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Arts and Entertainment

Springfield Little Theatre's YES Troupe presents "Madagascar, Jr. -- A Musical Adventure"

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(Poster design courtesy Springfield Little Theatre)
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It all starts with Marty the Zebra—he causes all the trouble and commotion in “Madagascar, Jr. – A Musical Adventure,” which opens for a three-week run at the Landers Theatre, 311 E. Walnut, on Thursday March 22nd.  One of Springfield Little Theatre’s YES Troupe players, Andrew Wilson, plays Marty.

Based on the DreamWorks animated film, this new musical is about the residents of New York’s Central Park Zoo.  Most of them, like Alex the Lion (played by Jacob Winter), have spent their lives in contented captivity before an adoring public—Alex in particular is the zoo’s main attraction, practically a rock star.  But Marty the Zebra one day realizes, “Hey, I can get out of this place and go to ‘the wild,’” says actor Andrew Wilson, a local home-schooled freshman last seen on the LT stage as Baby John in “West Side Story.”  “So (Marty) gets out and ends up bringing his friends along with him.” “He’s got moves, he’s got style, he’s got ambition,” adds director Lorianne Dunn.  “He’s got it all.”  He also has a song called “Wild and Free” that expresses his longings.

Marty’s longing for the wild, says Andrew Wilson, “is inspired by the penguins.  One day they’re digging out, and they accidently dig in the wrong hole”—which makes Marty realize that an animal can dig its way out and the zoo and emerge in the “wild”... well, Central Park anyway. Eventually Marty makes his way to the island of Madagascar, off the southeast corner of the African continent—he ends up on a ship in a crate, says Andrew—“after being stunned by Animal Control,” according to Lorianne Dunn.  And, willingly or not, Marty’s zoo friends, led by Alex the lion, find themselves on an unexpected voyage to the madcap world of wacky lemur King Julien and his minions.  The big number in the show is “I Like to Move It,” led by Julien (Wesley Brown) and his army of lemurs.

Asked to characterize Marty’s wants and desires, Andrew Wilson notes that Marty’s display area at the zoo “has this big mural behind him.  It’s a beautiful mural, actually—I don’t know who painted it, but it’s really pretty.  “But it’s a mural of the African wild.  There are many animals on it; there are zebras running across it, and he’s like, ‘There’s more of me?’”  Director Lorianne Dunn calls it “a classic structure... it’s Pippin with a zebra! I gotta find my corner of the sky, there has to be something more. It’s every journey—every teenager can connect with this longing to discover, ‘what else is there?!’, only to find, ‘wow, I have really good friends, I have a really good thing going on.”  “There’s no place like home,” adds Andrew Wilson.

The penguins, says Lorianne Dunn, are played by elementary school age kids “who are just full of spunk and personality.” Overall Dunn is leading a cast of 41.  “For me it’s a relatively small show,” she says.

Unlike many “Broadway Junior” productions which are specially-edited versions of hit shows, “Madagascar Jr.” doesn’t derive from an existing Broadway show, says Lorianne Dunn.  And the original animated film wasn’t a musical at any rate. “They (DreamWorks) invented a ‘Madagascar Live,’ there have been theme-park renditions and cruise ship appearances, but the Junior version is really fabulous for both the youth performers and for family audiences.  It will run at one hour, exactly, and it’s constant, non-stop action and activity.  And the music’s really fun.”  The book for the show is by Kevin Del Aguila, with original music and lyrics by George Noriega and Joel Someillan. “The production value on this show is insane. Chuck Rogers has outdone himself with the set design, and that works in tandem with the lighting by Jamie Bower.  When everything is plugged in, it looks like a Lite Brite.  I think it’s just going to be really visually stunning.”

Performances are Thursdays through Sundays, opening March 22nd: Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm, with 2:00pm matinees Saturdays and Sundays through April 8. Tickets range from $12-$23.  For information call the Landers box office at 869-1334 or visit www.springfieldlittletheatre.org.