Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Striking 12

Brendan Milburn and
Valerie Vigoda

The innovative and adorable performing trio known as GrooveLily brings a charming, surprising show to Arena Stage's Crystal City theater in Arlington, Virginia, for a brief holiday run. Striking 12 plays with Hans Christian Andersen's classic story of "The Little Match Girl" in a unique blend of rock concert and musical.

Two of the performers—Valerie Vigoda, electric violin, and Brendan Milburn, keyboards—co-wrote the work with Rachel Sheinkin and perform it with percussionist Gene Lewin. The staging is minimal (audio and lights by Kris Umezawa), the better to let the performers shine on their own.

The surprises begin with the first song. "Welcome to the overture," the performers sing in a tuneful version of the pre-show announcements. They then guide the audience through a simple story of a lonely office worker (Milburn) at loose ends on New Year's Eve, and a solitary woman (Vigoda) selling full-spectrum holiday lightbulbs door-to-door in an effort to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder, or depression caused by the lack of sunlight in winter.

The songs provide stream-of-consciousness insights into the characters, with striking imagery ("Snowflakes fall like velvet from iron-colored skies"). The humor is clever, some of the targets perhaps obvious (the prevalence of "Law & Order" reruns; the truism summed up as "Screwed-up people make great art"), more of them unexpected.

Much of the charm comes from GrooveLily's resolute unpretentiousness. "Welcome to our holiday non-spectacular non-extravaganza," Vigoda says, and she's right: this is entertainment on a delightful human scale. All three performers get their moments in the spotlight—yes, even the drummer—and their skill at negotiating their roles while playing their instruments is inspirational.

Arena Stage
Striking 12
December 2nd —13th
Written by Brendan Milburn, Valerie Vigoda, and Rachel Sheinkin
Performed by GrooveLily: Valerie Vigoda, electric violin and vocals; Brendan Milburn, keyboards and vocals; and Gene Lewin, drums and vocals
1800 S. Bell St.
Arlington, VA 22202
Ticket Information: 202-488-3300 or

Photo: Joan Marcus

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