KPBS AIRDATE: December 26, 2003
Nothing to do on New Year’s Eve? Maybe you could spend it seeing a play about someone who has nothing to do on New Year’s Eve…. Well, actually, he has a party to go to, but he’s in no mood for socializing. And then, rap-tap-tapping at his door comes a young, spry salesperson, hawking full-spectrum lightbulbs to counteract Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. This, of course, reminds him of the cheerless story of the Poor Little Match Girl, that Hans Christian Andersen heroine who dies frozen on a snowy evening in 19th century Denmark. But though the Globe is presenting “Striking 12” as adult holiday fare, that doesn’t mean it has to be maudlin or depressing. No, in this version, the guy runs after the perky peddler and invites her in, which prompts a more appropriate fairy tale ending. All this is mere icing, though… just an excuse for some music from a delightfully engaging mellow-pop-rock trio, GrooveLily. The New York band is experimenting with a music-narrative mix. After the fable in the first half, there’s a second act of pure concert. Surprisingly, the genre fusion works. That’s because GrooveLily is composed of three charming personalities who are masterful musicians. Keyboardist Brendan Milburn is the rocker; Valerie Vigoda is a classically trained electric violinist; and drummer Gene Lewin provides comic relief. Lewin and Vigoda were classmates at Princeton. All three are effective singers who really know how to entrance an audience. Here’s a little of Vigoda in the post-9/11 “Live Through This”….
The Cassius Carter has been reconfigured like a cabaret, with tables down front and the audience on three sides instead of four. This makes the event feel more like a concert, and the performers break the fourth wall freely, interacting with the audience and each other. It’s quite endearing. Acclaimed director Ted Sperling keeps the evening humming along, and you’ll want to do the same, though some of the time, you couldn’t keep up with the breakneck lyrics. In both sections of the show, the words don’t just move; they’re often moving. Listen to Milburn in the autobiographical/philosophical “No Room in Your Bag.”
Overall, there’s a lot of humor, a bit of world-weary but ultimately upbeat wisdom and a huge helping of infectious energy. Whether you’re with them on New Year’s or not — there are actually two shows that night — you’ll want to make their acquaintance, hear their stories and savor their songs. Celebrate the season with a different kind of bubbly.
©2003 Patté Productions Inc.