“Madeline’s Christmas” is a delightfully gentle musical exploring the magic of Christmas. The staging is innovative, it has puppets, really good voices, beautiful use of lighting (there were lots of oohs and aahs), and a gentle, loving story. Matt Connor directs the young cast with verve and warmth and Stephen Gregory Smith tightly choreographs the action with a large cast in a small space (there’s also a mouse puppet but he doesn’t take up much room).
‘Madeline’s Christmas’ is a delightfully gentle musical exploring the magic of Christmas.
Basically, the story is of 12 young girls at a boarding school who are getting ready to go home for Christmas, but eleven of them come down with bad colds. So too does their teacher/headmistress and the cook/house mother. It’s left to the fearless Madeline to step up and take care of everyone. But then on Christmas Eve, magic enters in the form of the rug merchant/magician Harsha (a stellar Ryan Sellers), who with his 12 magic carpets and magical ring saves the day. And there are more surprises for the headmistress and cook on New Year’s Eve.
Gabriela Simmons-Robles plays Madeline–she is spunky and fearless and caring and kind, but not annoyingly so. She is so full of joy and curiousity she brightens everyone’s spirits. She also has a lovely voice and is equally as adept at singing a solo as being part of the ensemble. Shaina Virginia Khun is Miss Clavel, the teacher/headmistress, and she simply evokes the spirit of loving patience and joy in watching her charges discover the world. Laura Connors Hull (the artistic director of Creative Cauldron) plays Mrs. Murphy and is a riot when she discovers the mouse, who is recovering from his cold and has won over the hearts of everyone in the house.
The rest of the cast includes Evelyn Moorman, Alessandra Simmons-Robles, Sophie Rader, Ella Krauss, Madeline Aldana, Sofia Sami, Sofia Marcus, Abby Fred, Mai Gabra, Bevin Mills, Carmen Ortiz, Enola Danewitz, Jaimie Friedlander, Arianna Vargas as the students; and Marianne Meade, Lily Kales, Gizem Onerci, Arianna Vargas, Bevin Mills, Carmen Ortiz, Enola Danewitz and Jaimie Friedlander as the magician’s assistants when they are not performing as the little girls. The entire ensemble give delightful performances, and they have a beautiful clarity when they sing.
The book and lyrics are by Jennifer Kirkeby and the music by Shirley Mier, and at one hour and 10 minutes is the perfect length of time to weave a little magic spell over young audiences. The stage is cunningly designed to serve as the main hall and the dormitory for the students, and as the zoo and the greater outdoors. Margie Jervis creates a delightfully cozy dormitory for 12 little girls and a mouse through clever use of a tight space. And the lighting design by John Sami casts its own spell during the magic sequences. Margie Jervis is also responsible for the costumes which evoke a Paris that is gracious and shimmery and welcoming.
This is a joyous gift of accessible art for young audiences and a chance to watch some amazing young performers. It’s just plain charming and fun and a lovely interlude to the sometimes hectic pace of the season.
Running Time: One hour and 10 minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: You’ll be charmed.
‘Madeline’s Christmas’ runs from December 6 – 23, 2018 at Creative Cauldron in Falls Church. For more information, click here.