Review: Madagascar The Musical. (touring) Leicester Haymarket Theatre.

four STAR

Madagascar the Musical aims to recreate our favourite, funky foursome from the Central Park Zoo live on stage. It’s hard to believe that the Dreamworks film dates from 2005, when the characters are so fresh. This is a Selladoor Family and Hartshorn – Hook touring produced show. It’s true testament to the creative and funny script is that it’s still appealing to youngsters today. It’s a zany, colourful and energetic production that has the young audience on their feet.

          It’s zany, colourful and energetic… has the young audience on their feet.

For those that have been living in a jungle on a remote island for the last 14 years, the heroes of the show are Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo and Melman, the hypochondriac Giraffe. All are living their lives peaceably in the comfort of Central Park Zoo until Marty reaches a mid-life crisis, at the age of 10, and decides he wants to visit ‘the wild’. An encounter with a tranquilliser dart means they all end up on a shipping container – piloted by penguins and bound for Madagascar. It doesn’t get much wilder. Here, we meet the native lemurs and the kooky King Julien.

Matt Terry, X-Factor winner from 2016, plays the arrogant Alex. Maybe more boy-next-door than Alpha male, but his clear, crisp vocals soar through the songs with ease. Antoine Murray-Straughan is his best, monochrome friend Marty, and along with some strong singing, he busts some serious dance moves. Marty has great characterisation too, none of which can be easy in a highly cushioned costume!

Timmika Ramsay is the charming and curvaceous Gloria, another powerful singer, who gradually falls for the neurotic Melman. The gangly giraffe doesn’t have just a padded costume but a whole head on a pole to give him the extra height required and Jamie Lee-Morgan does a great job of controlling it and making it part of him.

Many other characters also feature as puppets, which nicely bridges the gap between reality and the cartoon world. The penguins – “Smile and wave boys, smile and wave” – are as quirky as ever, and you soon forget the humans operating them. Shane McDaid, performing as Skipper, has a voice and phrasing spot on to the film, with exactly the right dry delivery of comic lines. Considering his diminutive size, Selladoor might have thought of making King Julien a puppet too, but he is brought to ingenious life by Jo Parsons, playing the role at a whole new level! He looks to be having a devilishly fun time portraying the hyperactive King of the Lemurs.

The highlight of the show, of course, is the all action, pumping dance number ‘I Like to Move It, Move It’, and with multi coloured lights a-blazing, and a full stage of energetic dancing, this starts the second half with a bang. Other songs have been written for the show and are tuneful enough melodies but not too memorable. There’s lots of sass and fun, and plenty to enjoy for the youngsters, along with a few cheeky over-the-head lines for the parents. Madagascar is punchy and vibrant, and is an entertaining introduction to theatre for youngsters and a reminder what a unique and wild idea it all was in the first place. A fairly full audience is here on the first night and we predict a sell out when the ‘call of the wild’ goes out across Leicester! Book Madagascar the Musical right now! It’s a treat for all the family. Zoo know you want to! ;o)

Madagascar the Musical runs at Leicester Haymarket Theatre until Sat 9th March 2019.

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