No opera at Wheeler – but nearly everything else
ASPEN There won’t be any opera this winter season at the Wheeler Opera House. But patrons of Aspen’s Victorian-era venue will be hard-pressed to find another form of entertainment lacking. The Wheeler has announced its schedule of presentations, which range from comedy to dance, and cabaret to country, with a heaping dose of folk singing.Combine the Wheeler’s own presentations with outside productions – including, in the weeks ahead, Aspen Filmfest 2007 and the Aspen Community Theatre musical “She Loves Me,” plus a smattering of concerts later in the season – and the venue, owned by the city of Aspen, seems to be fulfilling the direction of City Council to bring more live entertainment and special events to town. The schedule of Wheeler presentations opens Oct. 20 with Barry Smith of Aspen performing his one-man multimedia theater piece, “American Squatter.” Smith has performed his two award-winning shows – “Jesus in Montana: Adventures in a Doomsday Cult,” and “American Squatter,” about his days skateboarding in Southern California and squatting in London apartments – in venues throughout the valley and, this summer, across Canada. This marks his solo debut at the Wheeler.
Festival in the Desert, an annual musical gathering in the West African country of Mali, becomes a roadshow this fall. The tour, featuring two top acts – Tinariwen, which opened for the Rolling Stones recently; and Vieux Farka Touré, son of the famed Malian singer-guitarist Ali Farka Touré – makes a stop at the Wheeler on Nov. 1.Singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega performs Nov. 20 in a co-production with MGP Inc. Best known for her 1987 hit “Luka,” Vega released a new album, “Beauty & Crime,” on the Blue Note label in July. Another folk singer, Jonathan Edwards, whose 1971 song “Sunshine” was a top-five hit, follows on Nov. 23.The Wheeler lights up the Christmas week with three shows. A band will back up legendary songwriter-singer Burt Bacharach on Dec. 27. Linda Eder, star of the Broadway show “Jekyll & Hyde” and now a top American chanteuse, appears Dec. 28. On Dec. 29, the comic duo Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood, stars of the improv show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” perform. A limited number of tickets for each of the Christmas-time shows will be offered to local residents at a reduced price. They will be available in person at the Wheeler box office beginning Oct. 4.
The offbeat folk-rock act Gandalf Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams makes its Aspen debut at the Wheeler Jan. 11. The long-running western music/comedy quartet Riders in the Sky appears Jan. 19.Rocker-turned-composer Duncan Sheik makes his Wheeler debut with a full band on Feb. 9. The singer-songwriter earned off-Broadway acclaim and a Tony Award for Best Musical on Broadway, with his rock musical, “Spring Awakening.”Leahy, a Celtic-music band from Canada comprising eight siblings performs Feb. 16, in a concert co-sponsored by the Wheeler Associates. Pop-jazz vocalist Steve Tyrell, known for his work in films – especially his recording of “The Way You Look Tonight,” featured in the 1991 version of “Father of the Bride” – is set for Feb. 21.Roger McGuinn, a founding member of folk-rock pioneers the Byrds, appears Feb. 23 in a concert co-presented with MGP Inc. The Bellydance Superstars make their Western Slope debut March 16. Closing the season on March 27 is Art Garfunkel, half of the folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel, and now an interpreter of the Great American Songbook.
Tickets for all Wheeler presentations go on sale to the public Oct. 5. In addition, a limited number of reduced-price tickets for the three Christmas week shows will be sold to local residents on Oct. 4; those tickets will be sold only in-person at the Wheeler box office. For more information on tickets and events, go to http://www.wheeleroperahouse.com.Other productions coming to the Wheeler in the months ahead include Aspen Filmfest 2007, with screenings and events Sept. 25-30; Aspen Community Theatre’s production of the musical “She Loves Me” Nov. 8-11 and 14-17; and folk singer-guitarist Richie Havens on Dec. 16.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
While new restaurants enter the Aspen scene, there are several spaces that will remain empty this winter. Meanwhile, the retail market remains extremely hot.