REVIEW: Madagascar – A Musical Adventure

I’m still humming “I want to move it, move it” a day after.  And I’m still smiling.

Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati is currently presenting MADAGASCAR: A Musical Adventure at the Taft Theatre as part of their MainStage season. (Up next is Mary Poppins, Jr.). This 110-minute musical version of the animated hit is full of well-developed characters, lovely songs, and great costumes.  The children seated near me were mesmerized by the action on stage; I was pretty drawn in, too.

Credit goes first to director Aubrey Berg, who’s tight, well-paced productions are the norm.  Usually he directs at CCM, where’s the chair of the musical theatre department – but this show demonstrates that his skill as a director is not limited to only those he has also groomed from their freshman year of college.  This production is razor-sharp and thematically focused.

Kelcey Steele bounds onto the stage as “Marty,” a zoo-based zebra whose birthday wish is to go to the wild.  His best friend, “Alex,” (a charismatic A. James Jones) is a lion, who likes his status as “King of the Central Park Zoo.”  There’s Spenser Smith as a hypochondriac giraffe named “Melman” and Joy Rolland-Oba as “Gloria,” a vivacious hippo.  Along the journey we meet mischievous penguins, a ton of African lemurs, and one very harried news reporter (the always hilarious Lisa Marie DeRoberts.)

Chris Logan Carter’s (“King Julien”) rollicking performance of “Move It,” is one of the highlights of the production.  Also memorable is Kyle Taylor in multiple roles and I always enjoy seeing Eileen Earnest on stage (even when she’s underutilized).  The entire ensemble shines throughout, with their movement, vocals, and professional presentation.  The choreography by Eric Byrd is fun and upbeat, and the costumes (not credited) are delightful.  Lighting (Benjamin Gantose), sound, and scenic design (Mark Halpin) all work together to bring this production alive.

MADAGASCAR is a good time for the whole family; I highly recommend it.

MADAGASCAR plays through February 19th at the Taft Theatre in downtown Cincinnati. Click here for more information and for tickets. Photo credit: Mikki Schaffner.