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Madagascar - The Musical

Madagascar - The Musical

Based on the smash DreamWorks animated motion picture, Madagascar – The Musical follows all of your favourite crack-a-lackin’ friends as they escape from their home in New York’s Central Park Zoo and find themselves on an unexpected journey to the madcap world of King Julien’s Madagascar.

Alex the lion is the king of the urban jungle, the main attraction at New York's Central Park Zoo. He and his best friends – Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo – have spent their whole lives in blissful captivity before an admiring public and with regular meals provided for them. Not content to leave well enough alone, Marty lets his curiosity get the better of him and makes his escape – with the help of some prodigious penguins – to explore the world.

This wacky adventure for the whole family is brought to life by Selladoor Family, the producers behind James And The Giant PeachSeussical and The Owl And The Pussycat and Hartshorn – Hook, producers of the Olivier Award winning RotterdamMurder BalladUrinetown and American IdiotMadagascar – The Musical is directed by award-winning Kirk Jameson with choreography from Fabian Aloise. Designed by Tom Rogers, with Lighting Design by Howard Hudson, Sound Design by Chris Whybrow, Musical Supervision from Mark Crossland, Puppet Design by Max Humphries and Puppet Direction from Emma Brunton.

Join Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, Gloria the hip hip Hippo and those hilarious, plotting penguins as they bound onto stage in the musical adventure of a lifetime. Filled with outlandish characters, adventure galore and an upbeat score, you’ll have no choice but to “Move It, Move It!”

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Madagascar - The Musical ON TOUR

Our review on Madagascar - The Musical

Madasgascar The Musical - Opera House, Manchester - Thursday 8th February 2024 by Christa Norton

Our Rating

The opportunity to see Madagascar The Musical filled me with what can best be described as a mixture of professional curiosity and childish glee. I’ll start with the latter. For me, Madagascar is that one animated film that I can watch again and again and which will always make me laugh. As a teenager, I remember watching as my niece and nephews would run around the house singing ‘Move it’. It’s even come into my professional life - “Smile and wave” being my comment of choice when all else fails. So seeing it on stage – with all the intimacy that a theatrical production can bring – felt really exciting.

And I wasn’t alone in having high expectations. Despite last night’s snow and the bitter wind, the auditorium was packed with an audience of all ages and the atmosphere was buzzing. I saw more than one grinning child sporting a lion’s ears and a tail.

But I was also really interested in how the production would take shape: would it be a straightforward stage version of the film, or would the production bring something new and different?  I personally think it is really challenging to take a well-known film and put it on stage, and when the film is as iconic as Madagascar, it feels like a risk. Yet there are some brilliant examples out there of stage productions that have managed to equal if not supersede the source material. So how would Madagascar The Musical fare?

Madagascar The Musical certainly follows the storyline faithfully, telling the tale of Marty, a zebra in New York Zoo who longs to experience life in the wild, and of his three best friends Alex the lion, Gloria the hippo and Melman the giraffe, who are much more comfortable with city life and the luxuries of being looked after. A series of farcical events leads to them being stranded on the island of Madagascar, with no humans to care for them, and an increasingly hungry Alex beginning to explore what unprocessed steak might taste like – much to Marty’s dismay.

There are some truly excellent aspects of this production, but first and foremost is the cast. There are so many talented and thoroughly enjoyable performances happening that sometimes it is hard to know who or what to watch.

The overall company is relatively small, meaning that the central quartet of cast members are on stage for almost all of the production, which must be incredibly intensive. Yet the energy of their performances never wanes.  Francisco Gomes (Sweet Charity, Sweeney Todd) as Marty, dominates the first half as the zebra with a midlife crisis. Unlike the film – which I always felt was more about Alex – this production gives more emphasis to Marty’s character and Gomes manages to alternate easily between wistful and wisecracking. He forms a great on stage partnership with Joseph Hewlett’s (Glory Ride, Cinderella) Alex, and their easy banter forms a strong foundation for the show.

Jarneia Richard-Noel (Six, Hairspray) is wonderful as the sassy Gloria; this was probably my favourite performance of the evening, her voice is just incredible and I would love to see her in another more meaty role – definitely on my list as one to watch. Her flirtation with Melman, played with a truly determined pessimism and excellent comic timing by Joshua Oakes-Rogers (The Dead Room, Little Crackers), is sweet and funny, and the two of them together keep the audience laughing. Oakes-Rogers has the added challenge of performing with a puppet’s head, and he does this seamlessly.

If the central cast have the challenge of stage time, the supporting cast (Laura Marie Benson (Jane McDonald and Friends, Strictly Come Dancing), Ella Howlett (Snow White, A Million), Brogan McFarlane (Brit Awards, Sleeping Beauty), Connor Keetley (Peter Pan, The SpongeBob Musical), James Hilton-Foster (Sweeney Todd, Chorus Line), Gabriel Hinchcliffe (Aladdin, Be More Chill), and Aidan Harkins (Raging Queens, The Pirate Queen)) have an even greater task: playing the plethora of supporting roles, many of which are as iconic, if not more so, than the main characters. In fact they cover 15 speaking roles between them as well as providing a chorus line. Furthermore, many of these characters are performed through puppetry, adding another layer of complexity to the performance. From the psychotic penguins and their SAS training to the Kung Fu granny who beats up Alex (“Bad Kitty”) to the aristocratic monkeys who may or may not fling poo, the supporting cast delivers them all brilliantly, with the aid of some very cleverly designed puppets.

But of course, first amongst these has to be the supremely deluded King Julien, played to perfection by Karim Zeroual (CBBC, Strictly Come Dancing finalist). Of all the characters from the film, King Julien has to be the most adored, the most anticipated. And of everyone on stage, for me it is Zeroual who is having the most fun. Totally unfazed by stepping to the shoes of Sacha Baron Cohen, or by a costume that keeps him on his knees throughout some fairly complicated dance routines, Zeroual absolutely nails the performance, singing and dancing and delivering his lines with real glee.

The staging was inventive, using shipping crates to create a central frame behind which different backdrops are then used. I particularly liked the New York silhouette, and the use of lighting against a plain backdrop in the second half to create a wonderful ‘dawn in paradise’ moment.

If I were to have one disappointment, it would be that the music is prerecorded, and blasted out of speakers at the side of the auditorium. There are some fairly good reasons for this – particularly in terms of being able to recreate the iconic Born Free soundtrack at the beginning of the show. But I really believe that a live band allows more spontaneity in a performance, gives the performers a little more freedom to flex their creativity. I did certainly feel every now and again, even if only fleetingly, that this was a missed opportunity to differentiate the production from the film.

The songs themselves were fun and catchy in the moment, although I think perhaps it lacked a really memorable original showstopper. That said, King Julien’s ‘Move it’ at the beginning of the second half was what the audience wanted and were there to see, and it was a fabulous romp that had the audience clapping and cheering along.

Madagascar The Musical is a fantastic family show and – with an early start of 7pm and a relatively short running time – I would absolutely recommend it as a perfect introduction to musical theatre for younger children, especially under 10s. We were seated next to two families, both with younger children, and they sat their mesmerised throughout. But that said, whilst it is missing some of the adult humour in of the animated film, I defy any grown not to get swept up in what is a fun and fabulous evening for all the family.


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