Friday 27 July 2018

Madagascar The Musical @ New Wimbledon Theatre

Madagascar The Musical @ New Wimbledon Theatre

We're already in the jungle. The heat is oppressive. Sweat dribbles in rivulets down our faces and backs, pooling in our seats. There are screeches and rustling all around us from tiny critters in the darkness. Apparently there's a show onstage. But right now this is survival of the fittest.

Yet if we're sweaty, then take a moment for the poor cast in full animal costumes. That's where the real jungle is, the jungle of Madagascar full of all-singing all-dancing creatures.

It starts, though, in New York City. Following the same story as the Dreamworks film on which it's based, this musical sees a lion, a zebra, a giraffe and a hippo escaping from a city zoo and, aided by some pesky penguins, end up on the island of Madagascar. But is freedom all it's cracked up to be?

At well under 90 minutes long, the show is too short to really find out. But then, when the three Madagascar films have collectively made around £2 billion for Dreamworks Animation to become one of the most successful film franchises ever, it's a fair bet that most of the audience are familiar with the story already.

It's up to this musical adaptation to bring the story alive through the magic of theatre. Being a musical, there are now songs to break up the minimal plot. They're mostly forgettable pop songs to flesh out the rather dated characters, but the cast perform them admirably. X Factor winner Matt Terry plays Alex the lion and sings in an agile tenor even if he lacks star quality, while Antoine Murray-Straughan and Timmika Ramsay bring plenty of energy as Marty the zebra and Gloria the hippo with some buoyant choreography from Fabian Aloise. Jamie Lee-Morgan's giraffe Melman throws in some token jokes to keep the adults entertained.

For a touring production, the set and lighting from designers Tom Rogers and Howard Hudson respectively are impressive, while Robert Allsopp's creature costumes mirror the same personality as the film.

Of course there are key elements of the film that the audience are looking out for. The penguins sideplot, played by members of the ensemble, is a little underplayed, though the puppeteering is amusingly expressive. But it's the rousing rendition of 'I Like To Move It' (arguably now better known for its appearance in Madagascar than for the Reel 2 Real original), as performed by Jo Parsons as King Julien the lemur, that truly has the audience going wild.

It may not try and deliver too much of a message and it doesn't live up to the Disney charm of The Lion King which it apes in its design. But Madagascar The Musical is delightfully entertaining nonetheless. Most importantly, those little monsters of the jungle thoroughly enjoyed themselves.


Watch: Madagascar The Musical is currently touring the UK.

Madagascar The Musical @ New Wimbledon Theatre

Madagascar The Musical @ New Wimbledon Theatre
Photos: Scott Ryland