tweed Duo of Nancy Taube and David Indenbaum, and Washington, Vt. singer-guitarist Doug Perkins. The gathering runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Hartland fiddler Marta Bartholomew leads the roots quintet Polaris into the East Thetford Pavilion on Saturday night at 8, to set the rhythm for the contradance that Nil Fredland will call. Admission is $5 to $10 to dance, which follows a 7:45 run-through for newcomers and for rusty dancers.

Directors Hal Sheeler and Henry Danaher lead the Upper Valley Singers into Enfield’s Mary Keane Chapel at 2 on Sunday afternoon, for a concert of classical compositions of Johannes Brahms, Louis Vierne, Josef Rheinberger, Stephen Paulus, Franz Biebl and Karl Jenkins. Admission is by donation to the fund for upkeep of the chapel, next door to the Enfield Shaker Museum.

Looking Ahead

South Newbury, Vt., fiddler Patrick Ross will lead his Hot Flannel All-Stars into South Pomfret on Aug. 31, as headliners for the Base Lodge Bluegrass Festival at the Suicide Six ski area. Grammy Award-winning guitarist-songwriter C Lanzbom’s band Deadgrass opens the festival at 6:30 p.m. Refreshments and kids’ activities will be available. Tickets cost $28 in advance and $35 at the door. For reservations, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

Theater/Performance Art

The New London Barn Playhouse stages its final production of the summer, the musical whodunit Murder for Two, 10 times between tonight at 7:30 and Sept. 1. To reserve tickets ($20), visit nlbarn.org or call 603-526-6710.

Music

The Break Maids perform folk-rock during the Feast and Field Market in Barnard tonight at 5:30.

Singer-songwriter Joel Cage plays the bandstand at Denny Park in downtown Bradford, Vt., tonight at 6. Admission is by donation.

The second week of the Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival begins tonight at 7, with an open rehearsal by the festival’s principal players at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph.

On Friday night at 7 at the Chandler, Sharon-based pianist Annemieke McLane plays her “Garden Tour,” a recital featuring works of Couperin, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Rimsky-Korsakov and Debussy. Admission is by donation.

On Saturday night at 7:30 at the Chandler (tickets $25 to $45) and then on Sunday afternoon at 4 at Woodstock’s North Universalist Chapel (admission $10), the festival principals perform works of Beethoven, Dvorak and Gideon Klein. Before the Saturday night concert, the ensemble will play several of the works, in a recital aimed at kids, at 10:30 a.m.; admission is $6.

To learn more, visit chandler-arts.org.

Tennessee-based singer-songwriter Amythyst Kiah performs Americana, Southern roots, alt-country and blues on Friday night at 5:30, on the back lawn of the Woodstock History Center. Admission is by donation.

The Kearsarge Community Band plays the final free concert of the season at the Haddad Bandstand in New London, on Friday night at 6:30.

The Uptown Jazz Tentet performs Friday night at 7 at Colby-Sawyer College’s Sawyer Theater in New London. For tickets ($5 to $25) and more information, visit summermusicassociates.org or call 603-526-8234.

Revels North takes over the East Thetford Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, starting at 1 with a drop-in chorus. The Americana ensemble Band of Fools plays a jam session at 3:30, then sets the rhythm for a community contradance at 6:30, after a potluck supper. While admission is free, donations are welcome. To learn more, visit revelsnorth.org.

Sensible Shoes performs rock and rhythm-and-blues on Saturday night at 6 at Storrs Pond Recreation Area in Hanover, during the annual Campout for the Cause benefiting the programs of the nonprofit Child and Family Services of New Hampshire. Admission is $15 to $50 for Saturday activities, and $100 for camping overnight. To learn more, visit cfsnh.org.

The East Bay Jazz Ensemble performs at the Flanders Stage on Sunapee Harbor on Saturday afternoon at 5.

Dan Freihofer leads The Dixie Dinos onto the Orford bandstand for a set of roots music on Saturday night at 7.

