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Based on Dreamworks’ hugely popular 2005 animated movie, Madagascar The Musical tells a good old-fashioned tale of friendship and adventure, brought to life on stage with colourful and imaginative sets, clever costumes, fantastic use of puppets and a soundtrack of upbeat tunes.

Definitely aimed at a younger audience, the show follows four of New York Central Park’s most popular zoo animals. Marty, the sassy zebra, born in captivity, dreams of freedom outside the walls of the zoo. His friends - arrogant but lovable lion Alex, loud & proud hippo Gloria, and hypochondriac giraffe Melman - unwittingly accompany him on the adventure of their lives.

The foursome initially find themselves being shipped off to a wildlife reserve. But their fellow penguin passengers, who create chaos in the cutest and funniest ways possible, want to go to Antarctica. This results in the ship being hijacked and the four friends finding themselves shipwrecked on the tiny African island of Madagascar. Here, they encounter proper wild animals, including King Julien, leader of the lemurs...

Julien was played last night by Connor Keetley. Understudying Karim Zeroual (CBBC presenter and Strictly Come Dancing finalist 2019) and bringing a real charisma to the role, he commanded the stage and demonstrated remarkable skill and agility dancing on his knees! His performance was full of fun and mischief, and he absolutely raised the roof with his rendition of I Like To Move It.

Relative newcomer Joseph Hewlett, playing Alex the lion, had good stage presence and impressive vocals. I enjoyed his rendition of Steak, which had a catchy jazz-style tune and is all about his favourite food. Definitely easy to relate to if you happen to be a hungry carnivore!

Gloria the hippo (Jarneia Richard-Noel) also had a great singing voice, which enhanced many of the musical numbers. Marty the zebra (Francisco Gomes) was full of energy, bounding around the stage and bringing rapping into the musical mix. My favourite character, however, was Melman the giraffe. His costume involved a large puppet-giraffe head and neck, which puppeteer Joshua Oakes-Rogers used to excellent effect to bring the character to life. This included a funny but sympathetic presentation of his hypochondriacal tendency.

The relatively small cast did an exceptional job of generating a playful and humorous mood. Catchy songs, funny jokes and lots of energy make this is an ideal show for any child who’s new to the joys of theatre. Certainly the youngsters who attended last night’s performance seemed delighted by the experience - especially the second act, which is when the production really comes into its own. At times I was distracted from what was happening on stage by the reactions of the children in the audience around me - they had no inhibitions whatsoever when it came to displaying their appreciation of the show, excitedly dancing, cheering, clapping and singing along with the actors on stage. The bright costumes and puppet animals kept the kids splendidly entertained, whilst the witty script and cheeky innuendos gave the adults plenty to laugh about!

Madagascar The Musical is a fun-filled and feelgood family experience, offering great entertainment for children and adults alike. The reprise of I Like To Move It at the end of the show had everyone both young and old up on their feet, ensuring that last night’s performance was brought to a close on a real high.

4 Stars

Madagascar The Musical was reviewed by Sue Hull on Thursday 14 March at Birmingham's The Alexandra, where it shows until this Sunday 17 March. Also stopping at Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent from Thursday 16 - Sunday 19 May and Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Thursday 30 May - Sunday 2 June