Grow Liked To Move It Move It At Madagascar The Musical!
Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson
Photos by Scott Rylander
Grow had the pleasure of a night at the theatre on Thursday. So what did four adult professionals choose to go and see? Madagascar The Musical of course.
The stage of the Northcott had been transformed since my last visit to see Don Carlos. The wings were made up of prop packing crates and the floor too had been made to look like the wooden boards of the crates.
It was difficult to spot an empty seat in the theatre, an exceedingly good sign, and the remaining nights at the Northcott have been sold out. I settled into my seat with a tingling of anticipation, surrounded by excited children and their equally excited-looking parents.
The show began in true Madagascar style with a monkey puppet popping out of a packing crate, warning the audience to turn off mobile phones otherwise he would “fling poo” at them. This set the tone for the performance to come; quirky, full of toilet humour and entirely true to the magic of the Dreamworks original.
As Marty the zebra took to the stage, shortly followed by Gloria the hippo, Melman the hypochon-giraffe and of course, Alex the lion, a feeling of contagious happiness and energy descended upon the audience.
I was a little dubious to see X Factor winner Matt Terry in a musical production of this calibre, but I was pleasantly surprised. His singing voice was as strong as his fellow animal cast and he affected some great character nuances that kept true to Ben Stiller’s Alex, whilst introducing a little spin of his own.
Marty, played by Antoine Murray-Straughan, blew me away with his Chris Rock voice affectations. At the beginning of the show, I honestly thought they were playing audio from the film. A clear credit to the cast with his dance background, Antoine secured the balance of Marty’s annoying enthusiasm and jubilant naivety perfectly.
Timmika Ramsay embodied Gloria in a hilarious hippo costume, designed by Robert Allsop to accentuate the derrière. With a beautifully powerful singing voice, my one criticism is that Timmika didn’t get a number to herself to truly shine.
The much-loved, always ailing Melman was played by Jamie Lee-Morgan whose experience in puppeteering from War Horse clearly came in handy when controlling Melman’s long neck and head. Robert Allsop again needs crediting here for the innovative design of the puppet, allowing Melman to come to life while keeping Jamie visible and a part of the puppet.
Many of the remaining characters; the penguins, monkey, lemurs and singing steaks (yes, you read that right) were brought to life through Max Humphries puppets, allowing a fantastic compromise of the actor’s talents and the show’s original iconic characters like Mort.
Highlights of the original film were kept; the band of secret-agent style penguins in puppet form, controlled and acted brilliantly by Shane McDaid, Laura Johnson, Jessica Niles and Victoria Boden. The infamous old lady with her deadly handbag also made her appearance and the scene where Alex is shot with a tranquiliser dart was fantastically translated to the live stage with a singing and dance ensemble reminiscent of the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields.
I thought the laughs were plentiful in the first half, but I had another thing coming after the interval. I deeply regretted not going for a wee, and would highly recommend a bathroom break to anyone going to see the show. I came far too close to wetting myself as King Julien made his epic entrance and arguably stole the show.
Undoubtedly one of the favourite characters from the original film due largely to Sacha Baren Cohen’s excellent voice talent, the second half brought high anticipation of the lemurs’ entrance. Would ‘I like to move it move it’ feature?
I am ecstatic to report that it did, and more than that, it had the audience singing and clapping along. All of the lemurs, except King Julian were puppets, controlled by the cast. The director, however, had made the excellent choice to put actor Jo Parsons in a lemur costume and act the character on his knees, to give the lemur convincing height. Absolutely nailing the Cohen-esque voice and mannerisms of King Julien, the second half did not suffer the lull that some theatre productions have. A fantastically extended fart gag had the young and old roaring with laughter. Toilet humour, it seems, crosses all age boundaries.
These actors had giant shoes to fill due to the fantastic voice talents involved in the original film. I enjoyed the likenesses they were able to bring, paying tribute to the original voice talents and animated characters, whilst also adding their own nuances to make the characters theirs. Notable moments include King Julien’s dab and, of course, the lemur taking on the floss. Both of these, of course, went down fantastically with the kids, many imitating the dab straight away in their seats.
I know that I had a fantastic time at the theatre, as did my colleagues, especially Drew Mason, Grow’s very own Business Development Consultant, who is no stranger to the stage. Having trained with Jo Parsons at Guildford School of Acting and only very recently left the biz to join Grow’s ranks, Drew’s laughter was audible from the stage itself, as Jo told us after the performance. Speaking after the show, Drew said:
“It was fabulous seeing the characters come to life on stage. The actors did a great job of bringing to life the characters we have all come to know and love from the big screen.”
He had high praise for his former drama school classmate, saying:
“King Julien was larger than life. I belly laughed for a good ten minutes.”
Madagascar The Musical has managed to offer a shorter, therefore more bed-time friendly, offering of the original whilst keeping the film’s most loved elements, as well as adding a few of its own. Not to mention the fact that it’s a musical, and a damn catchy one at that.
We had a thoroughly good time watching as adults and from the reactions of the children around us, many of whom took to imitating King Julien’s fake gagging as the theatre emptied, this show has been an unbridled success.
Madagascar the Musical continues its UK tour in January, beginning the new year in Grimsby Auditorium. For full details of the tour and to book tickets, visit the website.
Grow interviewed the Resident Director, and of course the stage actor who brought King Julien to life, Jo Parsons. Read about what it feels like to be the King of the Lemurs here.