David Rosane and the Zookeepers, a trio that includes Bradford, Vt.-based folk-rockers Jennifer Grossi and Don Sinclair, complete their summer tour of central and northern Vermont on Saturday night at Chelsea Town Hall. Admission to the concert, which starts at 7, is by donation to a fund benefiting public libraries around the region, including Chelsea’s. The band also is donating proceeds from sales of its new CD to the fund.

Soulfix performs at the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee on Saturday night from 8:30 to 11:30, and at the Grantham Recreation Park and Pavilion on Tuesday night at 6.

The Newmont Band plays favorite marches during the weekly concert on Sunday afternoon at 2 at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish. Admission is included in the park’s entry fee of $10.

Sabrina and the Jazzcats perform on Sunday afternoon at 5, on the bandstand behind the Hartland Recreation Center.

FLEW-Z rocks the bandstand on the Newport Common on Sunday night starting at 6.

The Party Crashers play the final free concert of the season on the Fairlee common, on Tuesday night at 6:30.

The Bel Airs quintet plays doo-wop on Wednesday night at 6:30, on the Ben Mere Bandstand overlooking Sunapee Harbor.

Bar and Club Circuit

The WhiteSteer duo performs rock, pop and soul at Peyton Place in Orford tonight at 6, and the folk-rock duo of Ericka Cushing and Dane Anderson appears there on Sunday night at 6.

Saxophonist Mike Parker and singer-guitarist Alison “AliT” Turner perform at The Farmer’s Table in Grantham on Friday night from 7 to 10.

Saxophonist Fred Haas, guitarist Billy Rosen and organist Norm Yanofsky jam through a session of jazz at The Skinny Pancake in Hanover on Friday night at 8.

The Conniption Fits play The Engine Room in White River Junction on Friday night at 9 and the Sumner House in Charlestown on Saturday night at 8.

Bassist Dave Clark performs with various Upper Valley Americana players at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Friday night at 9.

Enfield-native singer-songwriter Brooks Hubbard appears at Salt hill Pub in Hanover on Friday night at 9. Doug Lantz plays ukulele and tells stories there on Saturday night at 9.

Singer-songwriter Chris Powers performs at downtown Lebanon’s Salt hill Pub on Friday night at 9 and at the Newport branch on Saturday night at 9. Turner Round rocks the Lebanon venue on Saturday night at 9.

Arthur James sings and plays the blues at Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon on Friday night at 9.

The Tim Brick Country Band pulls into Windsor Station at 9:30 on Friday night. The Melting Nomads fuses funk, jazz, hip-hop and reggae there on Saturday night at 9:30, and Still Hill plays roots music next Thursday night at 7.

Pianist Sonny Saul plays jazz at the On the River Inn in Woodstock on Saturday and Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 9.

Keyboardist Doc Winslow, bassist Tom Lord, guitarist Kit Creeger and drummer Bryant Harris play their weekly gig during the weekly brunch at Poor Thom’s Tavern in Meriden on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sensible Shoes performs at SILO Distillery in Windsor from 1 to 3 on Sunday afternoon.

Rocker Carlos Ocasio plays the buffet supper ($10 to $25) at Loch Lyme Lodge on Sunday night at 6. And the Americana duo of singer-guitarist Rob Oxford and singer-bassist Dave Clark performs during the final weekly cookout ($8 to $20) on Wednesday night at 5:30.

Saxophonist Michael Parker and guitarist Norm Wolfe play jazz at the Quechee Inn at Marshland Farms on Wednesday night at 6.

Open Mics

String players of all ages and abilities are welcome at the weekly acoustic jam session at South Royalton’s BALE Commons on Friday night from 6:30 to 10.

Joe Stallsmith leads his weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass on Monday night at 6 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

Salt hill Pub in downtown Lebanon hosts its monthly open mic for comedians on Monday night from 8:30 to 11.

Fiddler Jakob Breitbach leads a weekly acoustic jam session of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music on Tuesday nights at 7 at The Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

Woodstock musician Jim Yeager hosts open mics at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Wednesday night at 8, and at ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret next Thursday night at 7.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Entertainment news also can be sent to highlights@vnews.com.