Review: Madagascar Live (Broadway Across America)

Last Saturday my husband and I were able to bring two friends and their 2yo daughter to see Madagascar Live at Houston’s Hobby Center.  We love the Hobby Center and were excited to see a production from the 2010-2011 Broadway Across America season.  We also expected that much of the fun and whimsy of the animated film Madagascar would translate to the stage.

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Well…it did, and didn’t.

I’ll start with what worked.

For children familiar with the movie, all the major characters were present – Marty, Alex, Melman, and Gloria.  Even the conniving penguins and the British, book-reading monkey were there.

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It seemed the cast tried hard to impersonate the voices of the original actors from Madagascar, and I was particularly impressed with how Madagascar Live’s King Julien and his right-hand lemur, Maurice, did in this respect.  For kids hoping to see and hear what they loved so much from the movie, this was probably a good thing.

The prominence of the song “Move It, Move It” was also a huge hit for the kids in the audience.  Many kids (and parents!) got up and danced about, and you could just see their delight.  The 2yo girl we were with seemed entranced with the bright colors, catchy songs, and activity on the stage.  It’s definitely a show for kids, and it was nice to see them being able to just be kids – no shushing required.

But…yes, I’m sorry, there is a but…from a production standpoint, I felt it was very weak.

The set looked inexpensive, and many of the scene transitions were choppy.  Some of the choices seemed odd or out of place, like bringing in the British, book-reading monkey, but making him a puppet that you could clearly see being manipulated from side-stage.  Or trying to beef up the population of lemurs by having clunky, robotic (a la The Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland) lemurs bopping around in the background.  There were a few times a curtain was raised too high and had to be adjusted, or you could tell when people were moving behind and pushing against the painted screens that served as the backdrop.  It was just all very distracting.  As were the human characters in the show with their outrageous wigs that featured exaggerated foreheads (what WAS that??).

And even though the show was LOUD (we were in the fourth row from the front…be mindful of that when you buy your tickets – you do no want to be in the front!), the energy still felt very “off.”  The dance moves in particular were half-hearted, and it seemed like the actors were tiring.  I can only imagine that might have been because it was the second show of the day.

All in all, the production seemed very unpolished, which makes sense now that I know it’s only been in rehearsals since early January, and our February 12 show was only the fourth stop on the tour.  Perhaps things will tighten up as the cast and crew have more time together.

It may seem petty to look at production elements of a children’s show, but with ticket prices at our venue starting at $25/ea, I think it’s important that people know what they’re getting in every aspect.  I also feel strongly that a production shouldn’t compromise quality simply because they’re trying to cater to a less sophisticated set of theater goers (the kids, I mean).

Bottom line:  YES, kids will enjoy this show.  But in terms of value, I think your money is best spent if you can find a way to win tickets to the show or get a discounted price.

Blogs and websites currently running ticket giveaways for upcoming Madagascar Live shows (blog name, tour stop, show date):

Here is the entire tour schedule/map – if your city is later than mid-March, I suggest you begin an internet search for ticket giveaways as it gets closer to the show date (chances are, you’ll find a contest).  I also suggest you search for discounted ticket codes, as I have seen a few of those pop up when it gets much closer to a particular stop’s show date.

Finally, Dreamworks Theatricals is running a Live the Dream Fly Away Sweepstakes, in which you could win a trip for four to New York City, the chance to see Madagascar Live at Radio City Music Hall, and more.

*Disclosure: we were provided tickets to Madagascar Live in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are honest and my own.

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  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this honest review, Stacey! As a theater person myself, I always get distracted by sloppy production. Hopefully, they’ll take this review and realize that people do notice these things. Even if the kids still love it as much, it’s important to have a valuable experience for the adults too. I’d love to see a picture of the foreheads. That sounds weird.

  • Vera @ Lady and the Blog

    Thanks for the honesty! It’s a rarity.

  • I’ve been to shows both good and bad, and it really is a shame when a production just doesn’t work. Even shows that are geared toward kids need to have some appeal for the parents. They’re the ones forking out the money, after all!

  • Simi_20

    Thankyou for this. I was looking for a review before buying tickets and this really helped.

  • Parent

    Wholeheartedly agree. My six year old enjoyed it but for the parents, it was truly awful. In contrast to Dora Live 2 years ago which was truly a great experience for all, exciting and touching. Do not overspend on tickets for this!

  • Ngiovanni2000

    By far this was the worst performance I’ve been to. We went to the show yesterday Frei 4/22/11. My 4 year old son kept asking to go outside to take pictures with Buzz lighter. (seems taking pictures is more exciting than watching the show).. The show was not exciting what so ever. We didn’t know when the break was or when it was over. Majority of the parents were sleeping or dozing off. I’m sooo glad we didnot pay full price for these tickets.