The image of presents, presents everywhere as far as the eye can see, a treasure trove of Christmas cheer awaits all who enter Adventure Stage.In the midst of the bounty, a little hapless somewhat fledging partridge named Shirley must carry on the time-honored tradition of orchestrating the Twelve Days of Christmas song when absolutely Nothing goes right.
What’s a partridge to do when turtle doves hurt their legs, French hens won’t cooperate, and don’t even get me started on the hilarious calling birds. It’s a new day as Shirley (Deirdre LaWan Starnes) learns along the way. Renee Calarco’s chirp-filled script and playful direction by Michael Dove (appropriately named) bring messages to life about the importance of history and legacy, time-honored traditions, and hard work to complete a task, while recognizing that changing times open possibilities for new ways of doing, seeing and being.
Even before the show begins, Shirley dutifully stacks beautifully wrapped presents, hundreds of silver and gold wrapped boxes literally piled to the rafters. She consults the matriarchs of her family who pop out as hand puppets offering direction and guidance while nestled in the ingeniously designed set by Steven Royal along with huge pear shaped ornaments. It took awhile to surmise that even without a tree branch or trunk in sight, it’s a pear tree– the sophisticated design makes you stretch a bit in a good way. Gone is the pabulum droning of the Twelve Days of Christmas lyrics of years gone by—it’s a new day, actually twelve of them.
Despite her best intentions, Shirley’s painstaking work and intentions are no match for the series of unfortunate events that befall the numerically identified colorful characters. Deidra LaWan Starnes brings a sweet earnestness to Shirley, eager to do the right thing to honor the family. She bounces and pleads and cajoles, using any means necessary to round up the multitude of characters. Her devastation upon losing the priceless golden rings to the lurking Christmas Hoarder, a playfully menacing Danny Pushkin dressed in a gilded cloak, is palpable.
At one point, Shirley becomes so despondent about the turn of events that all she can do is sink into a teary funk real enough to send some empathetic toddlers scrambling for comfort. They could feel her pain! As a plucky go it alone swan, Megan Graves comes to her rescue with words of cheer and encouragement, so determined to turn that frowny face to a smile that she zips them to a Comedy Club with cow-themed jokes and snappy one-liners.
The two become an unstoppable dynamic duo as Shirley accepts the reality that she isn’t alone in accomplishing her impossible quest, assuring a tradition of celebrating twelve days of Christmas. Like any true hero, Shirley must face her deepest fears and as in any well-written story, the audience goes along for a great ride.
The Twelve Days of Christmas
Closes December 28, 2013
Adventure Theatre – MTC
7300 MacArthur Blvd
Glen Echo Park
Glen Echo, MD
1 hour with no intermission
Tuesdays thru Sundays
Clever costume design by Chelsey Schuller brings a hip urban flair to all of the represented, from Shirley’s flapping feathers and scalloped feathered bloomered leggings, to the glimmering emerald Dancing with the Stars duo– Jaysen Wright and Katherine Turner as a Lord a Leaping with a Lady Dancing. That sequence alone is too good to miss with a collection of authentic steps from cake-walking ragtime to disco and everything in between movement by the talented Michael Bobbitt.
Michael Dove’s whimsical touch permeates the depiction of all the characters—he strikes a perfect entertainment balance to please everybody along the age strata, youngsters and young in heart alike, while Calarco’s playful script brings a new exciting energy to the age-old litany. Just when you think you know what’s coming next because it’s Always done that way, the production team delivers a fresh new approach. That’s what happens when Shirley finally accepts the reality that no matter how much she wants to replicate the old standard song, she’s got to cut her own approach and sound. The ending song carries the messages from the old in a fresh happening style that the duo delivers with “fly” girl energy and enthusiasm.
The brave little partridge learns some big lessons about life, friendship and family traditions in this fun-filled production. Watch it and you’ll never hear The Twelve Days of Christmas the same old way again.
World premiere of The Twelve Days of Christmas . based on the Traditional Holiday Song . written by Renee Calarco . Director: Michael Dove . Featuring Deidra LaWan Starnes, Megan Graves, Katherine Turneer, Danny Pushkin, Jaysen Wright, Haely Jardas, and Paul Lysek (u/s). Assistant director: Renana Fox . Movement: Michael J. Bobbitt . Set Designer: Steven Royal . Costume designer: Chelsey Schuller . Props designer: Dre Moore . Lighting designer: Jason Arnold . Sound Designer: Thomas Sowers . Stage Manager: Donna Stout . Produced by Adventure Theatre – MTC . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.