FamilyFeaturedMusicalReviewSouth West

Madagascar The Musical – Theatre Royal Plymouth

Reviewer: Joseph Leigh

Book: Kevin Del Aguila

Music/Lyrics: George Noriega and Joel Someillan

Director: Kirk Jameson

It is an excited and energetic audience that fills The Lyric auditorium at Theatre Royal Plymouth to watch Selladoor Worldwide and Theatre Royal Plymouth’s co-production of Madagascar The Musical. Based on the family favourite animated film Madagascar, the anticipation ahead of curtain up is absolutely electric.

Right off the bat, this production delivers.

The story follows that of the film, bringing the audience from New York Central Zoo to the wilds of Madagascar courtesy of Marty’s dreams and a daring crew of penguins. That said, this production delivers plenty of new content that allows the musical to stand on its own while still pleasing the movie’s fans.

The songs are slick and well written with almost every number being an original that is unique to this production. The music is up-tempo and fun, with a great breadth of genres that all appeal to the family-centric audience. Madagascar The Musical delivers everything from rap to close harmony in a way that is accessible to younger audience members while providing plenty of entertainment for the older generations.

The cast is universally strong, with excellent performances across the board. The four main characters, Marty the zebra (Franciso Gomes), Alex the lion (Joseph Hewlett), Gloria the hippo (Jarneia Richard-Noel), and Melman the giraffe (Joshua Oakes-Rogers) are all superbly played with palpable chemistry between the four and brilliant vocal performances all round. Particularly noteworthy are Gomes’ rapping and Richard-Noel’s singing, which really stand out as highlights.

The sole exception to the original numbers is the cover of 90s hit I Like to Move It, which is performed with sublime skill and aplomb by Karim Zeroual as the well-loved lemur King Julien. Famous for his work on CBBC and reaching the final of Strictly Come Dancing, Zeroul demonstrates that he also has incredible comedic, physical, and vocal talents from the moment he steps on stage. A role like King Julien could easily be a double-edged sword with huge expectations from fans of the film, however Zeroul takes this role and makes it his own.

The rest of the cast deliver excellent and entertaining performances as the various other animals (as well as a few hapless humans) met along the way. Which brings the audience to one of the key strengths of this production – its use of puppetry.

The mix of characters portrayed by puppets to those played by actors in costume is perfectly balanced, with a few hybrids thrown in such as Melman (a costume with puppetry element) and King Julian (a costume that requires Zeroual to adapt his physicality in order to fit in with the puppet characters). This creates a brilliant sense of scale between the different creatures despite them all being portrayed by humans.

Designed by Max Humphries, the puppets themselves are well made representations of the animated characters with clear thought given to ensuring that the puppeteers have the scope to mimic realistic movement such as the penguins waddle. Puppet Director Emma Brunton’s work with the cast clearly pays off as the resulting performance and interaction between puppet and actor is seamless.

Costume Supervisor Laura Rushton’s costumes are equally well designed and delivered, exaggerating and emphasising the actors physical performances to imitate without replicating the animals and animated characters that they are portraying.

There are a few moments where the veil slips slightly; a stumble here, a set piece not quite in place on time there, and one moment where someone appeared to forget their line for a few tense heartbeats. But overall, this is a solid family-friendly production that is sure to be a hit with young families and fans of the films.

Runs until 28 October 2023

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. 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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