FamilyMusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

Madagascar The Musical – Darlington Hippodrome

Book: Kevin Del Aguila

Original Music & Lyrics: George Noriega & Joel Someillan

Director: Kirk Jameson

Reviewer: Mark Clegg

DreamWorks Animation’s 2005 movie Madagascar does not immediately seem to be a suitable basis for a theatrical musical. The film follows a group of very cartoony zoo animals as they escape their enclosures and blunder around New York before getting recaptured and shipped to a wildlife preserve in Africa. However they instead find themselves shipwrecked on the titular tropical island with no idea how to survive in the wild. With three films in the series and various spinoffs, Madagascar is one of DreamWorks’ more successful franchises. No doubt spurred on by brand recognition and the popularity of their musical adaption of Shrek, as well as their rival Disney’s continued success on stage, Madagascar The Musical was born: complete with its hypochondriac giraffe, special-ops penguins and partying lemurs. And the result is ridiculously exhilarating!

The show itself is far from high art. It’s obviously written to be predominantly aimed at children, the plot is extremely thin, and George Noriega and Joel Someillan’s songs are all fine but largely forgettable. However Selladoor Family and Hartshorn – Hook Productions inject so much artistry and magic into this particular production that a charming piece of fluff is elevated into a vastly entertaining and visually stunning extravaganza.

Congratulations must first go to Kirk Jameson whose direction is tight, assured and very detailed: frequent use of background business make it always interesting and often hilarious to watch. Jameson takes the material and guides it perfectly along the thin line between traditional musical theatre and the realisation of a world inhabited by wisecracking animals. Fabian Aloise’s choreography matches this and is particularly impressive considering the restrictions many of Robert Allsopp’s amazing creature costumes present the performers. The illusion is further enhanced with the use of puppetry and Max Humphries provides superb recreations of the characters’ screen counterparts, including the penguins, lemurs, and Melman the giraffe’s impressively expressive face. Tom Rogers’ simple but evocative set and Howard Hudson’s striking lighting design add additional polish to the show.

The cast are also extremely talented as well as amazingly energetic. Joseph Connor makes a strutting and regal Alex the lion but also invests the character with warmth, and impresses with his vocal and dancing skills. Posi Morakinyo is an energetic Marty the zebra and Hannah Victoria brings buckets of sass to Gloria the hippo. Connor Dyer has the toughest job as Melman the giraffe and although his physicality and puppetry skills are good, his vocal performance is a little one-note. Stealing the show completely is Kieran Mortell’s King Julian: the insane ruler of the lemur tribe. Mortell’s performance is a master-class in comic timing and physicality (his cameo characters in act one including an old lady and a cop are superb) and his rendition of the banger I Like to Move It brings the house down. All of the biggest laughs come courtesy of Mortell’s performance. Special mention must also go to William Beckerleg who brilliantly portrays both Skipper the penguin and Maurice the lemur advisor.

While Madagascar The Musical may not reach the theatrical heights of The Lion King or Les Miserables, it has no such pretensions. Whether you are young or old, this is quite simply a great, fun night/afternoon out. This production is refreshingly suitable for all ages and guarantees a stupidly massive smile on your face. For what it is, it is simply perfect.

Runs until 13th October | Image: Scott Rylander

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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