‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ at Adventure Theatre MTC by Julia Exline

Adventure Theatre MTC presents a world premiere comedy based on the classic holiday song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, written by Renee Calarco and directed by Michael Dove. When a “plucky” young bird named Shirley is officially instated as the new Christmas Partridge, she begins to round up all the elements needed for the song…and runs into a few challenges in the process!

Megan Graves (Seven Swan) and Deidra LaWan Starnes (Shirley). photo by Mike Horan.
Megan Graves (Seven Swan) and Deidra LaWan Starnes (Shirley). photo by Mike Horan.

Set Designer Steven Royal uses a backdrop of towering gifts for the setting– piles and piles of them, sized from intimidating large to pocket-sized, and all with a glitzy silver and gold color scheme. Gifts also hang from the ceiling alongside oversized pears; an homage to the partridge’s home, and lending the illusion that you could be sitting up in the tree with her. Throughout the show, hidden entrances and hidey-holes in the present pile reveal  some fun surprises! The overall effect of the silver and gold is pleasing, if not very colorful. Lighting Designer Jason Arnold remedies the lack of color in a number of ways, including having some gift boxes lit-up with a festive glow, and flashing bright colors during scenes where emotions run high, including a memorable foot chase. With punchy music and sound effects by Sound Designer Thomas Sowers, the technical elements of the show blend together nicely, and prove to be the legs that this production stands on.

Costume Designer Chelsey Schuller gets teasingly cheeky with the characters; for instance, the “French Birds” wear black turtlenecks and red berets, and the “Calling Birds” zoom around in business suits, answering phone calls with the break-neck speed of a Wall Street regular. Quilted dresses and feather-trimmed suits also grace the stage with bursts of color. The costumes are imaginative and fun!

It’s Shirley’s (Deidra LaWan Starnes) debut year as the esteemed “Christmas Partridge,” a prestigious title that has been carried down through her ancestors, and leaves her somewhat intimidated. Still, she is determined to make this year a success, and sets out to bring together all twelve essentials of the Christmas carol, from the “eight maids a milking” to the “ten lords a leaping.” However, Shirley runs into some trouble– beginning with the two rambunctious turtle doves injuring themselves, to realizing that most of the swans have flown south for a sunny vacation! Above all this, the coveted “five golden rings” have been tricked into the hands of the sneaky, conniving Christmas Hoarder (Danny Pushkin). Will Shirley be able to regain the rings, reel in her “flighty” peers, and save the Christmas carol?

A quartet of talented actors juggle numerous roles between them, and at a seemingly stunning speed. While the actors show no signs of fatigue and handle the roles with a fresh vigor (how they manage those costume changes so quickly, I’ll never know), I wonder if the sheer overwhelming number of characters doesn’t somewhat weaken the plot of the show. Besides Shirley, no singular character is onstage for very long. Despite the attempt to give her some helpful friends: Megan Graves (an excitable swan named Alyssa), Katherine Turner (the poised Samantha), and Jaysen Wright (the graceful Lord Nicholas).

The actors give enthusiastic performances and there are many enjoyable scenes, my favorite being a mash-up of many different dance styles, including tango, swing, and river dance. Audience interaction also plays a big role in this production, as Shirley often turned towards the audience for help and support in her mission.

For some Christmas fun and cheer, jump-start your holiday season with a performance of The Twelve Days of Christmas at Adventure Theatre MTC. Your family will have a great time!

Running Time: 55 minutes, without an intermission.


The Twelve Days of Christmas plays through December 30, 2013 at Adventure Theatre MTC– 7300 MacArthur Blvd (Glen Echo Park), Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call (301) 634-2270, or purchase them online.


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