Touring – reviewed at the New Theatre, Oxford
Guest reviewer: Emma Gradwell
Spotlights spiral around the auditorium, a crate flies open and a monkey threatens to throw poop at us if we use our mobile phones – the tone is immediately set for Madagascar the Musical.
Set designer Tom Rogers does a magnificent job. The stage is surrounded by packing crates that may contain some surprises, and moving pieces that instantly transform the set into a zoo, Grand Central Station and the jungles of Madagascar. The human ‘animals’ are visually engaging, with clever costumes from Robert Alsopp that help to give them an uncanny resemblance to their animated counterparts.
Matt Terry is a nimble and energetic Alex the lion, who along with Antoine Murray Straughan as Marty the zebra, relentlessly bound about the stage with fun-filled choreography provided by Fabian Aloise. Terry’s vocals are great and he is engaging and likeable. Timmika Ramsay shines as the sassy Hippo, Gloria and her vocals stand out among the leads.
Jo Parsons shuffles onto the stage after the interval as the ridiculous King Julien, a lemur with a crazy, indeterminate accent. This is when the production really comes alive. Aside from the leads, all of the creatures are represented by puppets and are voiced by a talented team. The penguins waddle out and are hilarious and endearing. Led by Shane McDaid as Skipper they deliver some cherished lines from the film: “Smile and wave boys, smile and wave.” The team switch seamlessly between characters, their voices providing much visual joy to the proceedings. Jessica Niles as Mort the tiny lemur is unbearably cute.
While the musical numbers are not going to set the world alight, Madagascar the Musical makes up for it with charm and spectacle. There is enough to entertain the adults (rectal thermometers and a couple of drug-fuelled dream sequences), but it remains at heart a children’s show.
It’s a ninety minute escape from technology and provides the innocence needed for an uncomplicated and fun evening. The faces of the young audience as they flossed and sang along with King Julien were an absolute joy, and that surely has to be a job well done.
Madagascar runs at the New Theatre Oxford until May 4th before continuing its tour
photo credit: Scott Rylander