Upon its release in 2005, Dreamworks Animation's Madagascar became a major hit with families across the globe. Introducing a roster of family-friendly unique characters, the movie would spawn a series of sequels and various other forms of media and merchandise, and now it's been brought to the stage for a live musical experience.
Kicking off earlier this year for the first time in the UK, Madagascar the Musical is touring around British cities and is currently set up for a string of shows at Manchester's Palace Theatre. Whether it could live up to the lofty expectations set out by the likes of classic The Lion King and more recent Shrek the Musical was up for debate, but we went into the show with an open mind.
Former X Factor winner Matt Terry makes his acting debut in the show as lead Alex the lion, and immediately gets the opportunity to showcase his impressive vocals. He is far and away the best singer the show has to offer, and with a pretty spot-on American accent, he's done a fine job of ensuring he's got a career in theatre for the foreseeable future if that's something he desires.
Timmika Ramsay also does well in each of Gloria the hippo's moments to shine. She's got brilliant comedic timing and a powerful vocal that had the audience applauding whenever she took centre-stage.
Antoine Murray-Straughan's choreography as Marty the zebra was second to none. Though it felt as if he was holding back a little vocally, and because of this his singing fell flat on a couple of occasions, his energy and chemistry with his fellow cast was unrivalled.
The use of puppetry is masterful, with Jamie Lee-Morgan proving himself to be an expert of puppetry manipulation as he tackles the role of Melman the hypochondriac giraffe. Shane McDaid was also brilliant as squad leader of the penguins, Skipper.
King Julien however, was the true show-stealer. Jo Parsons, also the resident director of the musical, echoed the brilliance of the character we all fell in love with in the original movie, blasting out I Like To Move It both in the middle of the show, and at the end as an encore. It got all of the kids in the audience dancing, and the adults laughing as they watched the actor shuffle along the stage on his knees.
Colourful throughout, the real shining stars of Madagascar the Musical are the costume and puppet designers. Every single character is brought to life with brilliance thanks to their ensemble, and that's something not celebrated enough in theatre. Props must also go to the set designers for doing a fantastic job of bringing the New York zoo and island of Madagascar to life on stage.
Whilst this is a fun family night out for many, Madagascar the Musical doesn't seem like the sort of stage show that will stand the test of time. The songs just aren't memorable enough to leave an impressionable memory, but it's certainly worth checking out at least once if you've got some little ones to entertain over the summer holidays.
Madagascar the Musical runs at the Palace Theatre Manchester until Saturday, August 18.
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