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Madeline's Christmas (2011)

a Holiday Special
CATEGORY :
by Jennifer Kirkeby

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 4198

SHOWING : December 10, 2011 - January 01, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

This holiday season will be unlike any other for Madeline and her friends. With the arrival of a mysterious stranger, Madeline and the girls get a holiday adventure beyond their wildest dreams! A musical play adapted from Ludwig Bemelman's delightful book. Featuring Horizon professionals and a dozen adorable girls.


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Twelve More Little Girls
by Dedalus
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
4.0
For a fourth year now, Horizon Theatre dives into its exercise in Gallic sweetness, “Madeline’s Christmas,” based on the stories by Ludwig Bemelmans. This is still a tuneful and sweet production, and, for it’s recovered a bit of the magic my scrooge-screens filtered out last year.

To be sure, there are some aspects that would irritate the cynical grownup – plot/character inconsistencies, some cheesy (but fun) “magical” effects, and enough sweetness to send even the most sucrose-tolerant parent into a diabetic coma, to name the very few I can dredge up from my “critic’s bag of standards.” Even more than I last year, though, I want to forgive its lapses and to cheer it on.

It’s Christmastime in Paris, and all the girls in Miss Clavel’s boarding school have colds. Only the smallest girl, Madeline, is spared the flu, but only because she forgot to have her scarf washed. Madeline must take care of everyone, none of whom will now be able to go home for Christmas. One act of kindness to a freezing (magical) rug seller later, and the girls are cured and off to home on their flying carpets (don’t ask). Throughout all is a passel of tuneful songs and lively dances and traditional little red coats and tea carts that move under their own power and snowflakes tossed by girls in the front row and silhouetted flying carpets against the Paris sky and mouse puppets and surprise gifts. All the elements click, and all the audiences are going home happy, myself included.

Of course, the show’s primary asset is its cast of 12 talented and cute-as-a-mouse-whisker girls, all aged between 9 and 12, all bringing a professionalism to the stage that’s a joy to watch. The fact that Horizon was able to find 24 such youngsters (the show was “double-cast” to take some of the strain off parents) is even more remarkable. At the performance I saw the “Green Cast” was led by the dimpled Amelia Kushner as Madeline. Ms. Kushner is spunky and likable and sings like an angel. She also knows when to stay in the background, and when to upstage her grown-up co-stars. Those grown-ups (Lauren Rozenzweig as a pleasant and winsome Miss Clavel, Josie Burgin-Lawson as a nicely-over-the-top Mrs. Murphy, and Alejandro Gutierrez as the magical Harsha) are also in fine form, treating their young co-stars as, well, co-stars rather than kids “in the way.” And, maybe it was excellent casting, but all the girls had real characters, not just “another cute face in the crowd” sameness.

All things considered, it’s a wise choice for a Christmas play – 24 girls with 48 parents and 96 grandparents, plus countless friends, siblings, cousins, and hangers-on, well, mathematically, it’s a guaranteed seat-filler. And, when you add in those theatre geeks who don’t know anyone in the cast, let’s just say we’ll be lucky to get a seat. The fact that’s it’s a well-performed, well-written play suitable for kids of all ages is just frosting on the gingerbread.

So, if you have the choice between sitting at home with your young’n’s watching some lame Disney Channel exercise in Seasonal Parody or going Horizon-ward to watch twelve little girls charm the socks off cynical old Scrooges like me, well, all things considered, it’s an easy choice to make.

Bon année, mes amis!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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