Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Los Angeles

Striking 12
Chance Theater
Review by Bill Eadie

Jacklyn Uweh
Photo by Doug Catiller and Tanya Catiller
Like many theatre companies, Anaheim's Chance Theater has a holiday offering—two, actually. One, titled Striking 12, is a bit different from the norm. The source material is Hans Christian Andersen's tragic winter tale, "The Little Match Girl," and two of its originators, Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda (with with Gene Lewin), formed the band GrooveLily and the original cast in 2006. It's clearly intended as an antidote to the second one, A Charlie Brown Christmas. The two shows perform in in repertory. If you know and like GrooveLily's music, this show is for you. If you don't, it still may be for you.

The title, Striking 12, refers to the matches that the Little Match Girl (Jacklyn Uweh) sells. Being a more contemporary story, though, Ms. Uweh's character also sells holiday lights designed to chase away Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). She's not having much luck selling either of these items, both door-to-door and on the street.

One of her potential customers is named The Man Who's Had Enough (Allen Everman). This character is not really a stand-in for Ebenezer Scrooge: he's successful at what he does, but he's lonely and resigned to his loneliness. He turns down multiple last-minute invitations to holiday parties, knowing that going to one or more of them will just remind him of how lonely he is. Having turned away the door-to-door salesperson and taken pity on the match seller on the street (and realizing they're the same person), he decides to read the seven-paragraph Hans Christian Andersen story. Doing so—and being reminded of its tragic ending—propels him to attempt to find his not-so-ghostly visitor.

The rest of the performers, Jennifer Richardson, Laura Leo Kelly, and Lex Leigh, function mostly as part of the band inspired by GrooveLily. They also play secondary roles, most especially Ms. Richardson, who plays The Man's ex-girlfriend Diane, as well as cello. In fact, all of the performers double on instruments (Mr. Everman plays piano, Ms. Uweh fills in on drums).

So, Striking 12 is essentially a concert with a storyline, though with a pedigree—it was written by Rachel Sheinkin, of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee fame. The story was definitely in line with current sensibilities in 2004, when Striking 12 debuted. One could criticize it for not keeping pace with such sensibilities as times have changed, but I won't.

Mr. Everman is a musical theatre performer who plays the piano well. Ms. Uweh has roots as an improvisational comic. She sparkles when she's acting the happy parts of the role, looks slightly uncomfortable when acting the sad parts, and singing is not her forte.

As is usual at Chance, the creative team is first rank. Director Kari Hayter understands that the show is a concert first and plans accordingly. Ms. Leigh music directs, blending highly amplified voices and devising clever ways of covering instruments when band members portray characters. Masako Tobaru's production design, aided by James Tran's projection design, puts the focus on the band while still leaving enough playing space for the story. Jojo Siu's costume design looks like what the characters might wear.

Sounds interesting, worthwhile, a nice alternative to seeing one of the long-running holiday shows? Then you are the right audience for Striking 12, and I encourage you to head over to the Chance Theater by December 19.

Audience members must present proof of full vaccination (ages 12+) or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours (3 days) prior to entering the theater. Masks are required at all times. Some performances are limited to fully vaccinated audiences only. Be sure to inquire before purchasing tickets to avoid disappointment. Parking is free and plentiful. The run time of the performance is 90 minutes with no intermission.

Striking 12 runs through at Chance Theater, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim CA. Performance are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 3 p.m. & 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 3 p.m. For tickets and information, please visit or call 888-455-4212.