Madagascar The Musical

I’m a firm believer that an adaptation, whether it be film to musical or even a cover of a song, should add something new to the original to make it worthwhile. Unfortunately, Madagascar the Musical did not quite live up to that expectation- but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some fun to be had along the way!

The show (based on the 2005 DreamWorks animated survival tale, ‘Madagascar’) tells the story of four Central Park Zoo animals whose lives in blissful captivity soon take a turn, resulting  in them being shipped off to Africa. When they get there, home seems so very far away and they soon find out that life in the wild is, well, wild… 

So, onto the show: is it a musical? Is it a staged adaptation of a family movie with songs? Even now, I’m not quite sure. What I do know is that the families throughout the theatre were loving the performance and if this is what will get children into theatres, then I am all for it. Though is this enough to warrant some hefty ticket prices?

The book (by Kevin Del Aguila) has been heavily streamlined into an 80-minute show with original music and lyrics by George Noriega and Joel Someillan. In turn, this manages to turn the commercially successful franchise into a somewhat forgettable theatrical frenzy. The story was just getting started when we were rudely interrupted by a monkey who informed us that this was the perfect time for an interval. I cannot say that I agreed with said creature. Act 2 then had a hippopotamus sized task to complete: to quickly pick up where we left off, tie up the sub-plots and use the remainder of the 40-minute act to have the social media-worthy musical finale. Though the audience did indeed like to ‘move it, move it'.

The cast were a highlight of the production, with direction from Kirk Jameson. Joseph Hewlett takes on the role of Alex the Lion with great ease. His over the top and energetic performance left the audience wanting roar (sorry, more…) and vocally stood out in the small but animated ensemble.

Joshua Oakes-Rogers took on the beloved hypochonGIRAFFE (*spoiler- best joke in the show*), Melman. Joshua somehow embodied Melman through essentially vocals alone as his was the only costume of the fab four who had a puppeteered face, which ironically was one of the better costume choices.

Based on original set and costume design by Tom Rogers, unfortunately the majority of the costumes had noticeable design flaws with the padding beneath three of the four main character’s costumes visible due to, what is presumed to be, cheaply used material.  The set was also a little basic and sadly lacked some of the pizazz and beauty one would expect of Madagascar’s tropical coast. This being said, it was boosted no end with lighting design by Howard Hudson; standout moments including effective sun rises and a momentary immersion of the audience as blue spotlights engulfed the auditorium, representing the NYPD.

Irrespective of its faults, this production has its place in society as a hearty, feel-good welcome to the theatre for the next generation and, with a high energy cast, lively (and, in some cases, adorable) puppeteering with paw-tapping musical numbers, it was certainly a roar-some night for the youngsters in the audience- and the young at heart.

This show was reviewed on the 8th February 2024 at Manchester Opera House where Madagascar The Musical runs until the 11th February 2024.  Tickets available here: Opera House Manchester Box Office | Buy Tickets Online | ATG Tickets

Full tour details here: Tour Dates (madagascarthemusical.co.uk)

Review written by Lee Gregory

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