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Mischievous animal kingdom the focus of Harmony Arts Program’s ‘Madagascar Jr.’

The first performance is on Thursday, March 30, at 12:30 and 7:00 p.m., the second show is on Friday, March 31, at 12:30 and 7:00 p.m. and the third show is Saturday, April 1, at 2 p.m.

The Mae Wilson Theatre will soon host numerous wild and wacky animals as youngsters with the Harmony Arts Program re-create life at the zoo and on the African savannah.  

Youths from six to 14 are working on “Madagascar Jr.,” based on the 2005 Dreamworks movie. The cartoon features Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, Gloria the hippo and hilarious, plotting penguins taking an exotic crack-a-lackin’ adventure across the ocean!

Having spent their lives in blissful captivity with an admiring public and regular meals, Marty makes a birthday wish to see the wild. His wish comes true, and with the help of some mischievous penguins, he and his friends escape New York’s Central Park Zoo and find themselves in the world of the eccentric lemur King Julien of Madagascar. 

As they war with the ferocious Foosa aboriginals and keep Alex from eating them, the story looks at loyalty, friendships and adjusting to new surroundings.

The first performance is on Thursday, March 30, at 12:30 and 7 p.m., the second show is on Friday, March 31, at 12:30 and 7 p.m. and the third show is Saturday, April 1, at 2 p.m.

The matinees are for schools, while the public shows are in the evening. Tickets can be purchased through the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre or Harmony Arts Program website.

Lexie Watson, 10, is excited to play the self-centred King Julien because the lemur’s only motivation is to always party. 

“I really actually really like it because I really want to have fun. It’s really fun to be this guy,” she exclaimed, adding the character matches her energy-driven personality.

The most interesting scene for Watson — this is her third production with Harmony Arts Program — is the musical number “Move it.”

“It’s the best. It’s about just moving it, partying all the time, (and not caring) about the others,” she grinned, adding, “I would recommend (attending the show) because it’s very, very fun and I think it’s really, really cool.”

Participating gives Grace Handey, 12, the opportunity to play different characters and escape her comfort zone. Her favourite parts are when she speaks because she had zero lines last year.

Besides the spring shows, Handey has also participated in the program’s summer camps. 

“It’s a different group of kids sometimes. It’s like we add to the family every time we have a new production because more people will join the bigger production after that, so that’s fun,” she said.

Added Handey, “I think people should come support us because we’ve put a lot of hard work into the show.”

This is the first time this show has been performed in Moose Jaw, said director JanLaree Nelson. She and assistant director/choreographer Kelsey Warren chose the script because it has four main characters and plenty of opportunity to give kids responsibilities. 

“It’s a funny cartoon; it’s a well-known cartoon. Kids like to act what they know,” she remarked.

There are 31 kids in this year’s production, which is a 40-per-cent increase from last year, while that number will likely increase by the same percentage next year, Nelson continued. 

The group started practising in mid-November at Zion United Church for two days a week for three hours each day. Those six hours increased to nine hours a week once they started practising on Saturdays during the final month. 

The youths eat supper together twice a week, while some mothers make hot meals for them once a week. 

“The older ones look out for the younger ones and the younger ones look up to the older ones,” said Nelson. “They’re all friends. They seem to get along great.”

The group will move into the Mae Wilson Theatre on Monday, March 27, for final rehearsals. 

Besides this performance, the company is also running a Readers’ Theatre Spectacular Storytellers Class in May and its day camp in July. More information can be found on the company’s website.

Nelson added that she appreciates the support that several businesses have given to ensure schools and seniors’ homes can attend. The company is also looking for a carpenter to help construct next year’s sets. 

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