Review by Taylor Kendal
What happens when you mix a wanderlusting zebra, a lion who is king of his domain, a hip-hop hippo and a hypochondriac giraffe? Well, throw in some scheming penguins and frankly deranged lemurs and you have yourself a great family fun night out with Madagascar the Musical!
Playing for two weeks only at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre, Madagascar the Musical is the beloved Dreamworks movie come to life on the stage almost twenty years later, with brand new music with a vibrant array of colour, talent, and astounding puppetry.
Madagascar tells the story of Marty the Zebra (Joe Kalou) who yearns for life outside of the familiar walls of the Central Park Zoo. Though his friends attempt to remind him that life is good in their comfortable captivity, Marty’s dream leads them on a wild ride, from New York City, winding up in the wilds of Africa. Madagascar the Musical is a near perfect reincarnation of the 2005 movie, with the same plot, themes, and jokes. However, while this doesn’t really leave room for surprise when it comes to the story, it guarantees a fun adventure, now brought to life through the magic of theatre, with a book by Kevin Del Aguila, and original music and lyrics by George Noriega and Joel Someillan.
The cast is wickedly talented on all levels, managing to perform not only in rather large and seemingly (but by no means) awkward costuming, but managing to sing, dance and for some, masterfully puppeteer all at the same time. Each carrying their part with incredible attitude and perfect characterisation, it is very easy to forget these are people in costume. Joe Kalou’s Marty the Zebra is beautifully engaging. A former member of Hi-5, his quick humour and remarkable dance ability makes him an endearing character to adore. Andrew Papas shines as Alex the Lion, with effortless charisma and a stage presence that has your eyes on him in every scene; particularly during that his tranquiliser-fused psychedelic trip. Moniquewa Williams as the epitome of fierce as Gloria, the sassy hip hop hippo who can seriously break down. Bryn Monk’s portrayal of Melman the giraffe is both hilarious and remarkable, with such skilled puppetry used to manoeuvre the rather large neck he must bear. Of course, the huge scene stealer from Act 2 onwards is the ridiculous and hilarious King Julien, played spectacularly by Jonathan Martin. As soon as that music started, the entire audience – especially the kids – launched into an unprompted back and forth of ‘I Like to Move it Move it’ - which I GUARANTEE is now stuck in your head too, so you’re welcome.
No show is complete without a strong ensemble and swing cast to ensure the moving parts throughout the scenes are effortless in their delivery. The Madagascar ensemble, (tonight’s cast comprised of Cole Johnston, Lucy Sutcliffe, Geena Hutton, Ezra Williams, Cody Green, George Hiku), was a tour de force of performers, bringing to life zoo keepers, members of the New York public, a group of scheming and scene stealing penguins (just smile and wave, boys) and a variety of lemurs in spectacular puppet form, all such different and ranging roles, with such ease and incredible skill, they were truly a wonder to behold.
At just under two hours running time, Madagascar is a great choice for families looking to introduce their little ones to the theatre. The plot is engaging and easy to follow, the music is catchy and has you moving, especially with the big moment when King Julian makes his entrance. I took my parents and my nephew as my date for his first outing to the theatre. It was met with raving reviews and a lot of lion roars – high praise from a 5yo.
If you’re looking for a fun school holiday activity for the whole family, Madagascar the Musical is playing for a strict 2 week run. It’s a light-hearted, energetic performance that will have you up on your feet by the curtain call, laughing and dancing and simply having a great time.