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Madagascar - A Musical Adventure

Highly Recommended!


Once again, Chicago area theater patrons are getting to see a premiere (at least in the Chicago area) at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. This is for their “young audiences”, and is based on the hit film, “Madagascar”. The tile of course is “Madagascar- A Musical Adventure”, and the direction and choreography by Matt Raftery is outstanding. Raftery has been in and on the stage in this theater for years, so he is aware of every nuance that working “in-the-round” presents. Taking a large scale musical, using only 11 very talented actors, this one hour presentation based on the animated film from DreamWorks, is one that will keep the kids in heaven. Let’s face it, they know the songs, they know the characters and they get very close to the characters. In fact, there is one spot where the penguins, because they use the aisles at Marriott, stop and chat with some of the “little” theater-goers. Very cute!

Over the years, my grandkids have been with me for these shows, but as they age, and have other activities, there are times, they cannot make it. Let me give you my review first, and then I will add that of a ten-year old, the grand-daughter of one of our Jeff Award Committee members, Marissa Lieberman, a fourth-grader at Braeside School in Highland Park. Thanks Marissa.

Here is what I saw in this story about the animals in the zoo in New York, desiring to leave Central Park and head back to “the wilds”. The adventure is one filled with danger, but what it does is show them that what they had, and thought was boring, was indeed, a life that was well suited to them. They also found that true friendship between all types of animals is very effective. sort of like , people of different origins, races, religions and cultures, showing respect for each other and becoming friends without prejudice. Nice thoughts, hey?

The characters are Alex, the lion (played to perfection by Russell Mernagh), Marty, the zebra (the one and only James Earl Jones II, who truly is a man for all seasons, and does it all), Gloria, the hippo (Rashada Dawan), Mason, the monkey (adorably played by Jed Feder), King Julien, King of Madagascar (Jonathan Butler, who also plays a few other parts, will wow you when he does “Move-it, Move-It”), his court, Maurice (Samantha Pauly, who also does some other roles) and then of course the Penguins (who also take on many other roles and change costumes ,designed by the very imaginative Jesus Perez) Liam Quealy (Kowalski), Elena Romanowski (Rico), Laura Savage (Private) and Leah Morrow (Skipper). This foursome is amazing and made changes of costumes, and characters, in record-time, never missing a beat!

The music is from the movie of course, and while most of the kids were caught up with their favorite characters, it appeared that many of the parents (and grand-parents) in the audience, watching their family members, were entranced by the entire production. And yes, when Kink Julien , began the “Move-It” number, every member of the audience, young and old, wiggled their butts and clapped their hands. It is no wonder that after the curtain -calls, and before the question period, the cast erupted once more into this song. This is an amazing production with an amazing cast of players, smoothly directed and choreographed with musical direction by Ryan T Nelson).

“Madagascar” reviewed by Marissa Lieberman

“Madagascar” is a play that is located at many musical venues. I suggest the Marriott Theatre to see “Madagascar”, along with many more amazing plays. “Madagascar” is about animals that want to leave the zoo. Those animals are a Zebra, Monkey, Lion, Hippo, Giraffe and four penguins. The penguins want to go to Antarctica, and the Zebra wants to go to the Wild. The Monkey, Lion, Hippo and Giraffe follow the Zebra to bring him back home.

I think the characters have amazing voices and interaction with each other and the audience. They have great costumes to really bring out their character. To bring their character to life even more, I can tell they really take time to sit and think about their character and who they are, how to say their lines, and background story to bring their animal to life even more. I think that is very well thought out. Each person does an amazing job with their character.

Have you ever heard the song “I Like To Move It?”. They have that song in the play. It pumps up the crowd, along with their amazing dancing. I also think it is unbelievable that they learned all their blocking (what they do on stage) in three days.. That’s right, THREE DAYS!. They only got the script two weeks in advance. They seemed like they worked on the blocking for a month. It is truly that good! The script is very well thought out and those characters really put time and imagination into the play.