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REVIEW: Madagascar – A Musical Adventure at Sunderland Empire

The Kids Like To Move It, Move It

Madagascar – A Musical Adventure

Sunderland Empire 

Until Saturday 25 November 2023

Based upon the 2005 film that was full of catchy songs and memorable story, it was only going to be a matter of time before it landed on stage. Back after 5 years, the show is back in Sunderland.

"Alex the lion is the king of the urban jungle, the main attraction at New York's Central Park Zoo. He and his best friends – Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo – have spent their whole lives in blissful captivity before an admiring public and with regular meals provided for them. Not content to leave well enough alone, Marty lets his curiosity get the better of him and makes his escape – with the help of some prodigious penguins – to explore the world."

This is a tale of "be careful what you wish for" as Marty (Francisco Gomes) makes a wish on his 10th birthday... the wish to go to the wild. Alex (Joseph Hewlett), Melman (Joshua Oakes-Rodgers) and Gloria (Jarneia Richard-Noel) realise that Marty has escaped and they follow her. 

The first act covers the film up to going on the boat - and at 37 minutes, it is pretty short. They have kept close to the movie, but, one cannot help feel that they missed an opportunity to occasionally break the fourth wall a little. This story clearly appeals to the pre-teen audience judging by the opening night's crowd reaction, and they would appreciate a little bit more involvement. To prove me case a little the second act very quickly hits that live entertainment sweet spot.

Shortly after landing in Madagascar, our intrepid friends are introduced to King Julien. CBBC /Strictly star Karim Zeroual may be in his knees as the King but his eyes and facial expression are immediately engaging to the young audience and as soon as he starts to "move it, move it" the audience energy lifts. The second hour long act was much better.

This is a show that has made a conscious decision to entertain its target young audience. Unlike some productions, Madagascar sticks to its core audience rather than the adults in the room. It is very safe for the young ones.

The cast work hard: Marty dances around and the skill needed to operate the huge Melman puppet is considerable. Alex, likewise, has enough presence to help recreate the movie.

Having said that, the original movie is fairly light on exposition and this show exposes the lack of material. But the good nature of the show and the songs helps carry the entertainment for the show's young fans. The show finishes with the encouragement for the audience to get to there feet for another rendition of the popular track. 

On the web:

Instagram: @MadUKTour 
Twitter: @MadUKTour 

Review: Stephen Oliver
Photos: Mark Dawson

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