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'Madagascar' encourages audiences to 'Move it! Move it!'

'Madagascar' encourages audiences to 'Move it! Move it!'

Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater and Children's Theater will transform itself into jungles of Madagascar Saturday when Alex the Lion and his cast of kooky zoo friends encourage the audience to "Move it! Move it!"

The downtown Hagerstown theater will present "Madagascar — A Musical Adventure" as part of its Theater for Younger Audiences program. The show opens at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, and runs Saturdays through April 8.

The story follows several zoo animals who escape the Central Park Zoo and end up in Madagascar. There they meet King Julien, a lemur, who rules the jungle. 

Ryan Perry of Hagerstown dons a large furry wig, suit and tail to take on the role of Alex the Lion. 

Perry said he watched the original 2005 DreamWorks animated film of the same name as well as played the X-Box game when the movie came out. And this musical, he said, has "the same story beats."

What Perry likes about his character is how Alex changes throughout the script. 

"He makes this interesting switch from protagonist to antagonist about half way through, which is kind of fun," he said. "When they arrive on the island, he's grown up in the zoo and he's had access to steak. That becomes a driving force for him."

The music is a great aspect about the show, Perry said. 

His favorite song, he said, is "Steak," which is a jazzy number.

"I wasn't sure I was going to like it when we first started it," he said, but said it's now a favorite.

Matthew Crawford of Frederick, Md., plays Melman the Giraffe. 

Crawford likes how he was given the freedom to kind of change who Melman is, but not totally. So instead of a hyper giraffe, Melman is a little bit more mellow. 

"I've enjoyed playing him differently, but also the same," he said. "In the movie he's very high-strung, high-energy, but my character is a little lethargic."

Crawford said "Madagascar" is a great show because "it's fun seeing the different characters and how they interact with each other; how very different the characters can be but also the same. We can find commonalities between different species, so to speak."

As an actor there are challenges when performing for children, but that's the rewarding aspect of it, he said. 

He said it's their job to keep them engaged, "making them feel like they're part of a show not just watching a show."

"That they're full immersed in it and they might feel like one of the lemurs in the island or another animal in the zoo, so they feel really a part of the show," he said.

Jeff Clise of Hagerstown is King Julien the Lemur. 

He said he didn't watch any of the movies beforehand, instead he just became King Julien who Clise said is "lot of fun" and "full of himself."

"I didn't really prepare. I just acted out the lines how he said them because he really just says anything that comes to his mind," he said. 

Like many of the shows the Playhouse stages, "Madagascar" has a good moral for the little ones. 

"I do enjoy the friendship aspect of the whole show," Clise said. "It shows no matter where you are, if you're friends are with you, then you can be happy."

Perry agreed. 

"The moral that you get the most is it's really a tale of friendship," Perry said. "So even when Alex makes this switch to a bad guy, his friends are still there to help him and bring him back to who he is. And I think it's a story of the bonds of friendship and how they pay into who you are."

Most importantly, it's a show about being OK with being you.

"I think that they will see too that it's OK to be who they are and to be themselves when they're around their friends. They don't have to worry about any of their friends in the outside world," Clise said.

If you go ...

WHAT: "Madagascar — A Musical Adventure"
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. Saturdays, Feb. 11 to April 8 
WHERE: The Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater and Children's Theater, 44 N. Potomac St., rear Hagerstown
COST: $20
MORE: For ages 3 and older. No children younger than 3 admitted
CONTACT: Call 301-739-7469 or go to WashingtonCountyPlayhouse.com.

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