Day: November 21st, 2006

Striking 12

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006 | All Things

Final delivery for the CSA season! Lots of Thanksgiving produce, including potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, squash, sage and garlic. As with last year’s final share, we also received ears of two popcorn varieties; after drying the cobs for 8 weeks, they’ll be ready to strip, pop and serve. Stay tuned for movie night come late January.

If you’re interested in learning more about community supported agriculture, check out the Just Food website or the West Village CSA information sheet. Registration for their 2007 season is open now; sign up for membership before December 22 to qualify for the $25 early registration discount.

From SYB’s afternoon pie-making class at the ICE: a chocolate hazelnut torte. So pretty! Unfortunately, I ended up not being able to take it home for Thanksgiving, after all… but it smelled divine.

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

Because SYB had saved me the trip to the McBurney Y, I made it to the Union Square Starbucks in time to meet B and the family before tonight’s show: LM, and the MAJK crew, newly arrived from the Sunshine State. Since touching down at LaGuardia that afternoon, the busy visitors had already hit Times Square, and had their first taste of New York City pizza.

Our group of seven crossed the street to the Daryl Roth Theater, the landmarked site of the former Union Square Savings Bank. Tonight, we were there for Striking 12,  the rock musical by New York City alternative rock trio GrooveLily.

Mid-November through late December is the primest of prime tourist season in New York City. And the thing about having all those tourists descend up our city, is that everything sells out. Everything. Shows don’t have to be much good at all to draw crowds night after chilly night. The worst culprits are the special holiday-themed shows — the spectaculars, the pageants, the revues, the Handel overdoses, the Sugar Plum toothaches… Quality in these productions can feel like a secondary consideration, or a happy coincidence.

As an antidote to all the saccharine entertainment offerings, Striking 12  bills itself as “a cross between a rock concert and a holiday show, for people who don’t really like holiday shows.” I would probably characterize it as more concert than play; the performers are certainly musicians before they are actors. GrooveLily developed the show with Rachel Sheinkin, who won a Tony Award for the book to the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

The story, such as it is, blends a contemporary holiday theme with an old-time children’s tale, with each member of the three piece ensemble contributing characters, and lots of rollicking musicianship: keyboard, drums and electric violin. Keyboardist Brendan Milburn plays a typically overworked and cynical New York City office drone — credited as “The Man Who’s Had Enough” — who is determined to spend New Year’s Eve at home alone, far away from his friends’ forced cheer. What jaded New Yorker hasn’t felt that impulse? His self-imposed isolation is interrupted by a kookily clad (but cute) girl selling Seasonal Affective Disorder-combating “full-spectrum holiday lightbulbs.” She’s played winningly by Milburn’s real life wife, Valerie Vigoda, who doubles as the trio’s rock violinist. Although the Man spurns the girl’s offer, he’s reminded of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic 7 paragraph story, “The Little Match Girl,” which also takes place on the final night of the year. He locates an old copy of the story and recites it aloud — interspersed with original ditties — while fielding numerous interruptions from his reveling friends and co-workers, played by Vigoda and drummer Gene Lewin.

Do you remember how “The Little Match Girl” ended? (Hint: They didn’t all live happily ever after.) The Man didn’t, and as a result, the grimness of the ending comes as something of a shock. It does, though, serve as a launching point for one of the evening’s catchier tunes, “Screwed-up People Make Great Art.”

The repertoire of songs was varied, engaging and inventive, with unique instrumentation, covering a wide variety of genres: ballads, hard rock, funk. All three performers impressively played, acted and sang — and in one instance, perhaps the evening’s only awkward misstep: rapped. (Yikes.)

Despite its barebones setting — The New York Times dubbed it a “thoroughly winning minimalist musical” — Striking 12 is a refreshing exception to the lousy holiday fare trend, managing to be touching without being cloying. And when the trio rocked out for their finale, you’d be hard-pressed (and hard-hearted) to argue with the character who declared, “Everyone likes “The Little Drummer Boy”!

Striking 12

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