“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.” With that familiar phrase, Creative Cauldron’s cast of Madeline’s Christmas musically brings to life the adventures of author/illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans precocious heroine Madeline. In this adaptation by Jennifer Kirkeby and Shirley Mier, feisty Madeline joins forces with a magical carpet salesman to save Christmas when Miss Clavel and the other students come down with the flu the night before Christmas.
Director Matt Conner helps his young cast enter a world of imagination, enticing the audience to join them on a Christmas adventure. Conner is particularly effective at helping the twelve little girls in two straight lines develop individual personalities that go beyond the sketches in Bemelmans’ books.
Madeline’s Christmas looks and feels like a whimsical page out of a Bemelmans illustration. Pulling double duty as Costume and Scenic Designer Margie Jervis works a special blend of magic. The sets look like a page out of the Madeline books – and it is truly innovative how the small stage easily transforms from classroom to bedroom. The costumes are exactly right, evoking the iconic look from the books. And Jervis employs some fantastic tricks for flying carpets and talking mice that evoke exactly the right spirit of magic and whimsy needed for the production. John Sami’s lighting design complements Jervis’ work beautifully.
The twelve little girls in two straight lines – Abigail Boatwright, Julia Elman, Lauren Buford, Emma Coleman, Avery Hagan, Olivia Laurine, Emily Martin, Constance Meade, Nora Rice, Rowan Smith, Grace Taarpgard, and Elizabeth Vichness – enthusiastically embrace their roles. They sing nicely in unison – and their sneezing is comical. As an ensemble, they tackled Stephen Gregory Smith’s choreography with gusto. As Madeline, Abigail Boatwright strikes the right chord as fearless, loving, and imaginative – especially in her scenes with Miss Clavel and Harsha the carpet salesman.
Ryan Sellers is engaging in the dual roles of Monsieur Brun and Harsha. Laura Conners Hull serves up some light-hearted moments as the flustered cook, Mrs. Murphy. Shaina Virginia Kuhn shines as Miss Clavel, delivering a warm and loving performance with a touching solo near the end of the show.
Last night, there were definitely some rough spots, including missed cues, uneven projection, and dropped lines that slowed the pace of the show. I have confidence that this youthful cast will fix the miscues and improve the pacing as they gain confidence during the run.
Creative Cauldron’s production of Madeline’s Christmas is an enjoyable and light-hearted diversion for the holiday season.
Running Time: Approximately 70 minutes, without an intermission.
Madeline’s Christmas plays through December 28, 2014 at Creative Cauldron performing at the ArtsSpace Falls Church – 410 South Maple Road, in Falls Church, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 436-9948, or purchase them online.