By Philip Pearce
DISNEY’S MADAGASCAR has had a checkered official history. When the movie opened in 2005 critical response was mixed. But what do critics know? They’re hardly the middle school target audience which turned this bumptious Pixar animated feature into a box office winner.
Eleven years later, tiny fans scorned the Super Bowl to crowd last Sunday’s matinee performance of the live on-stage musical version that’s just opened at PacRep. The Golden Bough lobby show was nearly as lively as the one on stage. Parents practiced crowd control, straightened princess crowns and flashed smart phone group photos. (“Turn around, Derek. Now everybody smile.”)
Once the scripted show began, appropriately enough with a spirited number called “It’s Showtime,” the fans cheered, laughed and clapped approval of an engaging streamlined take on a now traditional tale of four endearing Central Park Zoo animals who, in a series of comic disasters, find themselves marooned on the East African island of Madagascar.
Director Stephen Moorer keeps the action funny and fast enough to have you heading home in well under two hours. Patrick McEvoy’s settings and Ziona Goren’s costumes are terrific, especially the multi-layered outfit of a hypochondriac giraffe named Melman, sung and danced on stilts with faultless athletic skill by Monterey High senior Cameron Leavitt. The multi-talented Gracie Balistreri is a wonderful strutting group leader in the person of Alex the Lion. Christiana Meeks is all plump maternal charm as a Hippo named Gloria. And Michael Blackburn is perfectly cast as the warm-hearted, reflective Zebra Marty, who launches the story with a wistful birthday wish (“Wild and Free”) that he might return to his African roots.
Big cast, well-drilled in voice by Don Dally and footwork by Devin Adler. Especially delightful are a trio of slightly sinister dancing penguins, played with a lot of roly-poly zip by Stephen Poletti, Maddie Mizgorski and Audre Swanston.
Madagascar, A Musical Adventure continues at the Golden Bough Theatre through February 26.
It’s a product of Pac Rep’s impressive SoDA (School of Dramatic Arts) program which trains aspiring child actors in stage technique and discipline. A SoDA cast takes the Golden Bough stage again March 17 through April 9 in Disney’s The Jungle Book Kids.