I know you're dubious. You're thinking, "Who the hell is Dyan Flores and what gives her the right to review Striking Twelve, Boho Theatre's latest production?" I don't blame you for thinking this. You're weary of an outsider coming and sullying the hallowed ground of theatrical criticism that is "Eric and Andy's Reviews You Can Iews." Well you can calm down, because I have a degree in dramatic literature, theatre history, and the cinema from New York F-ing University. You know who else went to NYFU? Tony Kushner. Also, Haley Joel Osment. None of this matters when I'm temping or doing psych studies for cash at UIC, but here, on this site, it's important.
So...Striking 12...The show took place in a theater in Rogers Park that was very very warm. In the summer this would have been super obnoxious, but it was much appreciated because it was maybe 15 degrees outside. Guess who sat in the row in front of me...Chris Jones! He's the theatre critic for the Chicago Tribune. He once described an actor as having a pleasantly scrunched-up face. Naturally I wanted to lean over his shoulder and observe him in action as he took notes during the show, but a man and a woman in sequins arrived late and I had to scoot down a seat. That annoyed me, but because I am a professional, I did not let that resentment color my perception of the show.
I think the form of a compliment sandwich will best serve this review, so to start, the fact that the actors also sang and played their own instruments was impressive. That conceit isn't all that unusual these days, but it's still really kick-ass when done well. Towards the top of the show the performers played/sang/acted this song about New Years Eve in 7/4 time, which knocked my socks off. DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD THAT IS?!?! I can't even chew gum and cross the street at the same time, so the fact that they did this and did this well is rad.
I hope that last paragraph will sufficiently ease us all into the unpleasant middle of the compliment sandwich. At times the sound was kind of meh. Sorry, someone had to say it. The performers were crooning and emoting and playing their little hearts out, but it was occasionally overwhelming for the small space. Even with mics, there were spots where it was difficult to hear what was going on. Striking Twelve mixes a modern New Years tale with the story of the little match girl, so while the plot was simple enough to follow, you unfortunately missed out on some of the clever lyrics and underscored dialogue.
How did I know that the lyrics and underscored dialogue were clever if I couldn't hear them all? (Here comes the second piece of compliment bread on our sandwich...) I assumed they were, based on the parts of the book and lyrics that I could hear. Starting with the overture and throughout the show the cast made a lot of self-referential jokes which landed quite well with the audience. Sometimes you can come off as a real asshole if you're too self-referential in a show, but the book was smart and the performers were likable enough that it worked. Speaking of the likable performers, one of them (Mallory Nees) played the guitar, bass, and concertina, and she had on a super cute outfit. She also had a great singing voice and seemed like the kind of person I'd be friends with in real life.
Chris Jones said this was a musical for people who hate holiday musicals, but I think there's enough gooey holiday sentiment for even the "White Christmas" and "Holiday Inn" loving crowd. If you like toasty theaters and musicals that both entertain and warm the heart, this one fits the bill. Trust me, I have a degree from NYFU and an obscene amount of student loan debt to back me up.