Merry and Bright: Acclaimed Striking 12 Will Play Off-Broadway During Holidays

News   Merry and Bright: Acclaimed Striking 12 Will Play Off-Broadway During Holidays
The New York City performer-writers of the holiday-friendly pop musical Striking 12 always hoped they might be able to be home for the holidays. In late 2006, their wish comes true.
GrooveLily's Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda in a scene from their holiday musical Striking 12.
GrooveLily's Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda in a scene from their holiday musical Striking 12. Photo by David Allen

Beginning in November, the critically acclaimed Striking 12, performed by the pop trio GrooveLily and co-written with Tony Award-winner Rachel Sheinkin (librettist of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), will play a limited commercial engagement at an Off-Broadway house to be announced.

Producer Nancy Nagel Gibbs will give wing to the longest-yet New York run of the musical (it played a brief, sold-out stretch at the tiny Ars Nova space in December 2005).

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 staging, featuring GrooveLily's Gene Lewin (drums/vocals), Brendan Milburn (keyboards/vocals) and Valerie Vigoda (electric violin/vocals), with music, lyrics and book co-written by Milburn and Vigoda, is directed by 2005 Tony Award winner Ted Sperling (who penned orchestrations for The Light in the Piazza). The book and lyrics are co-written by Milburn, Vigoda and Sheinkin. Milburn and Vigoda wrote the music.

The Off-Broadway premiere of Striking 12 will feature scenic design by David Korins, lighting design by Michael Gilliam and sound design by Rob Killenberger. In recent years, Striking 12 has built a base audience of fans with regional gigs and its popular live cast recording on the PS Classics label (, drawn from the 2004 Manhattan concert premiere presented by Melting Pot Theatre Company.

Other celebrated regional engagements include Theatreworks/Palo Alto (November 2004), San Diego's Old Globe Theatre (November 2003) and Philadelphia's Prince Music Theatre (November 2002).

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.

Venue, dates and ticket information will be announced in the coming weeks.

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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).

L-R: GrooveLily band members Gene Lewin, Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn in <i>Striking 12.</i>
L-R: GrooveLily band members Gene Lewin, Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn in Striking 12. Photo by David Allen
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