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Madagascar – A Musical Adventure JR. follows all of your favorite crack-a-lackin’ friends as they escape from their home in New York’s Central Park Zoo and find themselves on an unexpected journey to the madcap world of King Julien’s Madagascar. Mo Duffy Cobb tells us more.

At the door, we are greeted a zebra, a giraffe, and 4 bubbly penguins. It is opening day of Dreamworks Madagascar A Musical Adventure Jr. at The Guild in Charlottetown, a show produced and directed by the Lori Linkletter School of Music.

My date is 4-year old Ari, dressed in red, and we romp up to our seats, gathered next to parents, friends, grandparents toting toddlers, young boys in ball caps, and girls in flowered, summer dresses.

The backdrop is African palms, lush mountains, and full Savannah sky. When the curtain opens, we are in New York’s Central Park Zoo, in the Africa section, where Marty the tap dancing zebra  (Samantha Jenkins / Olivia Bruce) is rapping a few hip hop verses with his friend, Alex the Lion.

The show brings with it the central questions we all struggle with — is the grass greener on the other side? The penguins are decided. Tonight, they’re leaving! While Marti remains conflicted, he sings, “Where could I find the wild in me?” He longs for empty grasses, for freedom, for the sovereignty that comes with the wild.

A story of friendship, when Marti the Zebra takes off for the open road, his old buddy Alex (Kristen Thompson / Nathaniel Ing) can’t let him go alone. At the zoo, the couple is best friends – they laugh together, they dance together, and they are there for each other. But will they survive the wild?

Old Monkey (Nathaniel Ing / Kristen Thompson ) shows up for some comic relief as the two organize themselves, barking, “Uncivilized Barbarians! Don’t you know that people are ANIMALS?” The humor isn’t lost on the audience, young and old, as the children are dazzled by the costumes and the adults entertained by the quick wit and larger, overarching themes. Coupled with a hypochondriac giraffe (Jacob Reddin/ Larissa Storey), the laughs keep on coming.   

Of course the escape doesn’t go as planned, and between the train schedules, the media and policemen with oversized tranquilizer guns, the animals end up on a slow boat to a Kenyan Wildlife Reserve. Things really hit home for the animals when they hit Madagascar, with the arrival of King Julian (Kathleen Henthorn) and his posse of self-possessed, bourgeoisie lemurs.

Under the full sun of Madagascar, the troupe begin to experience a wildness they never imagined, disorienting hunger, predators, losing each other, and everything else that comes with “being free” — and the group is forced to make a tough decision.

The cast is an incredible six to sixteen years old, but Artistic Director Lori Linkletter and Choreographer Kennedy Leard have whipped them into shape: theatrics, performance art, voice projection — and the show is nothing short of an incredible accomplishment. Although there won’t be too many rainy days this summer, the show is a welcome addition to the family fun scene on Prince Edward Island, as tourism barrels up and up.

Dreamworks Madagascar A Musical Adventure Jr. plays at The Guild in Charlottetown on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays through August 19th

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