First, a confession. My expectations of “Madagascar – the Musical” at the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) were not high. To begin with I must have been one of the very few audience members who hadn’t seen the movie “Madagascar” (let alone numbers two and three!). Secondly, my children’s response when I told them that we had tickets for the show was distinctly underwhelming (“mmm….. I don’t really like the film Madagascar). And thirdly when a show is described as being suitable for those who are age three plus, I am not entirely convinced that I am their target audience, or even that my nine, eleven and thirteen year olds are.
Still, a show is a show and any show at the WMC feels like an occasion. There is something about the iconic building that makes the sense of anticipation when entering the foyer palpable. When we arrived there on Tuesday evening there were hoards of excited kids queuing up to buy the glossy programmes and merchandise and as soon as the show began the children were transfixed.
The plot of Madagascar is pretty unsubstantial. In a nutshell a group of pampered zoo animals from New York’s Central Park Zoo find themselves stranded on the island of Madagascar and must learn to adapt to the wild, testing their friendships along the way. But hey, who needs a plot when there is so much energy around and so much fun to be had?
The first half introduced the main characters – Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the hypochondriacal giraffe and Gloria the hippo, as well as a quartet of wisecracking penguins. Eleven year old Rhydian was very impressed that previous X-Factor winner, Matt Terry, was playing the role of Alex but my favourite was wise-cracking New Yorker Gloria played to perfection by Hannah Victoria. In many ways though the actors, in their rather bizarre cartoon-like costumes, played second fiddle to the brilliant puppets and their puppeteers. We left the auditorium at the end of the short (45 minutes tops) first half with the children all chatting excitedly and rating the show so far as “nine out of ten”.
So far so good. But in the second half things moved up a gear. When the animals landed in Madagascar the energy levels went through the roof, as new characters were introduced. The standout character, by a mile, was Kieran Mortell’s King Julien. His over the top performance was loved by adults and children alike even if, in his enthusiasm, it wasn’t always possible to decipher every word that he was saying! Perhaps unsurprisingly his rendition of “I like to move it” was one of the highlights of the show. By this point many of the younger audience members were permanently up on their feet, dancing and singing along and certainly my three-year-old niece who had come along with us couldn’t contain her enthusiasm or sit still. This energy and enthusiasm was maintained throughout the performance and highlights were being recalled throughout the journey home – be it the singing steaks which appeared when Alex was dreaming of his next meal or the finale when literally every audience member was up on their feet dancing. All in all this was a big, if slightly unexpected, hit for the Callaghan family!
Until August 11