From left: Matt Wolpe, Charleene Closshey, and Brent Schindele are the cast and the musicians for <em>Striking 12</em>.

David Bazemore

From left: Matt Wolpe, Charleene Closshey, and Brent Schindele are the cast and the musicians for Striking 12.

Striking 12 at Ensemble Theatre

Holiday Rock Musical

It’s not often that accomplished actors also are fine musicians. The Ensemble Theatre’s fantastic holiday show, Striking 12, features three talented young performers who play instruments, sing, and tell a story-filling up the house with joie de vivre on a Saturday night. Originally conceived by the New York band GrooveLily, Striking 12 is best described as a hybrid between musical theater and live performance. Ensemble Theatre’s innovative artistic director Jonathan Fox is to be commended for bringing us this delightful entertainment.

But don’t expect the story to be saccharine-sweet. Set in New York City on New Year’s Eve, the plot centers on a disillusioned thirtysomething (Brent Schindele) who rejects the party invitations and stays at home to read. When a young woman (Charleene Closshey) knocks on his apartment door selling full-spectrum light bulbs, which combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), he is inspired to reread Hans Christian Andersen’s 1843 tale, The Little Match Girl. Although the real-life girl fails to evoke sympathy, the fictional character of Andersen’s poignant story deepens his compassion.

This parallel storyline is skillfully woven into the musical fabric of the show by the three performers, two of whom-Closshey and Matt Wolpe-play multiple roles. Closshey’s presence on stage is striking. Her spirited playing on the Viper electric violin and her spunky personality lend liveliness and humor to such numbers as “The Sales Pitch.” An internationally renowned performer, Closshey is wonderfully cast. At times, the violin sounds ascended ethereally, evoking the little match girl’s tragic end, but Closshey’s Irish fiddling was equally effective.

Complementing Closshey’s energy, Wolpe’s performance provided comic relief, often exploding into a rapturous drumming session. His song “Screwed-Up People Make Great Art” drew a great deal of laughter from the audience with its bittersweet commentary on the lives of such troubled artists as Janis Joplin, Virginia Woolf, and Vincent van Gogh.

At the helm of the production is Schindele, who is both the musical director and the protagonist. Schindele depicted his character’s transformation from self-involvement to generosity of spirit intelligently, while his wholesome, all-American looks and charm made his cantankerous character instantly likeable. Striking 12 will appeal not only to an audience that appreciates its sophisticated humor, but also to a younger generation, who will delight in the vigor of the multitasking and the camaraderie that the three performers bring to this alternative holiday musical.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Biggest Storm Since 1/9 Approaching Santa Barbara

The storm system brings increased threat of flash floods and debris flows.

Jack Johnson Tours Montecito Disaster Area Ahead of Benefit Concert

Jack and Kim Johnson met with Bucket Brigade leaders to see the destruction firsthand.

Iron Chef Caused State Street Pedestrian Death

Famous Chef Larry Forgione charged with misdemeanor for driving into Gilbert Ramirez on February 24.

Lavagnino’s Sudden Victory

5th District supervisor a shoo-in as filing window closes; Gregg Hart also unopposed for 2nd District.

One Half of Old Town Streets to Get Sidewalks

Walkways planned for one side of Goleta neighborhood streets; parking, lighting talks at community meeting March 22.