REVIEW: MADAGASCAR THE MUSICAL @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH
🎭 Madagascar The Musical
📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR
🗓 Tuesday 24th October 2023
A CRACK-A-LACKIN’ SHOW FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
Last night I returned to Theatre Royal Plymouth for the opening night of their brand new co-production Madagascar The Musical, which is playing Plymouth before heading out on a nationwide tour.
The show follows the same basic story as the 2005 Dreamworks animated movie on which it is based, and all your favourite characters make an appearance including King Julien, Alex the Lion and the notorious Madagascar Penguins! The show is very much aimed at a family audience, especially younger children so my review is based on what the production is trying to achieve as I think this is the fairest way to evaluate the show. It’s never going to compete as a big musical with a West End residency, but that’s okay. What this show does bring is family fun and a great experience.
The first character we meet is Mason the chimpanzee who gives a pre-show announcement and asks the audience not to behave like animals or he will fling his poo at you!
The use of puppetry in this production is exquisite and the ensemble do a fantastic job as various characters throughout. They never tried to hide behind the puppets, but I always found myself watching the puppets rather than the actors which is a testament to how good they were. I particularly enjoyed Connor Keetley as Skipper and James Hilton-Foster as Mason, but the entire ensemble were a triumph.
The central partnership of Joseph Hewlett as Alex and Francisco Gomes as Marty was sensational, and their buddy song was endearing and shared a strong message about friendship. They both had good voices and I especially liked the tone of Hewlett’s voice.
Completing the friendship foursome was Jarnéia Richard-Noel as Gloria and Joshus Oakes-Rogers as Melman! Richard-Noel had a glorious sassy attitude and a sensational singing voice, which was arguably underused here. Oakes-Rogers was wonderfully hilarious as the hypochon-giraffe.
The first act felt slightly flat to me but there were enjoyable moments such as the old lady on the subway calling Alex a “bad kitty” and Laura Marie Benson as news reporter Candy. I liked the staging around the animals being transported in shipping crates which I think worked well.
Act 2 was when the action moved to Madagascar itself and this was where the energy and fun really kicked. Karim Zeroual was fantastically eccentric as King Julien and stole the show for me. He had arguably the best lines in the show and was everything I wanted from the character and more. He also had a great signing voice and led the company in a show-stopping performance of I Like To Move It, which was the highlight of the show.
The Madagascar Penguins portrayed by Ella Howlett, Brogan McFarlane, Connor Keetley and Laura Marie Benson made various appearances throughout, including an on-board mutiny, and they had great comic timing and were joyous to watch.
If I was to compare this show to big musicals currently touring the UK then this production overall doesn’t measure up, but as a family night out it is full of fun and energy and you are guaranteed to leave in high spirits. This feels like the aim of this production and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and it 100% delivers on this.
I would have liked the silliness and energy of act 2 to be more prominent in act 1, and I think that because of the age of the audience that the show attracts a bit of audience interaction would have worked well here. The set design was great, although it did shrink the space for the actors which seemed a bit restrictive at times. Some of the songs were a bit forgettable and I always dislike the use of recorded music rather than using a live orchestra as it never sounds right and leaves a big hole in the experience for me personally.
The lighting design feels a bit lazy at times but the costuming is fantastic and it was lovely to see the wonder on the children’s faces as they saw these legendary characters brought to life on the stage.
Overall I feel that Madagascar The Musical is a triumph in that it delivers on its aim and is an enjoyable night at the theatre. I would definitely watch it again, even though I had reservations about some aspects. Maybe this is just me being picky as ultimately they didn’t stop my enjoyment off the show.
Madagascar The Musical continues performances at Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 28th October with a relaxed performance on Thursday 26th October at 1:00pm. All tickets for this specially adapted performance are just £15 each so move it, move it to www.theatreroyal.com where you can also check availability and book tickets for all other performances.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.
My ticket for this performance of Madagascar The Musical was gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.
Joseph Hewlett as Alex; Francisco Gomes as Marty; Jarnéia Richard-Noel as Gloria; Joshua Oakes-Rogers as Melman; Karim Zeroual as King Julien; Laura Marie Benson as Kowalski / Candy; Ella Howlett as Rico / Lynn; Brogan McFarlane as Private / Mort; Connor Keetley as Skipper / Maurice; James Hilton-Foster as Mason / Lars / Ship’s Captain
RUNNING TIME (approx):
1 hours 45 minutes, including interval
Suitable for all ages
The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country. Their mission is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue offers three performance spaces of various sizes, the largest being The Lyric which accommodates the big touring productions. The Drum and The Lab are smaller, intimate spaces and often offer pioneering productions and I have personally seen some excellent productions in these spaces.