The adaptation of animated movies to the stage has had a chequered history. For every Lion King and Shrek that has conquered the world there has been a Little Mermaid and a Tarzan that have never quite taken off.
Dreamworks’ 2005 movie Madagascar has spawned multiple sequels and spin-offs including Madagascar the Musical in 2011, now receiving its UK premiere.
The relatively slight story remains pretty much intact, with Marty the Zebra encouraging his friends at the zoo to seek a life in the wild. By accident, they end up on the island in the Indian Ocean but escape before Alex the lion’s killer instinct returns.
George Noriega and Joel Someillan provide a mixed bag of songs and Kevin Del Aguila’s book includes enough of the movie’s punch lines to keep the kids interested.
Kirk Jameson directs with pantomime zeal and his relatively small cast of puppeteers and characters create a playful, comic mood. Antoine Murray-Straughan lends emotional depth to Marty’s voyage of self discovery but it’s his friendship with Matt Terry’s vaguely narcissistic lion Alex that remains the heart of the plot.
For his part Terry, who won the X Factor in 2016, seems completely at ease on stage, pitching Alex at just the right level to appeal to adults and kids alike.
Despite the weak narrative, the energy and invention spent on this production is palpable, particularly Max Humphries’ puppet designs which almost steal the show.