Madagascar first came onto the scene via its initial animated film in 2005. There was a lot to love about a bunch of zoo animals wanting to escape into the wild. Cut to 2023 and Madagascar is now a thriving franchise filled with multiple sequels, spin-offs, short films, a TV series, several spin-off TV shows, live shows, and now a musical!
Madagascar: The Musical made its world debut in 2018 in the UK and it’s finally here in Australia! Recently wrapping up its Sydney season, the musical production has just opened at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre and will be here for two weeks before zipping off to Perth.
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen the sequels or various spin-offs of Madagascar, you’ll still be able to easily follow the show as it covers the story from the original movie, and provided you’ve seen the original film at some point, this stage production is a blast. Admittedly, I was a little concerned I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the performance as much because it’s been a while since I have watched the original film myself, but I still had a great time at Madagascar: The Musical.
Exactly like the original film, the musical follows Alex the Lion (Andrew Papas), Marty the Zebra (Joe Kalou), Gloria the Hippopotamus (Moniquewa Williams), and Melman the Giraffe (Bryn Monk) on their accidental adventure. The foursome, after their escape from Central Park Zoo, are initially shipped off to a wildlife reserve. But because of the antics of The Penguins wanting to go to Antarctica, the ship is hijacked, and our four friends end up shipwrecked on Madagascar.
This delightful stage production is filled with colourful and imaginative sets, clever costuming, impressive puppets, and original songs. What I love about Madagascar: The Musical is unlike many other shows that try to ‘dumb things down’ for kids, this show does not. There is enough smart humour in the production to cater to both children and adults so that it’s enjoyable for the whole family, as it actually respects its audience’s intelligence.
For those that love the 2005 movie, yes, the anthem ‘I Like To Move It’ is thankfully part of the show, but the rest of the original songs in the musical are just as great. Notable original songs include ‘Central Park (Raspberry Clouds)’ which is a cheeky nod to The Beatles’ ‘Strawberry Fields’ and plays into the context of the story marvellously, and Alex the Lion’s solo ‘Steak’, a fantastically catchy jazz-styled tune about his love for the food that everyone can relate to when they’re hungry and have a craving. Andrew Papas shined when performing this solo number with his excellent stage presence and vocals. King Julien (Jonathan Martin) was also a crowd favourite during ‘I Like To Move It’ that got the whole crowd clapping along to the beat with glee.
The real stars of the show though, for me, were The Penguins. The cast make puppetry look easy, effortlessly showcasing The Penguins and their resourceful curious nature while these cute little ‘formal-dressed fowls’ caused chaos in the cutest and funniest way possible. Skippper, Rico, Private, and Kowalski played by Cole Johnston, Lucy Sutcliffe, Geena Hutton, and Ezra Williams respectively did an incredible job throughout the show manning various puppets, but specifically with The Penguins, the voice acting was so convincing, I never thought the actors any different than those from the original film. They were perfect and I couldn’t help but smile whenever they took to the stage with these characters.
My only criticism is that merchandise wise, it is a missed opportunity to not sell plushies of the characters. While there is a decent amount of merchandise available from animal themed headbands and tails, a hat, the theatre staple program book, and a light stick, plushies would have been beneficial to the production. I also found many smaller audience members seated around me asking for the same. I desperately wanted to happily leave the show with a penguin plushie which wasn’t available. Other than that, the experience was great.
The 2005 Madagascar film has been respectfully adapted to the stage brilliantly and Madagascar: The Musical is pure fun for the whole family, the little ones, and even the big kids that grew up loving the original movie. This show is a fun day out for everyone and if you are remotely curious, I highly recommend snapping up tickets fast since its limited season at the Comedy Theatre ends in Melbourne on January 15th, with its Perth season beginning January 19th. It’s in town for two-weeks only, so act fast before these hilarious runaways disappear forever.
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Photography by David Hooley.