Dreamworks' Madagascar film reborn as kid-friendly stage show

Dreamworks' Madagascar film reborn as kid-friendly stage show

A musical version, Madagascar Live!, is coming to the SECC in March

A dancing lion, scheming penguins, a love-struck giraffe and a maniacal king lemur – there’s a lot going on in DreamWorks’ 2005 film, Madagascar. What you won’t find much of, however, is songs.

But when a new stage version was being devised, a decision was made early on to transform the film into a full-on piece of musical theatre. ‘We had to find the right places for the songs, so that they made sense dramatically,’ explains the show’s choreographer, Jenn Rapp. ‘And work out how we could take a small moment and elaborate it into a big number. That was the biggest challenge, finding out how to make a non-musical into a musical.’

The result is a lively mix of comedy, poignancy and some great show tunes. In particular a number with dancing steaks (when Alex the Lion’s empty stomach leads to meaty hallucinations), and a Motown-inspired song about the food chain.

Finding a way to portray animals on stage, especially ones with very human attributes, was another hurdle to overcome. ‘The animals are almost the most human-like characters in it,’ says Rapp. ‘So the humans who come to watch the animals at the zoo are intentionally distorted, they have huge foreheads, wigs, big shoes – it’s the world from an animal’s viewpoint.’

To choreograph the infamous ‘I Like to Move it’ scene with King Julien, Rapp researched traditional African dances, then blended it with some 80s pop moves. Great fun to watch, but tiring for the dancers. ‘It’s very, very aerobic,’ she says. ‘So it was challenging for them to get used to dancing all the kicks and jumps with the big feet they all wear. They really needed to build up their stamina.’

SECC, Glasgow, Fri 8–Sun 10 Mar.

Madagascar Live

Madagascar the Musical

A musical adaptation of DreamWorks' hit animated film Madagascar, featuring Alex the Lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo.