July 10, 2009
Belly Up is in one of those stretches that can trick a music lover into believing he’s not missing a thing in the big city. Start with Thievery Corporation (Saturday, July 18), whose last Aspen show, featuring singers and sounds from Guyana, Iran and Brazil, was the most cosmopolitan thing to happen in these parts. Move on to Blitzen Trapper (Wednesday, July 15), a genuine big new thing whose “Furr” was ranked number 13 on Rolling Stone’s list of the best albums of 2008. Then there’s a movie star, part-time Aspenite Kevin Costner, who moonlights as the singer of the roots-rock band, Modern West (Friday, July 17). Rounding out the lineup the next two weeks: groove greats the Greyboy Allstars; folk-punk goddess Ani DiFranco; hitmakers the Wallflowers; reggae prince Stephen Marley; the incomparable bluegrass group, the Del McCoury Band; and the Texas legends, the Arc Angels, in their return after a decade-plus hiatus.
Sacha Baron Cohen had the element of surprise behind his 2006 “Borat.” The underground comic masterpiece came out of nowhere; it was the British actor’s big-screen coming-out party. And the frat boys, Southerners and Pamela Anderson who were duped into appearing in the film had little reason to suspect the straight-faced Cohen was playing them for American idiots. We’re a smarter people now – we elected a smarter president, anyway – and presumably people know Cohen well enough not to get ambushed by his satirical personae. So the bar is higher for “Brüno,” in which Cohen becomes a gay, Austrian fashion model – but with the same wide-eyed cluelessness that he used in “Borat” to unveil prejudice and ignorance. “Brüno” is showing in El Jebel.
How do you spell an evening of guaranteed fun in Aspen? Hint: It starts with a ‘T’ and ends with an ‘E’.’ Trick question – the answer could be either theatre, which has been on the rise here of late, or “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” the current production by Theatre Aspen, which is also on the upswing. After the small-scale but promising Aspen Fringe Festival last month, Theatre Aspen stepped up with “Spelling Bee,” a hysterically funny, wildly entertaining musical about misfit kids and the parents who mis-fit them. (It plays Saturday, July 18, with additional dates through Aug. 20.) Jayne Gottlieb Productions rolls out its “Evita,” Friday through Sunday, July 17-19, at the Basalt Middle School; audiences have come to expect amazing things from the Basalt-based children’s company. Theatre Aspen opens its production of Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two” on Thursday, July 16, with part-time Aspenite (and top-tier sitcom director) Jay Sandrich at the helm.