AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music, Lyrics and Book
by Brendan Milburn, Rachel Sheinkin & Valerie Vigoda
Directed by Ted Sperling
Presented by TheatreWorks
Lucie Stern Theatre
1305 Middlefield Road
Palo Alto, CA / (650) 903-6000

Reviewed by Judy Richter

For those who've had more than their share of the usual holiday fare -- "A Christmas Carol," "Nutcracker" etc. -- TheatreWorks has a delightful alternative. GrooveLily, a three-person alternative rock band, is presenting "Striking 12: The GrooveLily Holiday Show," a concert-play that combines witty narration with an engaging musical style that blends classical, rock, jazz, folk, pop and musical theater.

With book, music and lyrics by band members Brendan Milburn on keyboards and Valerie Vigoda on electric violin (Vigoda and Milburn are married to each other), along with theater specialist Rachel Sheinkin, "Striking 12" is set on New Year's Eve in New York City, where a young, grumpy guy (Milburn) works late and retreats to his bachelor apartment, resisting his buddy's invitation to a party. It also brings in elements of Hans Christian Andersen's sad tale, "The Little Match Girl," enacting that story while drawing a parallel with a woman (Vigoda) who knocks on the grumpy guy's door trying to sell him full-spectrum light bulbs to offset seasonal affective disorder. Completing the dramatis personae and band is drummer Gene Lewin. All three also sing, blending well.

Actually, this story comprises the first act. In the second act, the trio talk about themselves, their backgrounds and the genesis of the band and the show. Along the way, they deliver a generous sampling of their music as well as their likable personalities.

Director Ted Sperling keeps the pace taut but relaxed, a real accomplishment. Costumes by Chessa Nilsen, set by David Ledsinger and lighting by Michael Gilliam also make positive contributions. The one off note is Robert J. Killenberger's sound design, which turns the amps on so high that the lyrics are distorted. Otherwise, though, "Striking 12" is terrific holiday entertainment, making one hope GrooveLily and its collaborators will create and bring more shows to TheatreWorks.

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