Madagascar the Musical at Manchester Opera House – a roaring stage success

Follow four high-maintenance zoo animals as they make a break for freedom... (contains affiliate links)

Abbie Bartlett Abbie Bartlett - 9th February 2024

Madagascar the Musical has officially touched down in Manchester, running at the Opera House for a select few dates this month.

Based on the smash-hit 2005 animation, the family-friendly musical invites audiences along on a journey with ‘all of your favourite crack-a-lackin’ friends’ on their unexpected journey. And we went along to opening night to see what it’s all about.

Walking into the stunning Opera House always fills me with excitement from the off, but this was only heightened by the sea of smiling little faces in fluffy lion ears. Cute.

Just to give a small synopsis if you happened to miss the epic Dreamworks film released 19 years ago (wow that makes me feel old), the storyline is quite simple and easy to follow. Four high maintenance animals escape their zoo with the help of four fugitive penguins, and subsequently find themselves in Madagascar living with some vivacious lemurs.

The musical show follows the story perfectly from costumes to script – everything is recognisable and feels somewhat nostalgic.


The lights go down and the stage is transformed into a New York City skyline, setting the scene of the Central Park Zoo as we patiently wait to see our stars.

The first up-beat number of the night introduces the four main characters, Alex the lion, Morty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo. From the get-go it’s clear this show is aimed at younger children, that’s not to say it can’t be enjoyed by all ages, but perfect for kids aged between four and ten.

Madagascar the Musical in Manchester follows zoo creatures on the run. Credit: Publicity picture
Madagascar the Musical in Manchester follows zoo creatures on the run. Credit: Publicity picture

The first half takes you quickly through the storyline and we meet four crafty Antarctic flightless birds who will ultimately be the driving force for the evening’s plot.

Marty, our zebra friend, then goes through what can only be described as an existential crisis and escapes the zoo for a better life in the wild. His animal companions of course go after him and subsequently end up being captured by animal control, at this point me and the adorable five year old sat next to me are on the edge of our seats.

Now would be a good time to give a mention to the set design, really outstanding and the attention to detail is meticulous. The crate scene, while the characters are being transported by boat, reflects the film perfectly and little details like ‘Transport to Kenya’ give nods to context to where we are in the plot.


After an intense boat hijack from our penguin pals, the theatre plummets into darkness that marks the end of act one.

En route to the toilet I hear an interesting insight from a seven year old, ‘mummy, why would they be sending penguins to Kenya?’. A great question, one of life’s many unanswered questions, but we’ll scoot past that small plot hole because the opening of act one is the real nucellus of the evening.

The set transforms into a beautiful tropical paradise and you can almost feel that warm breeze on your face and the white sand beneath your feet. We’ve made it to the main event – Madagascar.

Now while the news has been flooded with stories of King Charles over the last week, we’ve been sleeping on the fluffy royal legend that deserves every bit of fame and stardom we can offer. That’s right, he’s here, it’s King Julien.

The next five minutes are so full of energy and humour I have actual tears in my eyes. Watching a stage of lemur puppets and zoo animals performing a choreographed rendition of ‘I Like To Move It’ was not on my 2024 bingo card but I am thrilled to have experienced it.


Act two, in general, carries all the energy, the upbeat catchy songs and the colourful staging filling the room with smiling faces.

I am not 100% clear what the climax of the plot is, and realise I can’t remember from the film either, but it really doesn’t matter. The film left kids with a very important message, ‘don’t eat your friends!’ and that’s something they will always remember.

After a remarkable solo from Alex the lion, which could rival the likes of ‘All that jazz!’, the story comes to a happy ending and the full audience are on their feet.

The full run time of the show is one of the shortest I’ve been to with just about 40 minutes for each half, but that’s ideal for kids you just can’t keep still. And grown-ups…

Tickets for Madagascar the Musical in Manchester are on sale here.

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Featured image: Publicity picture