Review, Madagascar the Musical –Wales Millennium Centre by Bethan England

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Adapting a film for the stage is never an easy feat; audience members come in with all sorts of preconceptions and expectations, and this is particularly true of an animated classic such as Madagascar. This obviously succeeded with another of Dreamworks’ properties, Shrek…so they have a strong track record!

The audience was packed to the rafters with families, school groups and animal ears and tails galore, all eagerly anticipating the tale of Alex the Lion, Melman the Giraffe, Marty the Zebra and Gloria the Hippo. So, does Madagascar stack up to the film that so many people know and love?

The set is colourful, bright, with clever use of the crates from later in the tale as a frame to the action. The set is simple but ably moved around the stage by the Central Park Zookeepers who introduce us to our motley crew of animals; the stars of the zoo. Alex, Melman and Gloria are happy with their lot at the zoo, especially Alex who is the ‘King of New York,’ but Marty is dreaming of going to the wild and the hilarious penguins are dreaming of Antarctica.

The best part of the show is easily the costumes and the puppets. Aside from the main four creatures, the talented cast multi role, leaping with ease from two legs to four. The puppets, especially the penguins, are amazing. Their puppeteers bound across the stage with so much energy and we easily forget that we are watching puppets and can only see penguins and lemurs cavorting across the stage.

The leads are excellent. It’s a tall order to take roles that have been made famous by Chris Rock, Ben Stiller and David Schwimmer, to name but a few. But the physicality and voices are silly, energetic and loads of fun. The dancing and singing are brilliant and the songs are catchy and easy to clap along to. There’s actually a lot of heart and adult humour that did get slightly lost in the rustling of sweet packets but the script is actually really clever, capturing the essence of the original film.
Act Two picks up the action and runs with it, as we reach the shores of Madagascar and meet the lemurs and the charismatic, slightly insane, King Julien.

The highlight of the show is ‘I Like to Move It’ which has the audience delighted. The whole cast join in with a joyous explosion of music and colour and the audience clap along with glee. It is lovely to see children seeing theatre, likely for the first time, and experiencing the thrill watching live performance can bring.

The show is very cheesy and silly, but I left my seat with a smile on my face after the audience was on its feet, dancing along to the encore. It’s a funny, happy show, which is perfect for kids and big kids alike.

This is a great way to introduce little audience members to the stage or if you loved the film in 2005 (and are still young at heart!). Make sure you escape to Madagascar before it gets crated up and sails away from the Millennium Centre!

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