Ludwig Bemelmans’ books about Madeline and her French school chums are modest classics of children’s literature, featuring simple watercolor illustrations and charming rhymes. Madeline’s Christmas, however, stuffs obvious messages into Bemelmans’ story and turns the plucky little heroine into a badly drawn, ordinary cartoon character.
In this tale, all the girls in Miss Clavel’s convent school have come down with colds at Christmastime — all, that is, except for Madeline. Rather than leave her friends and go home, Madeline chooses to stay and nurse her buddies back to health. That’s all there is to the story, really, except for the musical numbers, which are pretty drippy. The lyrics by Judy Rothman are full of exhortations to love each other and to believe in the power of wishing. The verse is execrable: ”Never give up on wishes/Wish for the moon or sky/A wish is a dream that’s wide awake/Now come, give it a try.” I tried, and my wish came true: The show was over. If you like Madeline, read the books. D