“In an old theatre in Western Springs that was covered in vines…”
… okay, the Theatre of Western Springs isn’t really covered in vines , but it will serve as a famous old house in Paris this December as members of the Theatre and Children’s Theatre team up for Madeline’s Christmas. The play, of course, is an adaptation of one of Ludwig Bemelmans’ famous stories about a French boarding school and its singular redheaded resident.
“Everything that we have done is based very heavily on the book,” said director Stephanie Grady, in her first TWS show. “The set is very much like the illustrations… We’ve had a really good time being able to devise a show that has magic, and these French elements of course, and things like that just for the kids.”
In the story, a pre-Christmas trip to the zoo turns disastrous when eleven of the famous dozen girls catch the flu, leaving it to Madeline, the littlest, to step up and save the day with the help of a mysterious carpet-dealer.
Western Springs sixth-grader Olivia Hart plays Madeline—which she said has led to some interesting mix-ups and amusing moments lately, as her own real-life sister is also named Madeline. (Call the name, and both may respond.)
“She’s usually the rambunctious, curious troublemaker kind of girl,” said Hart, wearing a red-bob wig. “But in the show, she has to take responsibility for once and take care of everyone.”
The carpet-dealer is played by Joe Mills of Westchester, also in a double role as a French teacher, as the only male in the cast and one of just three adults.
“It’s a Christmas play, so he’s the closest to a Santa Claus-like character, though he is clearly not Santa Claus,” Mills said. “He helps provide for them the most important thing, which is a connection with their families at Christmas.
“[That’s] the undercurrent to the story—we yearn to be with those we love—so this character is able to help effect that.”
As usual, the Christmas musical presents tests like recreating a zoo with sound effects and light tricks, and performing live songs in a Theatre not designed for musicals. Grady credits her cast and crew’s energy with making the show fit together, and praises the adaptation by Jennifer Kirkeby and Shirley Mier.
“They did a really wonderful job translating the book itself into song lyrics and lines,” Grady said.
Madeline's Christmas plays at the Theatre of Western Springs on Nov. 30 and Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 1 and 8 at 11 p.m., Dec. 1 and 8 at 4 p.m. and Dec. 2 and 9 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $7-15 and can be purchased by calling 708-246-3380 or at the Theatre’s website.
(That’s all there is; there isn’t any more!)