Volume II, Issue IV Winter 2003

A new tradition for a new year

Striking 12
Music and words by Brendan Milburn, Rachel Sheinkin and Valerie Vigoda
Directed by Ted Sperling

Cassius Carter Center Stage
The Globe Theatres complex
Balboa Park, San Diego, Calif.
Through December 31

Written and performed by GrooveLily, a three-piece rock band from New York City, "Striking 12" is built around the heartbreaking Hans Christian Andersen tale "The Little Matchgirl."

Despite the utter desolation of Andersen's tale, "Striking 12" is far more about redemption than anything else.

Structured as a series of musical conversations and vignettes, "Striking 12" tells the story of a single man in New York City who has withdrawn from life due to depression. It's New Year's Eve, and he's busy rejecting all overtures for company and companionship.

Striking 12 Eventually he ends up reading "The Little Matchgirl" while fending off requests to attend parties or buy special mood-enhancing lights from a door-to-door salesgirl.

It's a cute, uplifting story – but the real enjoyment of "Striking 12" comes from GrooveLily's marvelous music and playing.

Valerie Vigoda is the striking frontwoman for the trio. With her six-string Flying V electric violin, wild blonde hair and charming charisma, she simply outshines her two bandmates – keyboardist Brendan Milburn and drummer Gene Lewin. They're both truly talented musicians, but let's face it – Charlie Watts may be far more talented than Mick Jagger, but who do you think of when you think of the Rolling Stones?

Although that's not to argue that Vigoda can't hold her own musically. As a violinist, she's nimble enough to play her six-string instrument as lithely as a standard four-string while still employing its full range.

It's just that she's got that Jaggeresque strut on stage – and so she can't help but hold your attention.

Which works out well, because the band and director are smart enough to build "Striking 12" around her strengths.

The songs are effective enough, although few of them will have their melodies stick in your head.

Still and all, "Striking 12" is a fun little holiday diversion and a worthy replacement for "Santaland Diaries," which ran in the same space at the Globe the past two years.

Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif.

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