Madagascar – The Musical, New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Book:Kevin Del Aguila

Music andLyrics:Geoge Noriega and Joel Someillan

Director: Kirk Jameson

Reviewer: Selwyn Knight

Marty the zebra and his friends have it pretty good in Central Park Zoo. But on Marty’s tenth birthday a mid-life crisis has hit him. After talking to a commando unit of penguins who are plotting their escape to Antarctica, he hankers after the wild, albeit with little idea of what the wild might be like. His friends, Alex the lion, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo, are horrified at the thought, but when he escapes the zoo to try to find the wild, being good friends, they follow. After a series of mishaps, our heroes are washed up on the shores of Madagascar, the island off Africa with its own distinctive flora and fauna, while the penguins continue to Antarctica. Here they meet the lemurs and their outrageous king, Julien, who sees a way of protecting his people against the fossa, carnivorous animals found only on Madagascar.

Will the wild be all that Marty hopes? Can our friends survive there without people to look after and feed them? Or will they revert to type as hunger begins to bite?

Based on the 2005 Dreamworks film, this family musical from Selladoor and Hartshorn-Hook is loud, colourful and fast-moving. Yes, there are plot holes big enough to drive a bus through and the characters might seem to have been delivered straight from Central Casting, but there is enough pizazz and action to keep the target audience engaged and enthralled.

Before the interval, we meet and establish the characters of our four main protagonists and understand the importance of friendship, but the show really bursts into loud and colourful life once the four land on Madagascar and meet the madcap lemurs. The music, a mixture of standards – for example, the truly memorable I Like to Move It that introduces us to the lemurs’ world – as well as original music that makes plot points. All the cast have fine voices, while the contemporary choreography of Fabian Aloise works well as the stage is filled with dancing animals.

Antoine Murray-Straughan brings us Marty in the throes of his mid-life crisis. He is, he believes, streetwise and sassy – and a joy to watch. X Factor winner Matt Terry makes a decent fist of Alex, the lion who loves to show off but isn’t too sure how he can get on without a steak being delivered to him. His concern for his friends as hunger makes him begin to revert to carnivorous type is well painted. Jamie-Lee Morgan’s hypochondriac Melman is great to watch as his long puppet neck swoops around, while Timmika Ramsay brings a touch of maternal instinct to Gloria.

Most of the lemurs, the penguins and monkeys are brought to life via puppetry from the ensemble, and a fine job they do, too.

But it is Jo Parsons’ King Julien who steals the show whenever he is on stage. Loud and brash, one cannot drag one’s eyes away from him as he struts around – on his knees – singing and dancing. His second-half performance is worth the ticket money alone.

Tom Rogers’ touring set is ingenious with sliding elements transporting us between locations with ease, even if it feels that occasionally the stage is a touch empty.

Overall, however, it’s the target audience one should look to here, and they clearly loved the press night performance. There’s enough intricate choreography and fine voices to satisfy the adult watcher, and the story has a warmth to it even if the plot is simplistic. An undemanding night of feelgood entertainment for all the family.

Runs Until 4 August 2018 and on tour | Image: Scott Rylander

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Feelgood Family Fun

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. 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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