When a show is rated as suitable for five years and up, you often assume it will be geared towards a younger audience and that any adult in the theatre is likely to be there purely for supervisory duty. However, Manchester’s Palace Theatre was filled with raucous laughter coming from all ages, and by the closing scene of Madagascar The Musical, mature theatre-goers were whistling loudly in appraisal and giddly clapping along to the music.
The story is taken from the beloved DreamWorks animation, following Alex the lion, Gloria the hippo and Melman the giraffe as they break out of New York Zoo to follow Marty the zebra on his pursuit of reaching the wild. Moments in, Marty swiftly breaks into song amid the New York city backdrop with ‘Crack-a-lackin’, a number that celebrates the phrase that most resonates with the movie and sets the tone for the high-energy and colourful performance that would endure throughout the show. The plot doesn’t stray far, featuring quintessential lines from the film (‘smile and wave boys’) and all the unforgettable characters from the scheming penguins to the mischievous King Julien - you’ll even encounter the Granny from Central Station and the cute and cuddly lemur ‘Mort’.
That’s not to say the play lacked any original inspiration. Its musical score was spirited to say the least and fully made the most of the cast’s stunning vocals. Alex the lion was played by X Factor winner, Matt Terry, in his theatrical debut, and truly exploited his ability to reach those high-pitched notes. Meanwhile you could be forgiven for thinking that American comedian, Chris Rock, who lended his voice to Marty onscreen, was there on stage. Antoine Murray-Straughan remarkably resembled his voice and sassy attitude to truly embody Rock’s Marty.
It’s hard to say who stole the show. Beyond Terry and Murray-Straughan’s shining performances, King Julien played by Jo Parsons was a clear favourite - particularly among the older crowd where one man in the audience was actually weeping from laughter. Gloria and Melman, played by Timmika Ramsay and Jamie Lee-Morgan perfectly played off each other and flawlessly portrayed the essence of their onscreen personas. It would also be unfair not to mention the actors who controlled the puppets and penguins too. Their ability to be consistently visible on stage but not intrude on their puppet-characters’ roles was brilliant.
But perhaps it was the creatives who should receive the highest acclaim. From the staging to the costumes, everything appeared to have been well-developed, including the smallest details such as having penguin puppets that blink! Terry was adorned in a muscular lion’s outfit while Gloria had a shakeable yet large middle to bounce around with, which undoubtedly lended towards the performers’ materialising of the animals.
It was further impressive to see how one stage could transport you to New York, to Central Station, to aboard a cargo ship, and then to the wild, using the entire performance space and creating depth through layers to be a visually-stunning show. The set design was kept colourful, which alongside the energetic choreography, contributed to what was arguably the most adored scene of the night - the ‘Move it, move it’ routine. Screams of appraisal sounded out as the cast finished the piece, and rightly so.
With so much talent and careful scrutiny of the original DreamWorks movie, it’s no wonder Madagascar The Musical was so well-received. It’s a feast for the eyes and ears, and holds all the humourous quick quibs that are enjoyed in the animation, making it inclusive to all ages of its audience.
Take a sneak peak at the creative process in action:
Whether you're planning to take the kids or go it alone, Madagascar the Musical is enjoyable for everyone. Catch Matt Terry and the rest of the cast in action on the dates below, where you can find & compare all ticket sellers for the cheapest prices available:
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