REVIEW: “Madagascar” is a feel-good musical that transcends age, species, and character billing


Madagascar
L-R: Franco Ramos, Mica Fajardo, Jep Go, Nelsito Gomez, Ber Reyes; photo c/o Atlantis Theatrical and Etchos Mejares

If you think it’s just a live version of the movie, know that “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” is something else entirely. 

Based on the hit Dreamworks franchise, the musical indeed takes the audience from New York to Africa through the familiar story of an unlikely crew of zoo escapees. But its genius lies in breaking the 4th wall – and not just by addressing the audience directly, but by interacting with them too.

The show feeds off the boundless energy of kids in the audience and weaves their enthusiastic responses into the story, making the journey fun for everyone.

The (mis)adventure is kicked off by Marty the Zebra’s (Nelsito Gomez) birthday wish to go beyond their confines – a wish influenced by fellow monochromatic rebels, the penguins. His best buddy and zoo-perstar Alex the Lion (Markus Mann) tries to talk him out of it; but he, Gloria the Hippo (Sarah Facuri), and Melman the Giraffe (Altair Alonso) end up voyaging across the ocean with Marty anyway. 

Madagascar
the cast of Madagascar; photo c/o Atlantis Theatrical and Nestor Estoque

They land in the land of lemurs led by King Julien (George Schulze), who secretly makes the Central Park Zoo gang central to his plan to beat his clan’s foes, the Foosa. (Funnily enough, a group of lemurs is called a conspiracy.)

We then see Alex wrestle with his wild side, put his friendship with Marty to the test, and eventually use his showmanship skills to thwart the enemy. 

Bringing this character to life is Mann, who, while able to deliver an entirely entertaining performance, has moments when he visibly holds back. These hints of self-consciousness stand in stark contrast to the performance of Gomez, who slips into his role effortlessly and with so much charisma. He is endearing from the first time he busts a move. 

A similar contrast is seen between Facuri and Alonso, the former dropping her accent and character a couple of times; the latter delivering a precise performance – exactly what is asked of his character. Nonetheless, Facuri is the right blend of soulful and sassy; while Alonso has impeccable comedic timing and plays the loveable hypochondriac giraffe marvelously.

But folks, let’s admit it – the real star of this show is the scene-stealing Schulze, who is somehow a mix of Jack from Will & Grace and that friend we all have, who sounds drunk completely sober and is funny even when he doesn’t mean to be. Yes, 2 paragraphs of this review are being devoted to King Julien (All hail!), because he is (Kids, cover your ears!) just so f*cking funny. 

Madagascar
L-R: George Schulze; photo c/o Atlantis Theatrical and Etchos Mejares

He packs so much comedic punch into even the most mundane lines like, “You are the bane of my existence.” How that ends up putting the audience in stitches is beyond comprehension, so just see it to believe. You can’t keep your eyes off him – even when he’s just waving fake banana leaves during another character’s song number.

Props also goes to the ensemble, for embodying that saying of there really being no small roles. From puppeteering the penguins to playing hyperactive furballs (a.k.a. lemurs), a mace-wielding granny, an over-the-top news reporter, and lots more, they simply shine and are incredibly delightful to watch. 

A word to the wise: book seats in front so you get to see all their hilarious facial expressions. 

While the stage (Lawyn Cruz) starts out reminiscent of a (professionally done) school production set, it comes alive through the clever use of projected graphics (GA Fallarme), along with props, puppets (Kayla Teodoro), and costumes (Jay Lorenz Conanan) done to great detail. Makeup (Jaydee Jasa) and choreography (Cecile Martinez) complete the magic. 

On a final note, the show is incredibly friendly to kids, who are sure to love the creative way the show ends and gets its much-deserved standing ovation. 

Tickets: Php 1,500.00 - Php 2,500.00 
Show Dates: August 9 ‘19, August 16 ‘19, August 17 ‘19, August 10 ‘19, August 11 ‘19, August 17 ‘19, August 18 ‘19
Venue: Maybank Performing Arts Theater, BGC Arts Center 
Running Time: approx. 1 hour 
Credits: Kevin del Aguila (book), George Noriega and Joel Someillan (music and lyrics), Steven Conde (direction), Sarah Facuri (assistant direction), Cecile Martinez (choreography), Farley Asuncion (musical direction), Lawyn Cruz (set design), Pocholo Nario (lighiting design), Glendfford Malimban (sound design), Jay Lorenz Conanan (costumes), Jaydee Jasa (hair and makeup design), Kayla Teodoro (puppet design), Marvin Choa (puppet master), GA Fallarme (projection design), Mia Fortugalez (production management), Christian Parado (stage management)
Cast: Nelsito Gomez, Markus Mann, Sarah Facuri, Altair Alonso, George Schulze, Mica Fajardo, Jep Go, Barbara Jance, Franco Ramos, Ber Reyes
Company: Atlantis Imaginarium Young Theatre
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