Adventure Theatre MTC’s Holiday Mystery: The 12 Days of Christmas

Here’s the thing, I will never learn. Me and Adventure Theatre MTC are in a little dance before the premiere of each new production. I see the pattern now. They just don’t know we do a little dance before I settle in to watch the show.

Here’s how it goes: I doubt them.

Deidra LaWan Starnes as Shirley the Partridge. Photo Credit: Mike Horan

Deidra LaWan Starnes as Shirley the Partridge. Photo Credit: Mike Horan

This time it was about how they could pull off a musical mystery adventure over a song…one of my least fav Christmas songs to boot. On the drive around the beltway last week to go see the premiere of The 12 Days of Christmas, naturally we sang the song. And we thanked the vast internet and the power of Google because without WiFi and internet, we wouldn’t have been able to remember all the 12 random and odd gifts sprinkled through the song.

For instance, who wants 12 drummers drumming and 11 pipers piping?

Not one parent, I can tell you that.

As we had fun Googling (is that officially a Verb yet?) the song and singing out loud, much to the kid’s total amusement, we wondered – how many people were going to be in this play? I tried to do the math of how many people would have to represent each of the gifts over the 12 days but well…that didn’t end well.


But knowing that most Adventure Theatre MTC productions have small casts, it seemed safe to assume there was no way there was going to be 12 drummers drumming onto the stage. Or how about those leaping lords? Would there be a stage full of men leaping?

And HOW could they make this song an interesting play, I quizzed aloud.



Meanwhile in the backseat, my oldest kept insisting it was a “porridge in a pear tree” and no one could convince her otherwise.

“Here honey, Merry Christmas, I give you a bowl of porridge up in that tree.” #Kids

As we settled into our seats for the play to start, I admired the modern chevron wrapped gifts stacked all around the stage, the pears dangling

Danny Pushkin as the Christmas Hoarder. Photo Credit: Mike Horan

Danny Pushkin as the Christmas Hoarder. Photo Credit: Mike Horan

from the ceiling and the metallic color scheme of the set. Immediately it seemed clear there was going to be a modern twist on this traditional song and I was intrigued.

Still doubting…..but intrigued nonetheless.

The play opens and we meet Shirley the Partridge (still not Porridge….daughter still not convinced), played by Deidra LaWan Starnes. I began obsessing over  why she seemed familiar, it gnawed at me the duration of the play until reading the press release. Anyone lucky enough to have seen Charlotte’s Web at Adventure Theatre back in 2011 will recognize Shirley as the star of that play. This time, she made for a colorful, animated and convincing young Partridge, attempting to keep Christmas tradition together through “the song.”

Speaking of tradition, this was the undercurrent theme of the entire 55-minute production. Shirley was tasked with keeping the Christmas tradition alive by her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, as she struggled to corral all the parts of the song together. Much like trying to corral children, it seems that trying to corral animals and humans from this song together is like herding kittens. While doing so, Shirley embarks on a journey that leaves her wondering why the song has to remain the same and why the tradition can’t grow and change with her?

The totally hilarious French Hens. Photo Credit: Mike Horan

The totally hilarious French Hens. Photo Credit: Mike Horan

I think Adventure Theatre consistently takes a page out of the Pixar playbook and writes productions with story lines that can appeal to adults and the kids for different reasons. Certainly my oldest understood the questioning of tradition and the quest to make something different and new by the younger generation while struggling with the fear of disappointing her elders but this was absolutely lost on my younger one. She didn’t care about that, though she cared about the colorful cast, the quick movements, the costumes and of course, the evil nemesis, the Christmas Hoarder, who steals the 5 Golden Rings.

It turns out that I have a little one who reliably loves the good versus evil tug and delights over what trouble the bad guys stir up. The Christmas Hoarder is charming and hilarious in his own creepy way and adds a nice twist to this musical-mystery. As much as I adored the Christmas Hoarder, however, the French Hens with their berets and squawking were pretty hilarious rivaled only by the Calling Birds, decked out in their professional suits, busy busy busy on their phones, with my favorite one in particular flaunting his mid 1990s enormous flip-phone cell phone.

Recall that little dance we do, me and Adventure Theatre? The doubting dance?

I’m raising the white flag again; I curtsey and bow. It didn’t take long into the show for me to appreciate the clever, creative and fun twist on this odd song and how it does make for a fun play. Also, it’s a completely different holiday themed production than anything you’ll see this season, or probably have seen anytime recently. The play’s charm rests in the fact that it’s a different, unpredictable and not overly holiday-ish production yet it still speaks to tradition, generations, expectations and change. All things many people wrestle with through the holiday season as families gather together.

Overall, as I bow and curtsey, me and the family gave Adventure Theatre’s  The 12 Days of Christmas two creative thumbs up. Catch it anytime through December 30, tickets are $19 and can be purchased online. Now I’m off to find some porridge to put in the pear tree for my oldest on Christmas morning.

Disclosure: The Adventure Theatre MTC invited me and my family as guests to see the play. My opinions here are all my own.


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