October 27, 2006
Gomez is band that should have played at the old Double Diamond years ago. Though a U.K. band, the five-piece rock group has had a big U.S. presence since the release of its debut CD in 1998. And that first CD, “Bring It On,” revealed a significant American influence, especially of Southern blues and a modern jam-band approach. But Gomez might have gotten too big, too fast for a small market like Aspen; “Bring It On” won the British music press’s prestigious Mercury Award, and expectations were huge for the band. Gomez has not regained that early popularity, but neither has it been a disappointment. The same lineup that coalesced in the coastal town of Southport has released a series of CDs – including this year’s “How We Operate” – that have expanded on the original blueprint. Gomez has appeared at major American festivals like Bonnaroo, and finally makes its Aspen debut Monday, Oct. 30, at Belly Up.
Like other movies that explore the cultural identity of a distinct ethnic group in America, “Quinceanera” opens with a party sequence: a quinceanera, the traditional 15th birthday bash for a Mexican girl. The mood is festive, the dress is elegant, the birthday girl and her friends arrive in a monster stretch limo. You get the sense that it is all beyond the means of the members of this Mexican-American community in Los Angeles’ Echo Park. Socioeconomic aspirations are a part of “Quinceanera” (written and directed by two white men, Richard Glatzer and Englishman Wash Westmoreland); 14-year-old Magdalena (Emily Rios) is already having fits about the Hummer limo for her party. But as she abruptly (and mysteriously) passes into womanhood, Magdalena confronts bigger, harsher realities: racism, sexual scenarios, changes in the neighborhood and her tight-knit community. The film isn’t afraid to make the audience squirm, but the idea that family is the way through all hard times is presented in warm and unexpected ways. “Quinceanera,” winner of two major prizes at Sundance, shows Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 30-31, at the Wheeler Opera House.
The bad news is that Aspen Community Theatre has hit the point – 30 years – where the organization is repeating itself. The good news is that means ACT gets the chance to revisit such classics as “Fiddler on the Roof.” That is good news indeed; on every level, the multi-Tony Award-winning “Fiddler” is brilliant musical theater. The songs, one after another – “Sunrise Sunset,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” – are enduring works that have leaped off the stage. (The 1999 CD “Knitting on the Roof” has alternative rock bands doing “Fiddler” covers.) Tevye, the poor but pious father of five daughters in an early 20th century Russian village, is an indelible theater icon, thanks in part to Topol, who portrayed him on stage and screen. And the theme, of the importance of community traditions in a changing world, is relevant always and everywhere (maybe especially in Aspen). ACT’s “Fiddler,” directed by John Trow and starring Pat Holloran as Tevye, opens Wednesday, Nov. 1, and runs through Nov. 12 at the Aspen District Theatre.