Two different casts, with 12 little girls, in two straight lines, are getting ready to warm hearts on stage at Greenwood Community Theatre with “Madeline’s Christmas.”
There are four days of school shows for this production and evening performances, including one after the Greenwood Christmas Parade on Dec. 8.
This stage adaptation is based on author and artist Ludwig Bemelmans’ beloved children’s book series, which does include a book titled, “Madeline’s Christmas.”
It’s Christmas Eve and everyone is sick in bed, except for Madeline. She helps take care of the other little girls and their teacher, Miss Clavel. They are in an old house that serves as a boarding school in Paris.
A magical Christmas journey makes them all forget their sniffles and sneezes.
Under the guest direction of Tiffany Skelton, this play’s two casts are dubbed “Comet” and “Blitzen.”
“This is my first time doing stage direction for a show,” Skelton said. “I’ve been in plays and I’ve done musical directing for a few kid shows.”
Skelton, of Abbeville, is a regional recruiter with Girl Scouts of South Carolina Mountains to Midlands and a musician. She said several local scouts are in the show.
“It’s been eye-opening directing a show,” she said. “A lot of times when you see a show, you see the final product, the best of the best. You don’t get to see all the blood, sweat and tears that go into the behind-the-scenes action. We all have full-time jobs and school and family life, but we devote two to three hours of rehearsal to this.”
Anna Lyle Lethco is music director.
“What’s great is that we have older kids and younger kids in this and the older ones help mentor,” Skelton, 31, said. “We have some who are also brand new to theater. Many of us grew up with the Madeline books and this is introducing them to literature they might not have known beforehand.”
Dellah Johnson, 8, of Honea Path, plays Madeline in the Comet cast, and Olivia Brooks, 22, of Greenwood, plays Miss Clavel.
“This is my first play,” Johnson said, noting she has watched many times a movie version of this particular Madeline story. “Remembering your lines without the book is hard...I have to talk in French.”
But, Johnson said she has enjoyed making new friends among the cast and crew. She describes her character as a brave little girl who likes to try new things.
Brooks is a GCT veteran, having been in more than 30 shows, but she gets to share the stage with her 7-year-old sister, Lillian Hill, who is playing the mouse in “Madeline’s Christmas.”
“It’s probably been since my senior year of high school the last time I was in a show,” Brooks said. “But, my little sister told me it was time to get back in it, so I auditioned with her. It’s been fun.”
One rehearsal was devoted to learning French pronunciations and phrases.
“With us all being in the South, it was a little complicated for us to figure out how to say things without a twang on it,” Brooks said. “I took French in high school, thankfully.”
Brooks is currently enrolled in the nursing program at Piedmont Technical College and she said theater has been a great stress reliever.
The 24 girls in the casts “have such big personalities,” Brooks said. “The show is going to be great. It’s a perfect Christmas show. Like it says in the show, ‘Christmas is the season of miracles.’”
Brooks’ counterpart in the Blitzen cast is Lindsey Smith, 36, of Greenwood. Smith is a stay-at-home mom and former kindergarten teacher, who is in the play with her daughter, Kaylee Smith.
“I did theater when I was in high school,” Smith said. “I’ve been in musicals and sung before, but I have lines this time.”
Mackenzie Sinclair, 11, plays Madeline in the Blitzen cast.
“I love doing theater,” Sinclair said. “I’ve always loved Paris. All my friends told me I was way too tall to get the part of Madeline, but when I found out I got the part, I freaked out.”
Sinclair said this role has inspired her to find out more about the Madeline characters through the book series.
“For costumes, we have navy dresses and red peacoats, and yellow hats with red ribbons around them,” Sinclair said.