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  • Aisha Khan

★★★★ REVIEW: Madagascar: The Musical - From screen to stage


The cast of Madagascar: The Musical, photography by Phil Tragen

From cinema and TV screens in 2005, to stages and venues across the nation, Madagascar is back, this time in musical form. Perfect for all ages, the musical is a bundle of laughs, energy, and good music.


The musical was completely true to the beloved 2005 film, perfect for fans of the original, yet it felt even more alive thanks to the musical aspect. As it’s true to the original, there isn’t a new plot, or any element of surprise for those who have already seen the film. Regardless of that, it’s still a fun show with musical numbers for all audiences to clap and dance along to.


For those unfamiliar, Madagascar follows four zoo animals in New York: Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo, and Melman the Giraffe, with an honorary mention to the four penguins and the native lemurs! From the modern comforts and familiarities of the zoo, they are thrown into the wild jungle on the island of Madagascar, where they must navigate nature - both in their environment and within themselves. 


The fabulous Jarnéia Richard-Noel was a highlight with her performance of the sassy Gloria - her voice and range were incredible and a delight to watch. Joseph Hewlett and Francisco Gomes were a dynamic duo with their singing, harmonising, and dancing as Alex and Marty. The entire group, including Joshua Oakes-Rogers as Melman (who did a fantastic job maneuvering the giraffe puppet), were a delight to watch and listen to together. The puppeteering of the penguins was a hoot! Just like in the film, they were on the sidelines, but incredibly funny and the puppet designs looked brilliant - great job Max Humphries.  


The Zoosters, photography by Phil Tragen

Tom Rogers’ set and costume designs really helped bring the story to life. While the set was fairly simple, it was effective in transporting us to the different locations with the characters. Hudson and Mulliner’s use of lighting complemented the set choices and I particularly liked the scene of the animals being transported to the island in the crates - there was complete darkness, followed by ambient lighting illuminating the characters within the crates only. The atmosphere of that scene, despite the comedy, was fittingly slightly desolate - the characters didn’t know where they were, so we as the audience were also in the dark with them. It was incredibly immersive and impressive! Whybrow’s sound design definitely enhanced that experience, as the sound was very clear, surrounding the audience, and even felt like it came from within at times.


After the animals moved to Madagascar, the show picked up even further. The second half was probably the most fun. We finally got to see Karim Zeroual’s King Julien, and he did a brilliant job in characterising everyone’s favourite lemur. Since he was playing a lemur, he had to stay on his knees the whole time to emulate the height, and that was incredibly impressive! Maintaining that position, while dancing and singing and playing King Julien hilariously is a huge feat and the efforts paid off. The puppets of the other lemurs, Mort and Maurice, looked exactly like the characters and their roles were played brilliantly by Brogan McFarlane and Connor Keetley, providing the "aww"s and the laughs in equal measure. With the greenery, the puppets, the music and the acting, it was engaging even for audiences who knew the entire plot multiple times over.


Karim Zeroual and the cast, photography by Phil Tragen

The iconic performance of Move it, Move it with the entire entourage was the best part of the show. Being such a popular and loved part of the film, it was important for the musical to match that, and it did. It was funny, energising, and had the entire theatre cheering. The roof was raised, expectations were exceeded, and laughs were had. 


Overall, the musical aspect was a great addition to the story and the themes of friendship, nature vs nurture, and freedom were well portrayed through them - particularly the wholesome reprisal of Best Friends throughout the show to emphasise the power of the central character's friendships.


It was an enjoyable performance, not just for children but with innuendos and musical numbers to tickle the adults. Certainly, the entirety of the audience were up on their feet dancing along at the end with the cast. After a busy week at work, unwinding with Madagascar: The Musical was just what was needed.

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