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Children's theater presents 'Madagascar, Jr.' on Pleasanton stage

Musical tells tale of zoo escapees who want to see the world

Alex the Lion and his gang of best friends will be on stage for the next two weekends as "Madagascar -- a Musical Adventure, Jr." comes to the Firehouse Arts Center.

Director Bob Shryock noted it is "a dynamic, fun, engaging musical, both for the audience to experience and for the cast to perform."

"Madagascar" tells the story of an escape from the zoo in New York's Central Park by Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo, as well as some wacky penguins, who want to explore the world. They find themselves on an unexpected journey across the ocean, ending up in the madcap world of King Julien's Madagascar, where they have "Got to Move It, Move It," as the song says.

The musical production, which is based on the hit animated film by DreamWorks, is being presented by Pleasanton Civic Arts Stage Company in partnership with Bay Area Children's Theatre, their third big show of the season.

Children's Theatre education director Rebecca Posamentier said they chose the musical because, while it "has characters who are over-the-top silly, it also stays grounded by focusing on the friendship between the main characters and the real-life ups and downs that best friends experience."

"Madagascar, Jr." calls for an ensemble of about 30 actors, with most of the cast for this show from Pleasanton, plus a few members from the greater Tri-Valley area. The age range is 9 to 17, a little older than cast members in recent past productions.

"It is also a challenging (show) to create and put together, which makes it a terrific production for Civic Arts, BACT and Theatre for Young Audiences in general, where learning is as important as 'putting on a good show,'" director Shryock said.

"On top of exercising the students' singing and dancing skills, it challenges the students as actors, making them consider character, relationships, rhythm, setting and style as important elements for a dynamic theater experience," he added.

Although the cast is primarily returning Civic Arts Stage Company students, several of the lead roles are handled by some of this season's 14 new members. As is the tradition with Civic Arts and BACT, the production is split into two casts. For this show, they are called the "city" cast and the "island" cast.

Shryock headed up last year's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Choreographer Sidney Speigel also did "The Sound of Music." And stage manager Zach Goldberg has been with the company for almost two years. Music director is Andrew Mondello, who is new to Civic Arts and runs arts programming for the city.

Learning to 'move it'

What: "Madagascar -- a Musical Adventure, Jr."

Who: Pleasanton Civic Arts Stage Company in partnership with Bay Area Children's Theatre

When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; March 17-26

Where: Firehouse Arts Center, 4444 Railroad Ave.

Tickets: $12, $15, $18; children and seniors, $7, $10, $13. Go to www.firehousearts.org, call 931-4848, or purchase at the box office, 4444 Railroad Ave.

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