Under the radar: shows worth noting | AspenTimes.com

Under the radar: shows worth noting

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen, CO Colorado
Ivana Baquero, left, and Doug Jones star in Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth," showing in February at the Wheeler Opera House. (Teresa Isasi)

ASPEN ” The Winter X Games have come and gone, but there’s much yet to come on the entertainment front before Aspen puts the wraps on winter.

Sometimes the big names can obscure the smaller but worthwhile music, art and dining happenings abound. Following are some local winter events and the like that require a slight amount of digging, but come with big potential rewards. True, a couple of them take place in the midvalley ” consider it a reminder that entertainment happens beyond the roundabout, too.

Mexican directors are on a roll, with “Babel” (by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) and “Children of Men” (Alfonso Cuaron) both getting heavy Oscar attention. Next up is Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth,” nominated for six Oscars. It’s a twisted fairy tale about the fantasy world – rich with political and mythological meaning – conjured by a girl in post-Fascist Spain. Leave the kids at home. (Feb. 11-14, with a bonus 4:30 p.m. matinee on Feb. 11, Wheeler Opera House).

The (Ajax) Tavern is gone; long live the Tavern (just the Tavern). Ryan Hardy, chef at The Little Nell, only had a few weeks to replace the old Tavern – not enough time to come up with a great name, but plenty of time to create the best lunch spot in town. Hardy’s menu is classic French bistro: onion soup with short ribs, grilled tuna Provençal, steak frites, and daily specials like foie gras meatloaf and cassoulet de canard. And do not skip the fondues. Lunch only, but that’s OK; you can miss dinner after eating here.

Two modern masters, guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Brad Mehldau, team for a most promising evening (March 16, Wheeler Opera House, co-presented by Jazz Aspen Snowmass). The tour features a rhythm section of bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard, but if the music follows the form of the CD, “Metheny Mehldau,” expect spacious sounds emphasizing guitar-piano interplay.

The Avett Brothers, a trio centered around Scott and Seth Avett of Greenville, N.C., isn’t in the upper tier of acoustic music yet. But that seems only a matter of time. While the group’s recordings – including “Four Thieves Gone” and the EP “The Gleam,” both released in 2006 – show more potential than accomplishment, everyone appears to come away raving about their live shows. The Avetts return to Aspen with a Feb. 7 gig at Belly Up Aspen. Opening is another lesser-known quantity: Randall Bramblett, whose Southern-fried voice has been a guest presence in shows by Widespread Panic, Steve Winwood and others.

You thought this past fall’s “Fiddler on the Roof” was a party? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Aspen Community Theatre celebrates its 30th anniversary (matinee performances on Feb. 24-25, Aspen District Theatre) by rounding up some 60 past cast members for a ride through three decades of theater, with at least one bit from every musical they’ve performed. Punctuating the festivities is the 65-piece Symphony in the Valley.

The annual showcase by the Aspen Dance Connection is a wide-open grab bag of dance, as the 30-year-old local organization accepts applications for all original forms of dance. The only limitation is that the choreographers must be based in Colorado. This year’s theme, and the title of the show, is Elementals, with a series of short- and medium-length pieces dedicated to the notion. The showcase is set for Thursday and Friday, Feb. 1-2, at the Wheeler Opera House.

Caroline Goulding was all of 13 when she won the Aspen Music Festival and School’s violin concerto competition, earning a chance to perform the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor with the Aspen Concert Orchestra and conductor Peter Oundjian. That was last summer, and Goulding, now all of 14, returns with a concert in the Music in the West End series, Feb. 16 at the Christ Episcopal Church. An Ohio resident who regularly spends summers in Aspen, Goulding’s program will include works by Brahms, Franck, Bolcom and Gershwin/Heifetz.

Aspenite Barry Smith proved that his “Jesus in Montana” was built to travel; over the past two years, his one-man, multimedia comedy has earned thumbs-up, and big crowds, from Paonia to New York. Now Smith (an Aspen Times columnist) is out to show that he is no one-hit wonder. “American Squatter,” which details his relationship with his dad and Smith’s time squatting in London flats, gets a workshop read-through, with full A/V treatment on March 31 at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale. Assuming all goes well, he returns to Steve’s May 5-6 for the debut of his second show. Smith is counting on “American Squatter” ” he has dates this summer in Montreal and Vancouver.

James and Kay Salter have been throwing dinner parties in their West End home for 30 years – and taking notes on everything from the guests and the wine to the meals and the mishaps. The two have collected their advice, observations and history of food and dining in “Life Is Meals,” with a food-filled entry for each day of the year. The Salters have a presentation set for Feb. 28 at Town Center Booksellers in Basalt.

Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com