Wheeler Opera House announces winter lineup | AspenTimes.com

Wheeler Opera House announces winter lineup

Gena Buhler, executive director of the Wheeler Opera House, speaks to a packed house for a preview presentation held at the Limelight Thursday evening.

The Wheeler Opera House announced it 2015-16 winter lineup and launched a new membership program Thursday night in a splashy presentation by executive director Gena Buhler before an enthusiastic crowd of some 200 people (plied with complementary pizza and booze and prize giveaways) at the Limelight Hotel.

The lineup includes 25 Wheeler-produced events over the next five months, including concerts by stars like Clint Black and Edwin McCain and a mix of music, theater, comedy, magic and family-friendly fare.

Titled Wheeler Wins, the new membership program is aimed at locals and provides savings on tickets. Priced at $10 per year, it grants members discounted tickets to all Wheeler events and will include early booking announcements and invitations to free members-only gatherings, such as backstage parties. Buhler, who took over the Wheeler in May, said members will receive discounts between $5 and $25 for tickets.

Concerts include an acoustic evening with the Edwin McCain Trio on Feb. 26, The Fab Four, a Beatles tribute, on March 4, Los Lonely Boys on March 29, the Queen tribute One Night of Queen on March 20 and Under the Streetlamp – featuring singers from the national tour of "Jersey Boys" performing songs of the 1950s to '70s – on March 31. Recycled Percussion, which Buhler described as "'Stomp' meets Blue Man Group with recycled instruments," will perform Feb. 12.

A free concert by singer-songwriter Seth Glier, funded like all Wheeler operations by an Aspen city real estate transfer tax, is scheduled for Jan. 10.

"I wanted to do something as a 'thank you' to the community for supporting us through the renovation, and for everyone getting through the holidays," Buhler said. "I hope everyone will come out."

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The Wheeler will host theatrical performances including "One Man Star Wars Trilogy" on Jan. 8 (coinciding with the run in cinemas of the new franchise entry) Sandy Hackett's "Rat Pack Show" featuring the son of comedian Buddy Hackett on Jan. 23 and a sing-along event with a screening the musical "Grease" kicking off Gay Ski Week on Jan. 17.

Beyond the previously announced Aspen Laff Fest lineup, the Wheeler will host stand-up comedian Dana Gould on March 11.

Family friendly shows include Heather Henson's "Sing Along with 'The Muppet Movie'" on March 15 and two illusionists: Jason Bishop on Feb. 21 and Mike Super on April 2.

Notably, the lineup includes partnerships with Theatre Aspen to present a March 6 performance by Broadway star Susan Egan and with Belly Up for a March 19 concert by country star Clint Black. A new screening series co-presented with Aspen Film will be announced soon.

The 11-week Monday Docs series will return on Jan. 18 and will this season be co-produced by Telluride Mountainfilm. The lineup of documentary films has yet to be announced.

The Wheeler is also partnering with the Aspen Music Festival and School to present "The Met: Live in HD" through the winter, featuring broadcasts of five opera performances by the Metropolitan opera: "Il Trovatore" (Jan. 28), Verdi's "Otello" (Feb. 9), "Lulu" (Feb. 25), Puccini's "Turandot" (March 3) and Puccini's "Manon Lescaunt" (March 17).

The nonprofit Wheeler Associates is slated to present three concerts, including singer-songwriters Bruce Cockburn (March 22) and acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke (March 26).

YouTube sensation Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox is slated for the Wheeler's grand re-opening on Dec. 19, followed by comedian and filmmaker Kevin Smith (Dec. 20) and a New Year's Eve show by The Slambovian Circus of Dreams (Dec. 31).

Buhler said the Wheeler will be announcing more events in the coming days. Tickets went on sale last night.

FINAL FACELIFT

The historic theater, built in 1889, has been dark this fall as construction crews been working on a $4 million renovation of its ground floor lobby, second-floor bar, and backstage area. The project is slated to be completed Dec. 15. It will expand capacity for the bar and add a small, removable second-stage there with room for 115 seated spectators or 65 at table-tops for small-scale performances.

'We're going to play around with it for the first year and see what works in here," Buhler said on a recent walk-though of the construction site.

Drinks there will served by the team from Justice Snow's, located downstairs, on a trial basis for the winter, she said. Buhler hopes to cultivate a more lively scene in the bar space, opening it to non-ticketholders before Wheeler shows and hosting events like a $10-$15 Valentine's Day party and film screening (movie choice to be selected via Facebook poll).

"We're trying to make it a much more inviting experience," she said.

The renovation is also reconfiguring the second-floor theater entrance through two staircases, building new restrooms (which assistant city manager Randy Ready promised "you can actually get in and out of") and overhauling its air and ventilation system. Originally budgeted for $3.4 million, the city-owned theater increased the renovation's price tag to upgrade its elevator. The project is the last of three major recent renovations for the Wheeler, which underwent a $2.8 million upgrade in 2011 and a $3 million facelift for its theater chamber in 2013.

atravers@aspentimes.com

Wheeler Opera House 2015-16 season

Dec. 19, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox

Dec. 20, Kevin Smith

Dec. 31, The Slambovian Circus of Dreams

Jan. 8, One-Man Star Wars Trilogy

Jan. 10, Seth Glier

Jan. 17, Sing-a-Long-a Grease

Jan. 23, Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show

Feb. 12, Recycled Percussion

Feb. 14, Mingle with the Singles

Feb. 18, Hooking Up With The Second City at Aspen Laff Fest

Feb. 19, Heather McDonald and Gilbert Gottfried at Aspen Laff Fest

Feb. 20, Steve Byrne and Pete Holmes at Aspen Laff Fest

Feb. 21, The Jason Bishop Show

Feb. 26, Edwin McCain Trio

March 4, The Fab Four: The Ultimate Tribute

March 6, An Evening of Broadway with Susan Egan

March 11, Dana Gould

March 15, Sing Along with ‘The Muppet Movie’

March 19, Clint Black

March 20, One Night of Queen

March 22, Bruce Cockburn

March 26, Leo Kottke

March 29, Los Lonely Boys

March 31, Under the Streetlamp

April 2, Mike Super Magic & Illusion

Tickets and Wheeler Wins memberships are available at the Wheeler Opera House box office and http://www.aspenshowtix.com

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