Monday 30 July 2018


Madagascar the Musical at New Wimbledon Theatre [UK tour]

It's been a while since I've regularly posted to my blog – sorry! The last month has been a hectic one doing handover stuff at work and starting an exciting new job at a major well-known tech firm. It's been a blast but man it's been crazy and I've been too exhausted in the evenings for a proper blog catch-up. I'm hoping things will settle down soon again though so you can expect a regular flow of book, theatre and London posts, as well as tons of awesome recs from the Lake District, which I visited earlier this month. But first things first... I got to see the UK tour of Madagascar the Musical last week when it came to London.

Aside from a green-skinned ogre named Shrek, Madagascar is undoubtedly DreamWorks' most successful franchise of the 21st century. Whether it's the ironic friendship between lion Alex and his zebra buddy Marty; the crazy antics of the spying penguin squad; or King Julien, the lemur who just 'likes to move it', there's something about the motley crew of New York City Zoo animals that has captivated audiences young and old from the big screen to the small screen, and they've now travelled all the way across the pond to the UK stage.

If you're not yet familiar with the wildly successful films and small screen continuations starring the likes of Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith and Chris Rock, first if all, where have you been?! Secondly, go find a copy of the first movie immediately as it's a classic and you can consider it research for the musical, which follows the film's storyline and dialogue to a tee.

It's Marty's birthday and there is only one thing the black-and-white (or is it white-and-black?) striped mammal wishes for when he blows out the candles on his cake: see the wild. Like his buddies in the zoo he's been born in captivation and he is desperate to see where his ancestors came from.

His best friend Alex is the much-adored king of the zoo and much prefers knowing he will be fed steak every single day than having to hunt his own food out in the wild. But when the cheeky penguins plan a break-out to return to the Antarctic, Marty and Alex, alongside their friends hippo Gloria and hypochondriac giraffe Melman, are swept up in the plan and suddenly find themselves having to survive in the wilds of Madagascar...

The stage adaptation really stays very true to the first film, and has all the memorable moments you know and love – from the James Bond-esque escapades of the penguins to the cuteness of Mort the lemur – with added songs to make this a true musical. Because yes, the stage show isn't just 'I like to move it' cheekily on repeat. Though this wouldn't necessarily have been a bad direction choice, judging by the audience's reaction when what has become the franchise's theme tune came on.

While the additional music is enjoyable enough, the songs aren't par with the story and overall that is the theme of the musical: it's doesn't quite live up to the greatness of its origins; the show is cute but a bit too 'theme park productions value'.

The mixture of puppeteers and adults in full costumes is a clever way of differentiating between the vastly different sizes of the various animals, but while the puppets look perfectly like their computer animated counterparts, the full-sized costumes are more like those you'd find in Times Square than in theatrical spectacles such as The Lion King and Cats. It's sufficient for younger audiences who don't tend to notice the differences, but it makes it look a bit too amdram for the more perceptive adult viewers.

Thought while at first glance the musical seems to have transferred straight over from the Universal Studios lot, the most excellent cast are really what makes this show stage-worthy for the right audiences. They capture the essence of the characters embodied by Stiller, Schwimmer et all, while simultaneously amping up the characteristics for the stage and making the beloved animal characters their own. Massive kudos especially to Antoine Murray-Straughan who is a perfect blend of hyper and nervous as Marty, and Jo Parsons for playing the overexcited King Julien while on his knees for the duration of the show without once breaking form and ruining the illusion.

Madagascar the Musical is a cheap and cheerful outing for children (and their parents). True to the original film and really milking the most famous tune, it's also relatively short compared to other shows (about 1.45 hours including the interval), making it a particularly suitable first theatre outing for very young kids. They might start fidgeting a little bit during the longer dialogues, but as soon as the super-sleuthing penguins and loveable lemurs come on stage, they'll be captivated by the crazy antics until the next rendition of 'I Like to Move It' comes once and they can once more dance to their heart's content.

Madagascar the Musical is touring across the UK until June 2019. For a full list of locations and booking links, visit the official website.

🎵 Listening to: Taylor Swift – Getaway Car

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