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REVIEW: Wild for Madagascar?

I like to move it move it! Muddy heads to the first night of Madagascar The Musical to see is Matt 'The X Factor' Terry has animal attraction.

madagascar The Musical wooden crate on stage with giraffe lion hippo annd zebra inside

Image: Scott Rylander

Following the smash hit Madagascar The Movie franchise, Dreamworks has transported their animal A-listers from screen to stage (following in the footsteps of Hollywoods finest), but with a story so familiar and parroted by kids and their parents everywhere (maybe just our household?), can it live up to such a high bar? Fortunately it is safe, paws, hooves and flippers with a strong cast, good if slightly forgettable tunes and some top-notch design from Tom Rogers. It’s charming, funny and captivating from start to finish – and at just 100 minutes long (including the interval), it’s perfect for younger kids (and you’ll all be tucked up by 9.30pm).

Madagascar The Movie Adam the lion on a box NYC zoo sign surrounded by animal friends

Image: Scott Rylander

You know the drill (and if you don’t just press ‘play’ on Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett’s 2005 film. It follows the pampered, slightly neurotic stars of New York City Zoo who find themselves on a container ship leaving their five star existence in the Big Apple and marooned on the African island of Madagascar surrounded by carnivorous but caring wild animals – all because Marty the Zebra and a group of criminal penguins felt they didn’t belong in the city.

X Factor winner Matt Terry, making his musical theatre debut in the leading role of Adam The Lion, joins an experienced the cast of Antoine Murray-Straughan as Marty the Zebra, who has previously starred in Cats, Tammika Ramsay as sassy Gloria the Hippo and Jamie Lee Morgan plays Melman the ‘hypochon-giraffe’, a master puppeteer who has worked on War Horse. This is not their first rodeo and it shows. The singing was outstanding – even on the first night, when techy issues often need to be refined.

Madagascar The Musical Hexagon reading Lion Hippo, puppet giraffe and zebra on stage surrounded by tropical trees

Image: Scott Rylander

Although the plot feels a bit threadbare, it’s an uncomplicated, easy-breezy night of theatre that is perfect for a family half term  outing. My fidget midget four-year-old was utterly transfixed and howling with laughter at the jokes, loved the puppetry, busting out a few moves for ‘I Like To Move It, Move It’. Even the teenager, managed more than a few chuckles.

Matt Terry, as the mane star, has a strong voice and for his first musical theatre role, is made for this kinda work, impressively hitting some high notes in couple of early numbers, he’s also a great dancer leaping round the stage like a gazelle while wearing a padded suit that covers his head in faux fur. Timmika Ramsay also delivers a solid performance as Gloria, while Antoine Murray-Straughan’s rapping, freedom-craving zebra is a perfect pal for Terry’s pampered puss. But Jo Parsons’ King Julien steals the show in the second act, playing his surreal, party-loving Lemur monarch like a character who got left behind at an Ibizan beach party in 1992.

Jo Mason King Julien lemur madagascar the musical green smoke

Image: Scott Rylander

It’s important to note there are plenty of grown up gags about a rectol thermometer, but King Julien’s hilarious skit about Adam’s stinky bowels had all ages crying. I mean who doesn’t love parp joke? This, and the bizzare yet brilliant number with three singing steaks (trust me, you’ll love it), goes to show this is a production that embraces the eccentric and runs with it.

Personally, I would’ve loved to have heard more of the original music from the movie, but the puppetry, humour, faultless performances, and dazzling stage design will lure you into the Madagascar jungle for a roarsome night out.

Madagascar The Musical will be at The Hexagon Reading  19 – Sat 23 Feb 2019

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