REVIEW: “Striking 12” — Chance Theater

Updated: Dec 12, 2021

“The Hippest Holiday Show in Recent Memory!”

Put away your jingle bells, your sleigh bells, and your silver bells — the season's now all about drums, keyboards, cellos and electric violins. Those are the instruments of choice for the members of the hard pop-theatre fusion band now performing in Chance Theater’s new holiday hit “Striking 12” through December 19th on the Cripe Stage, and once you've heard and seen their exciting new spin on the best time of the year, you'll toss those sleigh bells right into the fireplace.

Jennifer Richardson, Jacklyn Uweh, Laura Leo Kelly, and Lex Leigh

But be warned: This isn't one of those Dickensian riffs where a Scrooge-like recluse learns to love Christmas, and the show isn't bursting with treacly emotional affirmations or even airs of mandatory gaiety. “Striking 12” is the acclaimed “concert-with-a-story, the-band-is-the-actors” musical event created by Tony Award-winning writer Rachel Sheinkin (“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”) back in 2002 for the theatrical power trio GrooveLily.

Jacklyn Uweh

The group, consisting of Brendan Milburn, Valerie Vigoda and Gene Lewin, had been touring endlessly and had asked Sheinkin to come up with a holiday show to give them a break. So, the effortlessly witty Sheinkin came up with an easy-going spin on Andersen’s seven-paragraph-long children’s story, called “The Little Match Girl.” I’m sure you’ve heard of it…Disney made a movie out of it four years later.

The cast, here, which features actor/band members Allen Everman (Dir: "Ordinary Days;" “Parade;” keyboard/vocals); Jacklyn Uweh (Tour: “The Second City;” vocals); the post-nasal drip guy - virtuoso Music Director Lex Leigh (“Fun Home;” electric violin/keyboard/vocals); the very talented Jennifer Richardson (“Fun Home;” cello/vocals) in a variety of characters; and, the exceptionally fun Laura Leo Kelly (“Clue! Live,” drums), also in various roles, crosses the boundaries laid down by typical rock, folk, jazz and pop. With intelligent, original songs and no shortage of wit, the group blends lush musical textures with soaring vocals to create a new alternative music genre all their own.

Jennifer Richardson, Laura Leo Kelly, Allen Everman, and Lex Leigh

In the end, Sheinkin’s Off-Broadway holiday musical is an unforgettable urban fable, a unique hybrid of musical theatre and live concert, mixing dry satire of young inner-city professionals in the retelling of the 1845 Andersen story. The show has since become an exception to the mandatory Christmas sappiness occupying most entertainment venues at this time of year.

And yes, there is a moral, too. One man does learn that love for your fellow man — or woman as the case may be — can be entirely liberating at ANY time of the year.

Jacklyn Uweh and Laura Leo Kelly

That man, perfectly inhabite