The Twelve Days of Christmas

Can you begin with 12 drummers drumming and rattle off the numerous Christmas gifts that end up with a partridge in a pear tree? I can’t, but that didn’t take away from the joy of seeing Adventure Theatre-MTC’s The Twelve Days of Christmas with my two sons. Other productions I’ve seen at the theater have managed to stretch brief books into hour-long shows, and that same creativity is applied in this world premiere that turns the holiday song into a funny feel-good farce.

The storyline follows a Christmas partridge named Shirley as she attempts to corral the other song stars (turtle doves, French hens, and so on) for the annual performance of “the song.” Along the way, the five golden rings are stolen by a Christmas hoarder.

Shirley meets one of the seven swans a-swimming, who points out that she doesn’t have to do things the way they’ve always been done (the moral of the story). Shirley ultimately reclaims the golden rings. The show ends with Shirley putting her own stamp on the classic song in a rap version that’s reminiscent of the Beastie Boys.

There are many moments of comedy in The Twelve Days of Christmas, some of which may be over the littlest heads. The actors playing French hens wear berets and speak with French accents. The calling birds dressed in bright business suits smooth talk on their cell phones and claim they are “busy, busy, busy” and need to postpone Christmas until spring. A scene where Shirley steals back the golden rings from the Christmas hoarder includes a comedic chase with frenzied music.

With only a five-person cast, the play is creative in working around the higher numbers of the song. For instance, the swan explains that the other swans and all six geese are down in Florida for the winter. The 10 lords a-leaping and nine ladies dancing are an actor and an actress who go through several dance styles (disco, Irish jig, etc.) to show that they are more than just two people.

Despite this being a show based on a song, this isn’t a true musical. Most of the lines are spoken with just a line sung here or there, save one full-length rap song culminating the show. Surprisingly, the full original song of The Twelve Days of Christmas is never sung.

There’s a little bit of audience participation, including some ad-lib interactions at the start of the show and a part where the audience is encouraged to chant along.

The striking set is made from some 1,000 stacked presents wrapped in silver, gold and white, with pears and presents dangling from the ceiling. A few presents open to serve as stage entrances for actors or to reveal the partridge’s relatives (the only three puppets in the show). The subtle costumes — such as a few fabric feathers adorning the many bird characters in the show — make clear who’s who without being overdone.

The show is recommended for all ages. There is definitely nothing scary. There are a lot of references that the littlest kids won’t get, but they will still be entertained by the costumes and action on stage.

If you’re looking for a break from the well-known holiday shows or for something that people of all ages can attend, The Twelve Days of Christmas is a sweet choice.

More Info

  • The 55-minute (no intermission) show runs through December 30, 2013. Tickets are $19 and can be purchased at or 301.634.2270. Children under the age of 1 are free.
  • Adventure Theatre-MTC is in Glen Echo Park, which includes many other attractions. The carousel is closed for the season, but Living Classrooms nature center is open on weekends, a playground is right near the theater, and art galleries and artist studios are open for browsing.
  • The park’s cafe is closed in winter, but the Irish Inn at Glen Echo is a very short walk from the theater.
  • There is an American Sign Language Performance on November 30 at 2PM, and a sensory/autism friendly performance on December 21 at 2PM.
  • Adventure Theatre-MTC is hosting a food drive for Manna Food Center. Bring non-perishable foods to weekend performances.
  • After the show, the box office has a few items related to the show for sale. And the actors are in the lobby for taking a photo or asking questions.

Photo 1: Deidra LaWan Starnes and Megan Graves.  Photo 2: Danny Pushkin as the Christmas Hoarder.  Photos by Mike Horan.

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