In many ways, it's the unlikeliest mix of elements you might see in a New York theatre this season: a New Year's Eve fairy tale about an impoverished waif mixed with a modern story of a burned-out office worker, performed by musician-singers who play multiple roles from behind their instruments.
There's more than egg in this theatrical egg nog, and a growing number of fans have been lapping it up since it first appeared in developmental presentations in Manhattan, California and Philadelphia.
The current run builds on the momentum of earlier performances of the work and a live cast album that has been a hot seller on the PS Classics label.
The New York City performer-writers of the pop musical Striking 12 always hoped they might be able to be working near home for the holidays, rather than touring (or jobless). Their wish came true Nov. 6 with the first preview of the new commercial engagement at the Daryl Roth Theatre. Striking 12 runs through Dec. 31. The closing date happens to be the same day the show's story is set — on New Year's Eve. Nancy Nagel Gibbs and Greg Schaffert, in association with Mark Johannes and Amy Danis are producing the longest-yet New York run of the musical (it played a brief, popular stretch at the tiny Ars Nova space in December 2005).
The conceptual concert/musical tells dual stories in a theatrically lean conceit written by Rachel Sheinkin (book), Brendan Milburn (music and lyrics) and Valerie Vigoda (music and lyrics). Milburn and Vigoda (two-thirds of the indie pop group GrooveLily) perform the music and play roles, along with GrooveLily's drummer Gene Lewin (who gets choice acting and singing solos, too).
Striking 12 "is the story of a Grumpy Guy who decides to avoid the hectic, loveless world on New Year's Eve," according to production notes. "Sitting alone in his apartment, he dips into Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Little Match Girl,' until he's visited by an incandescent salesgirl with the promise to chase away his winter doldrums. Combining honest, old-fashioned uplift with a healthy dose of 21st-century skepticism, this festive tale is a clever mix of musical comedy and pop-rock that will ignite the holiday spirit and illuminate the coming season with an electrifying, rockin' performance that cannot be matched."
The Off-Broadway premiere of Striking 12 features scenic design by David Korins, lighting design by Michael Gilliam, costume design by Jennifer Caprio and sound design by Rob Killenberger.
How is the sound of the show billed? It "crosses the boundaries laid down by words like rock, folk, jazz and pop," according to notes. "With intelligent, original songs and no shortage of wit, GrooveLily connects lush musical textures and soaring vocals to make a new music that's all their own."
Traditional musical theatre fans appreciate the show's character detail, depth of feeling and passion for pushing the plot forward — all performed by three musician-singers who, the effect is, are telling a sort of grown-up bedtime story.
The Daryl Roth Theatre is located in Manhattan at 101 E. 15th Street. Tickets, priced $35-$75, are available by calling (212) 239-6200.
For more information, visit www.groovelily.com or www.striking12.com.
Milburn graduated from Pomona College and NYU's MFA program in Musical Theatre Writing. He and GrooveLily pals Valerie Vigoda (his wife) and Gene Lewin appeared in A Midsummer Night's Dream at McCarter Theatre and Paper Mill Playhouse earlier in 2006.
Vigoda is the founding member of GrooveLily. Originally from McLean, VA, she's' a classically-trained musician, honors graduate of Princeton University, and former Army lieutenant. She has toured the world with Cyndi Lauper (opening for Tina Turner and Cher), Joe Jackson and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. She founded GrooveLily in 1994, with a critically-acclaimed CD called "Inhabit My Heart." She is the winner of a 2006 Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award for excellence in writing for the theatre, along with her longtime collaborator and husband, Brendan Milburn.
Sheinkin won the 2005 Tony for Best Book for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and has worked on Blood Drive (O'Neill National Music Theatre Conference) and Serenade (Baryshnikov Arts Center). Future projects on the horizon include two more musicals with GrooveLily.
Director Sperling, who staged The Public Theater production of Michael John LaChiusa's See What I Wanna See, has been involved with Striking 12 from its inception, and has directed the previous productions in Philadelphia, San Diego and Palo Alto. He won the 2005 Tony and Drama Desk Awards for his orchestrations of The Light in the Piazza, for which he was also music director.
Producer Nancy Nagel Gibbs' producing credits include the original productions of Bat Boy: The Musical, All Shook Up, The Big Bang and The Last Session. Her general management credits include Wicked, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, De La Guarda, Smoke on the Mountain, The Prince and the Pauper and the long running hit I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. She serves on the boards of the Off-Broadway League, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT).
The original cast recording of Striking 12 is available on the PS Classics label, at www.psclassics.com.