By Heidi Sutton
With much pomp and circumstance, the John W. Engeman Theater closes out its 2016-2017 Children’s Theater season with “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure.”
Excitement filled the theater air on opening day last weekend as the children waited anxiously to catch a glimpse of their favorite animal characters and to enjoy a live retelling of the animated classic. And let me assure you, they were not disappointed.
From the opening number, “It’s Showtime,” to the finale, an audience participation party version of “I Like to Move It,” the entire performance is a wild and wacky and wonderful musical celebration of friendship. The nine-member adult cast, skillfully directed by Jennifer Collester Tully, with several playing multiple roles, capture each original film character’s personality perfectly, especially the hypochondriac giraffe. Aside from performing on stage, the cast often wanders through the audience, keeping the young theatergoers at the edge of their seats with big smiles.
The show’s script follows the original movie closely, making it easy to follow. In the first of two acts we are introduced to best friends Alex the Lion (Andrew McCluskey) Marty the Zebra (Marquez Stewart), Gloria the Hippo (Rita Sarli) and Melman the Giraffe (Suzanne Mason) who are residents of New York’s Central Park Zoo.
It’s Marty’s birthday and he makes a wish that he could go back to the wild (which he thinks is Connecticut). Moments later he escapes with “cute and cuddly” penguins, Rico (Alyson Leonard), Kowalski (TracyLynn Connor), Private (Samantha Masone) and Skipper (Danny Meglio) who want to go back to Antarctica.
When Marty’s friends go looking for him, the entire group gets caught in the halls of Grand Central Station by the zookeepers and are tranquilized. When they wake up, the zoo animals are in crates on a ship headed to Africa. Caught in rough seas, the crates fall overboard and the four friends wash up on the shores of Madagascar. There they are promptly welcomed by King Julien (played to perfection by the incomparable Jacqueline Hughes), sidekick Maurice (Connor) and his tribe of ring-tailed lemurs who hope that Alex can protect them from the terrible foosa. Things only get wilder in the second act, but you’ll have to go see it to find out.
The wonderful songs, the adorable costumes by Jess Costagliola and the terrific choreography by Marquez Stewart are simply the icing on the cake. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs.
The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” through April 30. After a short break, the 2017-2018 season will begin with “Pinkalicious The Musical” from July 22 to Aug. 27, “Cinderella” from Sept. 23 to Oct. 29 and “Frosty” from Nov. 18 to Dec. 31. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.