HJT's 'Madeline's Christmas' A Simply Delightful Holiday Treat

By: Amy Tagliaferri

Angelina Cuthbert Manchuk and Bridget Williams in “Madeline's Christmas” at Harwich Junior Theatre.

It’s the classic book “Madeline’s Christmas” by Ludwig Bemelmans come to life!

It’s Madeline and her classmates in their distinctive school uniforms of blue with yellow hat and the all-important red scarf singing and dancing with delight on the Harwich Junior Theatre stage. This production is the ideal holiday getaway, because the show will transport you to a different time and place, and fill you with holiday spirit.

The theater’s talented musical production duo, Robert Wilder (director/musical director) and Suzette Hutchinson (choreographer), have been here before. They have staged this show a couple other times and it shows. The smooth, polished production is simply delightful. A glorious set that twinkles and illuminates the Paris skyline greets you and then spectacularly the stage is filled with the 12 young girls, Madeline and her classmates.

The story unfolds: Miss Clavel, the beloved school mistress, has taken the girls on a morning walk with dire consequences. The musical number “Achoo!” is a highlight of the show as we witness an outbreak of the flu, which spares only Madeline (she wore her scarf!). How will the sick children be able to go home for Christmas? How can a mysterious, exotic carpet salesman help, and then end up taking the children on an exciting adventure beyond their wildest dreams? Through the magic of theater you and your family will experience an adventure of your own in this perfect holiday outing.

The precocious Madeline (“I can be a handful!”) was wonderfully portrayed by Shae McSharry on opening night (she shares the role with Angelina Cuthbert Manchuk). McSharry is a little powerhouse. Her classmates (Lily Pierce, Scarlett O’Malley, Caroline Hussey, Orla Delaney, Perry Gill, Olivia Thompson, Haley Labdon, Rory Shortis, Molly Funk, Emily Carr and Kayden Kaser) are fabulous also. They and Madeline are very entertaining in the musical numbers singing and dancing together. Hutchinson’s synchronized choreography was charmingly carried out by the young middle-school aged actors.

Bridget Williams plays Miss Clavel with a comedic flare; her expressive manner and great singing voice adds so much. (Well-known HJT veteran Anne Vohs shares the role so you can’t go wrong on which performance you attend.) Every Cape Cod theatergoer knows the always incredible Ted Vitale, and he nails the role of Harsha the rug salesman. What a treat! Charlotte Kemp is enchanting as Martine the mouse, a very small yet pivotal role. A nice HJT side note and a testament to this haven for young performers is that a one-time Martine, Sage Barnes, is the assistant stage manager and light board operator of this production. Rounding out this special cast are Hannah Reggio as Mrs. Murphy and these young actors who serve as understudies for the roles of Madeline’s classmates: Maddie Weber, Samantha Goode and Anjali O’Brien.

James P. Byrne’s set and lighting design made us speechless; it’s magical. And for the actual magic performed on the stage, credit goes to sound design by J Hagenbuckle, sound board operator Shiloh Pabst, the aforementioned Barnes and the special effects by Rich Archer, all under the watchful eye of the theater’s tech director Matt Kohler. Robin McLaughlin’s costumes were outstanding. Back stage crew Kyra Brimdyr and Tyler Brackett have their hands full with the scene changes and implementing the dazzling feat in the second act.

Madeline’s Christmas is a holiday gift worth opening again. And with all the vacation day matinees, tickets would make a great stocking stuffer. It’s 90 minutes (with a brief intermission) of magical fun!

The Harwich Junior Theater is conducting a winter coat drive during every performance through Dec. 30.  As a thank you for bringing a new or gently used children’s coat size 4-18/20 kids, they will provide a refreshment voucher. A huge thank you goes out to you for contributing to the coat drive and Katelynn’s Closest for their commitment to keeping kids warm on the Cape and Islands.

 

DETAILS:

"Madeline’s Christmas"

At Harwich Junior Theatre, Division Street, HarwichPort

Through Dec. 30, Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Vacation matinees Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Dec. 26, 27 and 28 at 2 p.m.

Information and reservations: 508-432-2002 ext. 2 or www.capecodtheatrecompany.org