I took my 7-year-old daughter with me to opening night of Madeline's Christmas, MadCAP Theatre's holiday offering at the Bartell Theatre, secretly hoping that she would write the review for me. But she wasn't very forthcoming with her critique. This musical adaptation of Ludwig Bemelmans' book of the same name is set in the familiar vine-covered house where 12 little girls live with Miss Clavel. As the holidays approach, the girls and their caregiver are struck down by a nasty flu bug. Only Madeline stays healthy and must tend to them all. Stuck at their boarding school on Christmas Eve, Madeline purchases carpets for everyone from a magical rug peddler. The girls then awake cured and fly over the streets of Paris on their carpets, getting to see their families after all.
Director Paul Milisch and musical director Kjerstie Johanson have valiantly done what they can with the show, which benefits from some charming musical numbers, delightful performances and cute costumes. But Bemelmans' loopy plot aims for whimsy and hits clunky instead.
Madeline is played by Kailey Boyle, who has an expressive face and just the right amount of spunk. She has a lot of business to do (constantly passing out items like blankets, teacups and magic carpets to her classmates) and handles the demands of the role with grace. Two other standouts are Eleanor Mayerfeld, who has a strong and lovely voice, and Margaret Brackey as the cherubic, hiccupping Kate.
High points include the song "Achoo," in which the flu bug begins to take its toll; Madeline's duet "Abracadabra" with Harsha the rug peddler (well-played by Selena Warsaw-Lane); and "We're Flying" as the girls soar over Paris landmarks, a bit that makes clever use of shadow puppets.
My daughter commented on the show's brief running time (clocking in at about an hour). "I thought it was going to have a middle...but on with the show." She also added that she would have liked to appear in it, so perhaps Madeline fans you know might enjoy the production.
Madeline's Christmas. Presented by MadCAP Theatre at Bartell Theatre, through Dec. 15.