Playhouse Theatre Edinburgh – until 6th October.
Reviewed by James Knight
After having success with adapting Shrek for the stage, Dreamworks have looked to Madagascar for their next venture.
The plot of the show is exactly the same as the film – Marty (Antoine Murray-Straughan), a zebra in New York Central Zoo, has tired of his pampered life in the city and wishes to experience life in the wild. A breakout ensues, and his best friends, fame-absorbed Alex the Lion (Matt Terry), neurotic Melman the Giraffe (Jamie Lee-Morgan) and confidant Gloria the Hippo (Timmika Ramsay) try to rescue him. The attempt goes badly, and all four wind up on a boat and shipwrecked on the shores of Madagascar. All four find themselves having to adapt to life in the wild, ruled over by the truly bonkers and scene-stealing King Julien (Jo Parsons), and Alex and Marty’s friendship is put to the test. What can you expect when nature demands your best friend is also your main course?
The energy of the performers is superb. The costumes are incredible – but look unbearably warm – and the puppetry allows for near-perfect replicas of their film counterparts. Melman, in particular, stands out. And the humour from the films has been preserved. Skipper and his crew of penguins (Shane McDaid, Laura Johnson, Jessica Niles and Victoria Boden) are just as gloriously madcap as ever.
However, the story feels quite thin when produced on stage. Terry’s voice may be spectacular, but he’s not quite able to pull off the charm and ego of Alex. And when the script doesn’t present his and Marty’s friendship to its fullest extent in Act One, there’s nothing really to go on by the time he’s trying to eat him come Act Two (running time 40 and 50 mins respectively).
The songs as well, while catchy, won’t stick in your head afterwards – apart from We Like To Move It, naturally – and often come too quickly to make an impact. Maybe there was a problem with sound levels, as quite often I missed whole lines of lyrics. They are, however, creative. A semi-psychedelic sequence when Alex is hit by a tranquilizer and another when he starts dreaming of steak, complete with singing fillets, show that the writers were keen to embrace the stranger side of a franchise where a giraffe gets transported around in a wheelchair and a lion receives a beat down from a ninja granny.
Admittedly, this is one for the kids, and there is a joy in seeing your favourite characters onstage, and this could be many youngsters’ first introduction to theatre. As first impressions go, it’s not a bad one.
A faithful adaptation with a near boundless supply of energy from the performers, be they hippo or penguin. Two stars for the adults, and three and a half for the kids.