THE Screen to Stage Show is increasingly an integral performer in commercial theatre, for audiences of all ages, but for the young, or young at heart, it has been dominated and undeniably led by Disney Theatrical Productions. 

It’s great to see Dreamworks striving for a piece of the limelight. 

Shrek is their biggest star in this category, but Madagascar The Musical, having enjoyed significant success with a UK tour in 2018-19 is hungry for more and is back with a big UK tour for 2023-24.

The story for the uninitiated:  A quartet of bestial buddies combat the ennui of their existence in Central Park Zoo by breaking out onto the streets on New York. 

The penguins have had a similar idea, yearning for the ice of Antarctica.  Several stun-guns and a ship journey later, our friends have landed in…well, the clue’s in the title really and are met with a mixture of emotions from the residents, led by King Julien a ring-tailed lemur. 

Dreamworks stories are clever, complex and comic and Madagascar is no exception – although distilling that mixture down and adding songs means that the pace of delivery is breakneck at times and some of that wonderful humour gets lost in translation from screen to stage.

Puppetry is hugely important, since there are barely any human characters at all.  In the central four, we have a lion (love that coiffed mane), a hippo, a zebra and a giraffe, all played by humans wearing the costume. 

Of these my pet favourite was Joshua Oakes-Rogers’ Melman the giraffe, for bringing that extra depth (or should that be height?) of character to his role, particularly vocally. 

The diminutive penguins are puppets manipulated by actors.  But once we get to Madagascar, any idea of scale goes south with the lemurs, who are all sorts of sizes, mainly much bigger than the penguins. 

Everyone’s absolute favourite puppet is King Julien, despite his proud admission to ‘not wiping’. 

Karim Zeroual is fab in this physically challenging role, some of the best on-knee acting I have seen.  

Never before have a pair of little legs (King Julien’s!) evoked so much comedy and the audience all adored him.

The set has some clever features – the crates which open out to ‘become’ the exotic new island are a great touch and as the story develops, we see more touches of the magic which is so integral to hooking young audiences in to theatre. 

The New York Skyline and the Zoo itself were a little dull and I generally wanted bigger and more bonkers from the first half. 

The humour, really gets going after the interval and while the young audience were engaged from the off, I’d have liked to see them amazed from the get-go.

It was great to see a slightly different younger audience in the theatre, with boys represented as equally as girls. 

The visual humour works best in a show like this, since those sophisticated comic lines can get a bit lost. 

The singing steaks, the plotting penguins, the lion fighting the urge to take a chomp out of his best buddy’s butt – all of that and more, please. 

As for the iconic ‘I Like to Move It Move It’ – the kids went wild for it. 

I myself was at quite serious risk of concussion due to some adult aerobics from my seat-neighbour during the curtain call.

The energy of the company, their belief and their drive to deliver, is admirable and this production is well on its way to being a total crack-a-lacker!  

Sarah Scott

Madagascar The Musical is on at Sunderland Empire until Saturday, November 25.  For information and to book tickets go to