December 3, 2009

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Comedy concept
Third-floor laughs at new Boynton’s Taproom
By Michael Witthaus music@hippopress.com

It’s opening night at Boynton’s Taproom, Manchester’s newest comedy club, and it seems the couple at the ringside table didn’t get the memo — the one that reads, “Sit close to a comic, and you may become the act.”

Right now, there’s a 26-year-old man who’s likely wishing he hadn’t worn a baseball cap to the show. “You gotta learn how to dress yourself,” admonishes headliner Joe Yannety, who doesn’t play to as much as converse with his audience. “This isn’t college.”

The man smiles gamely and endures Yannety’s ribbing.

“I actually bought him a drink after the show,” club owner Josh Boynton said with a laugh. The club opened on Friday, Nov. 20. “I felt so bad for him.”

Boynton is the sort of person who looks at a pub built to train bartenders, tucked into office space two floors up from Fratello’s in the Millyard, and sees what he calls “a vision of a place in Manchester where professional people ... can come for a night out of good, rare and solid professional entertainment.”

LifeShare, the social services company Boynton and his wife Rachel founded in 1995, moved into the space 18 months ago. But Boynton had been eyeing the location for a long time before that. 

Bitten by the show business bug at an early age, Boynton performed with touring companies of Really Rosie and Sesame Street while still in grade school. But, he says, “I got older and not as cute as I used to be and the reality of doing theater full time professionally became harder and harder.”

At Keene State College, he moved into a production — a B-52s concert, MTV Live and Hair, a show he’d once performed in.  Eventually, however, his career moved into full gear, with LifeShare expanding from several New Hampshire locations to offices in Florida, Massachusetts and Maine.  

“I absolutely love what I do,” he said emphatically. But he also dreamt of opening “a small intimate theater, where we can do some experimental, workshop-y type of stuff, we could bring in some folk blues, jazz, local up-and-comers, and do small black box type of theater.”

He’d been scouting around Manchester for the past 10 years, looking for the right space, when an Internet search pointed him to the Millyard location. So he came by for a look.

“It was dark and cold,” Boynton said. The cobwebs and musty air put him off. Moreover, the “theater” mentioned in the listing was really more like a high-tech conference room — right shape, wrong vibe.

“Then they turned on the lights, and the room just spoke to me.”

Boynton explains: “I said ‘It’s not really the type of theater I was looking for, but it’s really interesting.’ So for the past four or five years it sat empty, and I’ve been asking, how can I take my dreams and build something for this space?”

The first comedy show sold out; the second, featuring Jim Lauletta, Jack Lynch and Graig Murphy, happens Friday, Dec. 4 (Amy Petty, local singer-songwriter, will perform before and after the comedians).  Live music debuts Saturday, Dec. 12, with singer-songwriter Natalia Zuckerman and Anne Heaton; Chris Trapper of Push Stars fame is booked to play Feb. 4.

“We’ve got about 10 different offers out there for January,” said Boynton, who hopes to unveil the full January-February calendar at the Dec. 12 show.

Boynton has also purchased the rights to produce Tick Tick Boom, an autobiographical musical for three actors written by Tony award-winning composer Jonathan Larson (Rent). He hopes to present the show later in the spring. 

The club is open for performances only, and serves an evolving tapas menu with desserts from local confectioner Van Otis Chocolates, along with an extensive wine and beer list.  

Boynton plans to present entertainment — comedy, music and theater — three nights a week. The ever-energetic impresario also hopes to open the Taproom’s amphitheatre-shaped conference room for Sundance-type film screenings in the future. 

“We’re going to try to fine-tune and find performers that Manchester is interested in,” Boynton said. “I think you and Manchester will be pleasantly surprised.”


Comedy on tap
Who: comedians Jim Lauletta, Jack Lynch and Graig Murphy
Where: Boynton’s Taproom, 155 Dow St. (3rd floor), Manchester, 623-7778
When: Friday, Dec 4, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $17
Info: www.boyntonstaproom.com