Book: Kevin Del Aguila
Music and Lyrics: Geoge Noriega and Joel Someillan
Director: Kirk Jameson
Musical Director: Angharad Sanders
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
What happens when the king of the jungle, a smart-mouthed zebra, a hypochondriac giraffe and a sassy hippo fall foul of a botched escape from the zoo? A two-billion-dollar film franchise followed by what else? A musical adaptation. Bringing the 2005 animated movie to the stage, the larger than life characters are back, armed this time with music and lyrics.
When adapting to the stage, many are happy with a direct copy and paste of the previous medium. This is what you’ll receive with Madagascar the Musical, almost line for line, joke for a joke of the original 2005 cinematic release. What one may have hoped for was a unique spin or even sense of thought with the lead parts. Whilst Marty, Gloria and Melman are by no means poorly performed, their performers have no sense of self. Antoine Murray Straughan is channelling Chris Rock, Timmika Ramsay, Jada Pinkett Smith. Something a little extra to set them apart from the film would have been fresh, giving reason to the creation of the production.
Lyrically, Madagascar may come as a surprise, the original piece does not seem to really lend itself to the musical format, being first and foremost a family comedy. When in reality, the songs utilised for this musical by George Noriega and Joel Someillan are witty, original and sometimes carry a fluid melody. Though, truth be told, it is still Jo Parson’s King Julien which receives the largest reception for I Like to Move it Move it. The number has the tightest choreography, best visual gags and Parsons just simply sells it. Though, the vocals sadly are not all that is required of a musical.
There’s a tad more whimper than roar with Alex the Lion, King of Central Park Zoo. Making his acting debut, X-Factor winner Matt Terry dons the mane to bring Alex onto the stage. His vocals are tight, including a rather remarkable falsetto early on into the show. His acting, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Alex is the weakest of the four lead creatures, Terry’s lack of stage presence, obvious. His movements are not grand enough, not comical enough – and the choreographed ‘fight’ with the antagonistic Fossa’s? Awkward.
Max Humphries’s puppet design combined with Emma Brunton’s direction makes for some terrific pieces. Whilst aesthetically they’re indeed identical to their animated counterparts, there’s just enough crafting with the puppets to see the work involved. From oddly sized lemurs to a thespian spouting chimp they also make for the most adorable of ‘cute and cuddly’ penguin waddles.
Oh, the penguins, these penguins. A quartet of ensemble performers headed by Shane McDaid give life to the most impressive part of this production. Whilst largely down to Max Humphries puppet design, these four, along with the side-characters, excel expectations. Their movements, jokes – again whilst akin to the movie, still manage to seem individual with differences in accent or deliveries.
Quite often, we ask why something needs to be adapted. Often we see no originality in a carbon copied repeat of the same script. Madagascar the Musical certainly suffers from this complaint. Its innovation lies not in its story or character, but in its mise en scène – puppetry, costume design and set. All of these work together with a host of talented individuals to offer a clean cut, simple yet deeply amusing production.
Runs until 6 October 2018 then continues on tour | Image: Scott Rylander