MATTHEWS – Audiences can take a two-hour trip to Paris at the Matthews Playhouse production of “The Adventures of Madeline” through Oct. 20.
The show is based on an award-winning children’s book series by Ludwig Bemelmans and comes to life in this production, according to administrative manager Marie-Michelle Darcy.
Through the detailed set design, audiences will watch characters “jump off of the page.”
“With this production of Madeline, it’s sort of a combination of the six Madeline books, and so our set designer has designed this unit set,” production manager Cassie Prodan said. “It’s all very bright colors and we’re incorporating projections of some of the illustrations from the books. It looks like the characters are coming off of the page, so they’re real and they’re in front of you. It’s very beautiful, very detailed.”
The story follows Madeline, who attends a boarding school with 11 other girls. Despite being the smallest of the group, she takes on the role of the leader. She is outspoken and good at getting into trouble. However, Madeline is also good at solving problems, and audiences will see if everything works out for her in the end.
Prodan said Madeline is a very relatable character.
“I hope kids see that and go, ‘Oh, she’s like me,’ or ‘That reminds me of my friend,’ and they can relate to it even though it is an older story,” Prodan said.
The cast of Madeline, primarily comprised of children, has been rehearsing for about five weeks, according to Prodan. They have blocked the show, developed their characters and worked with the lights, set, sound and props to put the production together.
Vanessa Davis is one of the few adults in the cast. She plays the schoolteacher, Ms. Clavel, whom she described as a stern, yet caring, motherly figure to the children.
Davis has been in many shows at Matthews Playhouse over the years but said she was particularly attracted to this story.
“I think ‘The Adventures of Madeline’ is just a beautiful, classic kids story,” Davis said. “I was also excited about working with the director. And I love Matthews Playhouse. It’s an awesome place to participate in theater. Now that I’ve gotten to know all of the children in the cast, they are amazing.”
This is the first time Davis has worked with a cast that is mainly children.
“It’s been different in a good way,” Davis said. “I love seeing them explore and learn because they have been into it since day one. They’re all about this show.”
Davis said her favorite part of the rehearsal process is the week leading up to the performance when the cast rehearses with the lights, sound, set and props. She said the kids’ faces light up when they see the show coming together.
Audiences will experience a range of emotions throughout the show, Davis said. She looks forward to hearing their vocal responses as she and the cast perform.
“[This story] really touches you,” Davis said. “It’s got a little bit of comedy, it’s heartwarming, there are parts that you might cry. It’s the vocal reaction from the audience that I love.”
Prodan said those who are familiar with the books and those who aren’t can both take away something from the performance.
“This is a book that’s been around since 1956,” she said. “I hope that audiences who are familiar with it look at what we have on stage and say, ‘Oh, it’s just like I read it in the book. This is just how I remember it,’ and those who haven’t seen it, who are experiencing Madeline for the first time, see it on stage and go, ‘I wonder how it’s different from the books.’”
Davis said the story will appeal to all audiences, regardless of age.
“It’s a beautiful story for adults and children alike,” Davis said.
Along with the five public performances of the show, the cast will also perform private shows for local elementary schools in Matthews and Union County. The show is recommended for children ages 5 and older.
Tickets cost $14 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. They can be purchased at www.matthewsplayhouse.com.