Bristol Hippodrome – until 13 October 2018
Reviewed by Lucy Hitchcock
As a longtime fan of the film, I was excited to hear that this was coming to the stage … and I was not disappointed! We follow Marty the Zebra’s attempt to break out of Central Park Zoo and into the wild. Along with his friends Alex the Lion, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo, they end up in Madagascar and join a clan of lemurs, where hilarity ensues.
Alex the Lion is usually played by Matt Terry, however we had the privilege of seeing his understudy Brandon Gale, who was fantastic. He encapsulated the very essence of Alex the Lion and showed complete continuity with the film that the children in the audience were used to, whilst also bring his brilliant voice to the performance. He looked totally comfortable in the very simple but effective costume designed and created by Robert Allsopp and Laura Rushton. The depth of feeling shown by Gale was enhanced by the stunning lyrics that George Noriega and Joel Someillan added to the story. He was able to hold the audience right in his paws and even when he turned to the dark side after attempting to eat Marty, he still showed intense vulnerability and love which highlighted the brilliance of Gale’s performance. He truly was a king on the stage!
Marty and Gloria were also fabulous played by Antoine Murray-Straughan and Timmika Ramsey. Murray-Straughan relished his role as Marty, prancing on the stage and making the audience forget that he wasn’t a real zebra! He was quick witted, funny and showed complete confidence in his character. Ramsey also relished her role, bringing Gloria to life. She showed much more to the audience than the happy-go-lucky hippo, but also how to love themselves. Gloria is a hippo so has a large stature, but is comfortable in her skin and that love for herself is important for children to hear, even if it was just a few lines here and there; they still heard the message.
Jamie Lee-Morgan as Melman was a sure stand out performance. He had arguably one of the most coupled roles in the show and combined with the long neck of a giraffe, he was superb! The neck was part of his costume and he held a stick to manoeuvre the face as well as using buttons to blink the eyes and move the mouth as he spoke. He walked with poise and grace whilst bobbing the head to give the illusion of a giraffe on the stage; it was a remarkable piece of puppetry.
Shane Mcdaid, Laura Johnson, Jessica Niles and Victoria Boden as Skipper, Kowlaski, Private and Rico added small titbits of hilarity to the show. These 4 penguins were extremely well handled and sung with soaring harmonies that added boost to the choral songs. These 4 penguins were choreographed well and used each aspect of the stage, including popping out of the wings to sing. The only problem was that they were a tiny bit too small and in some angles you couldn’t see the expressions of the penguin or the puppeteer. Matthew Pennington as Lars was also able to make the audience feel as though they were seeing real animals on stage with his brilliant puppetry.
The star of the show was definitely Jo Parsons as King Julien. He had all the sass, humour and cockiness as the King of the film. He really used the audience to his advantage and improvised and accentuated some of his lines to make the audience howl. The stand out song was also performed by Parsons, with ‘I like to move it, move it’. The children were clapping, singing and dancing along and so were the adults. As soon as he entered the stage, the audience were in fits of laughter. The wit and timing of his lines were so perfect, he was truly spectacular and by far my favourite character in the show. He was able to grasp every member of the audience and made us all completely enthused with his performance.
If you get the chance to see this show, it is not one to be missed! The entire show is spectacular and will leave you with a ‘smile and wave’