Madeline’s Christmas, now playing at Creative Cauldron, follows the adventures of Ludwig Bemelmans’ precocious young Madeline. In this musical adaptation, set in a Parisian boarding school for girls, Madeline’s schoolmates become ill and are unable to travel home in time for Christmas. Young Madeline enlists the help of a magician and his magic carpets to make sure that everyone is able to go home for the holidays. The Book and Lyrics by Jennifer Kirkeby with Music by Shirley Mier has plenty of family-friendly comedy, singing, fun, and even a talking mouse.
‘Madeline’s Christmas’…is a light-hearted, family friendly Christmas adventure certain to delight the kids this holiday season.
The stage was set in a full on thrust, likely necessitated by the apparent small size of the theatre. The director and actors (primarily young girls) successfully execute this tricky configuration, avoiding poor sightlines. Because of this, there is no bad seat in the very intimate house. Equally as impressive as this successful execution of a thrust configuration is the focus of the young actors. The 14 youngest cast members (including two puppeteers) remained engaged throughout, and I never once noted a missed beat. Speaking of beats, the very young cast beautifully executed all of their musical numbers.
While the script all but forces most of the girls to blend together as characters, the title character without a doubt stands out. Abigail Boatwright takes the stage in her début performance and brings her spunk to the role. She takes the role and makes it her own, making Madeline seem real.
The set was very minimalistic, comprised of a couple of benches, some theatrical flats, and a painted backdrop (which would later be revealed as a curtain hiding the bedroom of the girls). The makeup was very subtle, preventing both facial washout by the lighting and overly dramatic makeup in an intimate space. Costumes were as subtle, bringing iconic images of Madeline and her friends to the stage. Margie Jervis served as both scenic and costume designer. Bill Able was the scenic design assistant.
The lighting, designed by John Sami, was less than subtle, with a sickly green wash as the girls became ill and a deeply saturated blue lighting as the girls slept. The production incorporated intelligent lighting to project tiny spots when magic ensues. Some might see this as disunity among the technical elements, but I see it as allowing children to use their imagination to envision the world of the play, while simultaneously providing enough visual interest to ensure that the children stay focused.
The accents used in the show were somewhat confusing. The children all lacked accents, while the adults had very pronounced accents. Perhaps this was to show that the girls were away from home and thus did not have the same French accent as their elders. Or it was the more practical consideration that very young actors could not be expected to be able to maintain a consistent accent during the show. Whatever the reason may be, it seemed most like a continuity error, though only minimally distracting.
Creative Cauldron’s Madeline’s Christmas, directed by Matt Conner is a light-hearted, family friendly Christmas adventure certain to delight the kids this holiday season. If you are not looking for high-brow theatre, but instead something that the kids will get a kick out of, Madeline’s Christmas is definitely worth the visit to Falls Church.
Running Time: Approximately 80 Minutes with no intermission.
Madeline’s Christmas runs through December 28, 2014 at Creative Cauldron, 410 S Maple Avenue, Falls Church, VA 22046. Tickets available by clicking here or by calling 703-436-9948.