You’re a lion and you think you’re the king of the jungle. Problem is you’ve spent your life in a zoo, so you wouldn’t know a jungle if you landed in one. Which is exactly what happens to Alex the lion, along with his friends Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, and Gloria the hippo. They are the proverbial fish out of water as they, in an attempt to escape their captivity, end up accidentally being shipped to far-flung Madagascar, thanks to some rather ambitious, if less than competent, penguins. Fans of the Dreamworks animated hit will recognize the plotline. What is likely new to them, however, are the wonderfully fun musical numbers, especially “Wild and Free”, “Welcome to Me”, and “Steak.”
The four main characters are just terrific. Lauren Young as Alex brings the appropriate amount of angst to the role while maintaining the light feeling that fits the show. Alex seems genuinely torn when he realizes he’s not like his friends, all herbivores. He doesn’t want to eat his friends, but when his leonine hunger kicks in, he almost can’t help himself. Alex’s best friend, Marty the zebra, is portrayed quite energetically by Braden Deguzman. It is his desire to be wild and free that ends up getting the quartet in trouble, but it’s obvious there’s no ill intent on his part. In fact, he thinks he’s just taking a train ride to Connecticut for the night. The irony of a lion and zebra being best friends comes to light as Alex nearly takes a chunk out of Marty before he comes to his senses. But even after this, Marty won’t give up on his friend.
Equally impressive are Katie Riggs as Gloria the glamourous hippo and Aidan Klingler as Melman the hypochondriacal giraffe. Gloria could easily come off as snobbish and snooty, but Ms. Riggs doesn’t let that happen. She’s pretty and she knows it, but her heart is much bigger than her ego. She does a more than admirable job. Mr. Klingler’s portrayal of the giraffe who seems to always enjoy poor health is the comedy gold of the show. Always afraid and sure he’s dying of something, he doesn’t let his fear stop him from being there for his friends.
The other cast members, of which there were many, did a great job as well. The set, though relatively simple, was quite effective. Probably the most enjoyable aspect of the show aside from the performances, however, are the costumes. Rather than try to create actual animal costumes, the actors are dressed as humans with strong suggestions of what creature they are portraying. For instance, the penguins wear black vests, orang bowties, and black ballcaps with orange bills. It’s obvious what they are and it adds an extra bit of fun to the performance.
The cast and crew, under the strong direction of Doug Parks, are to be doubly admired for pulling off this production. They have been forced to work in a different venue than normal for the exciting reason that the Actors Guild is under renovation. Add to that the sheer volume of sickness that they have been fighting—an alarming number of cast members raised their hands when asked who had missed at least one rehearsal in the last week due to illness—and it’s a wonder they’ve gotten the show off the ground at all, let alone as impressively as they have.
The curtain rises at 7:00 pm on Friday, January 24, with subsequent evening performances on January 31 and February 1. Matinee performances will take place at 2:30 pm on January 25 and 26 and February 1. And just one last reminder—because of ongoing renovations taking place at the Guild, this show is being staged at Blennerhassett School. Get your tickets early. You’ll be glad you did! Tickets are available by calling the box office at 304-485-1300 or by going to actors-guild.com.