REVIEW: Madagascar the Musical – Lyceum Theatre – Sheffield


Madagascar The Musical, based on the beloved 2005 DreamWorks Animation film, aims to bring the animated charm to the stage, and while it hits several high notes, it doesn’t quite capture the full magic of the original. The story is well-known: Alex the lion (Joseph Hewlett) is the star attraction at a New York zoo, but his friend Marty the zebra (Francisco Gomes) dreams of the wild. On his birthday, Marty escapes, prompting a chase that leads them, along with Gloria the hippo (Jarneia Richard-Noel) and Melman the giraffe (Joshua Oakes-Rogers), to Madagascar. There, they encounter quirky locals, including the show-stealing King Julian (Karim Zeroual).

Firstly, it’s clear that the production is targeted at younger audiences, with a concise runtime of 1 hour 45 minutes including an interval. For children, the show is an absolute delight. The colourful set design by Tom Rogers and vibrant lighting by Howard Hudson create a visually engaging experience that holds their attention well. The clever use of minimal sets to depict various locations and the stunning Madagascan sunset are particular highlights.

However, for adults, especially those with fond memories of the film, the show may fall a bit short. Despite Kevin Del Aguila’s script incorporating many of the film’s classic lines, the delivery sometimes feels flat. Stepping into the comedic roles originally voiced by Ben Stiller and Chris Rock is no small feat, and unfortunately, the stage production doesn’t quite match up. The chemistry between the characters feels inconsistent, leading to interactions that occasionally seem forced.

The musical aspect, with original songs by George Noriega and Joel Someillan, gives the cast a chance to shine. Joseph Hewlett’s jazzy performance of ‘Steak’ is a standout. Yet, it’s Karim Zeroual as King Julian who truly captivates, particularly with ‘I Like to Move It,’ which had the audience on their feet and clapping along. Zeroual’s background in children’s television serves him well, as he navigates the fine line between engaging and overacting with finesse.

Puppetry, designed by Max Humphries, offers a nod to the animated origins of the characters. While the cartoon-like puppets are instantly recognizable, they lack the emotional expressiveness of their film counterparts, resulting in a slightly hollow stage presence. This may contribute to the overall feeling that the production lacks a certain charm.

Despite these shortcomings, the staging is a visual treat. The use of crates, zoo gates, and shipping containers is both clever and effective, seamlessly transitioning the audience from New York to the jungles of Madagascar. The ensemble deserves special mention for their versatility, seamlessly switching between multiple roles and handling the intricate puppetry with skill.

Act Two significantly lifts the show’s energy, with vibrant jungle scenes, adorable lemur puppets, and an infectious enthusiasm that was somewhat missing from Act One. The choreography, while simple, is executed smoothly, and the costume design by Tom Rogers successfully captures the essence of the animated characters. Joshua Oakes-Rogers’s portrayal of Melman, complete with a giant puppet head, is particularly impressive.

In summary, while Madagascar the Musical may not fully resonate with adults seeking nostalgia, it certainly provides a joyful experience for children. The visual spectacle, engaging performances, and lively music ensure that young audiences are thoroughly entertained. If the show inspires a new generation to embrace musical theatre, then it has achieved something significant. For families with young children, this production is definitely worth a visit.

Madagascar the Musical plays at the Lyceum theatre until Sunday 26th May where it will continue its UK tour.

Photography throughout from Phil Tragen.






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