Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale The Little Match Girl, Striking 12 is a festive musical about a man down on his luck who meets a Light Bulb Seller on New Years’ Eve that changes everything.
With a punchy score of pop, rock and jazz, it’s a vibrant intimate production bursting with heart. I spoke to Bronté Barbé, who has previously played roles such as Fiona in Shrek the Musical and Carole King in Beautiful, who is excited to be taking on a new challenge with this show.
“The show is 70 minutes long and follows the story of a man named Brendan. It’s New Years’ Eve, he is working late, recently broken up with his fiancé and is having a bit of a crap time,” Bronté explains. “Then he has a chance encounter with the Light Bulb Seller who I play.”
Alongside the main storyline, it connects with the tale of The Little Match Girl and switches between present day and the past. “The show is really sweet, heart-warming and the music is just lovely,” she says. “It’s written by a New York band called the Groovelily who are absolutely brilliant. It’s just such an interesting show and so different.”
With the book by the writer of The 25thAnnual Putnam County Spelling Bee Rachel Sheikin, Striking 12 is usually performed by the three-piece band in New York. In this version, they have removed the band aspect and have narrators and actor/musos to tell the story. “It’s a really gorgeous score and to see it brought to life on stage every night is just so special,” Bronté says. “It’s such an interesting show and new challenge as it’s the first time I’ve ever played two different characters in a show.”
Bronté was convinced once she heard the score. “There is a real draw to it, I literally listened to the music and thought ‘wow’ and I knew if I didn’t sing it it would never get out my head,” she says. “It’s really nicely in my low register, there is a lot to play with and I haven’t done a lot of this style.” Describing it as a ‘gig with a story,’ Bronté emphasised how unique it is as a piece of musical theatre.
Striking 12 is a touching show but with a powerful and important message. “There is a very strong feeling of homelessness and the implications with that during the festive period,” Bronté explains. “You see so many homeless people in London every day and I think it’s important to highlight that in this show. It’s a festive story because it makes you remember what’s important, which is what Christmas is all about.”
“It’s not your average holiday show, it is definitely something very different. Also, it is so short, it’s like a little bite size piece of festive cheer,” she says. “It’s not your super fluffy, magical happy ending but it’s a reminder about human connection. Hopefully, the themes will make you think, and make you want to do something else this Christmas that might improve somebody else’s quality of life.”
Striking 12 is on at the Union Theatre until the 23rd of December, tickets can be found on their website.