The musical “Madagascar Jr.” comes to life Aug. 11 to 14 at the Players Guild of Dearborn as the preteen Guildlings go wild and bring out their inner animal to tell a laughter-filled tale of friendship and discovery.
When four animals from New York’s Central Park Zoo escape to the real world, they discover it really is a jungle out there, as they end up on the island of Madagascar and must work together to survive.
The DreamWorks stage musical “Madagascar Jr.” features a book by Kevin Del Aguila and original music and lyrics by George Noriega and Joel Someillan.
Director and choreographer Nathan Vasquez said the youth musical brings the animated film’s beloved characters to life onstage with a talented cast who will entertain young and old alike.
“This show provides many laughs for the whole family to enjoy,” he said. “Laughter brings people together, and that’s exactly what the world needs right now, from Dearborn to Madagascar.”
Vasquez said he wanted to avoid putting his actors in animal costumes.
“I came up with different ways to represent the animals the actors portray through clever and hilarious costume designs,” he said.
Vasquez said this is the first time he has directed at PGD, and it has been a wonderful experience, with members of the group kind and supportive throughout the rehearsal process.
He said he was also impressed by the talent of the youth in the cast.
“These kids are so talented and bring so much to their characters, it’s wonderful to watch,” Vasquez said. “It’s not just your simple youth summer production – these young actors are amazing.”
One of the leads, Daniel Tyler, who plays Alex the lion, said that while it has been fun learning to portray and maintain his leonine character during the song and dance numbers, his biggest challenge has been delivering the lines that he personally finds embarrassing.
“Everyone has worked so hard to create a fun and energetic experience,” he said. “I want people to talk about how we brought animated characters to life.”
Payton McEvoy, who plays Gloria the hippo, said she loves her character’s personality, which is challenging for her, as well, since it is her first leading role.
“I hope people are talking about how it was a great experience, and bring back their friends and family to share the experience,” she said.
Griffin Gardner, who plays Martin the zebra, said his role is different than any he has ever played before.
“He is sassy, and I get to make the audience laugh,” he said. “He goes through lots of emotions in the show.”
Gardner hopes audiences enjoy the show and the hard work the cast put into the production.
“It is very funny, family-friendly and there is a lot of great music,” he said. “Theater makes everyone feel good, whether you are in it or you are watching it.”
Isabella “Lizz” Downey, who plays Melman the giraffe, said it is fun to play a character that makes others laugh.
“If they like the movie, they will like the play,” she said. “It is a great way to have some fun and laugh.”
Others in the cast include Maggie Varitek as Mason, Skylar Perryman as the Skipper, Jordyn Perryman as the Private, Peyton Hudson Dowd as Kowalski and Sawyer Watson as Rico.
Also: Holden Brace as King Julien, Aileen McNamara as Maurice, Jonah Bauer as Mort, Samantha Bush as Zookeeper Zelda, Cooper Sedore as Zookeeper Zeke, Samantha Frazier as Zookeeper Zoe, Monika Cochran as Lee, Isla Dowhan as Lynn and Savior Borg as Lars.
Musical direction was provided by Gerald Hymer, with Cat Long as the assistant director.
Show times are 7:30 p.m. Aug. 11 to 13, and 2:30 p.m. Aug. 14, at the Players Guild of Dearborn, 21730 Madison, Dearborn.
Tickets are $15, and are available online, at playersguildofdearborn.org, by calling 313-561-TKTS and at the door.