Reviewed by Margaret Thompson
With three strikes going against us, my boys and I headed off on a beautiful RVA day to see Madeline’s Christmas. Why three strikes, you ask? Well, as I said, it was a lovely afternoon, and my active four and six year-old boys wanted nothing more than to be outside playing in the yard. Strike one. Our entire household had zero knowledge of Madeline or her tales (I know, how is this possible?!). Strike two. And as I said, they are boys…heading off to a play about twelve girls. Strike three. The result? An unlikely homerun!
What I knew I had going for me were the production company – Virginia Rep has never let us down – and the venue – the Barksdale Willow Lawn is a quaint, intimate theater, with a thrust stage, bringing the audience up close and personal with the performance. It’s hard not to be enthralled, especially when kids get to watch other kids act, sing, and dance. Sure enough, the boys were pulled in right away, enjoying the tale of Madeline, a precocious spitfire, who is one of twelve girls living at a boarding school in France, along with mom-away-from-home/nun Miss Clavel and Miss Murphy, the comical cook. Madeline cares for her housemates when they all get the flu just before Christmas, and with the help of a rug salesman/magician, she manages to fly them all home on magic carpets to be with their families for Christmas.
As one might expect, Madeline steals the show, with a superb performance by newcomer Holly Trembath (Ellie Wilson also plays Madeline in alternate performances). All twelve girls were fantastic, as were the three grown-ups in the play, Debra Wagoner as Miss Clavel, Donna Van Winkle as the “hoot” Mrs. Murphy, and Mark Persinger as Harha, who I had the pleasure to meet after the show while our families were playing outside at Willow Lawn. My boys really got a kick out of Martin the Mouse too, so be on the lookout for that cute little critter!
Including such charming songs as “Achoo!,” “Abracadabra,” and “Bonne Annee,” this holiday treat will have the whole family singing on the way home! Joyeux Noël!
Madeline’s Christmas is at Children’s Theater at Willow Lawn through December 30.
Reviewed by Margaret Thompson, Richmond Family Magazine publisher