Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, Gloria the hip hip Hippo and, of course, those hilarious, plotting penguins…. the whole gang will be there in Bow Valley High School’s musical production of Madagascar: A Musical Adventure, Jr.

Tickets are now on sale for the musical, based upon the smash hit DreamWorks Animation motion picture that holds laughs for the whole family. There are six performances in all, starting Wednesday, Feb. 6 through to Feb. 9 at the Cochrane RancheHouse Theatre, 101 RancheHouse Rd.

Prepare to be transported to a beautiful jungle world of magic and music, where anything is possible. It is a show of friendship, laughs, mayhem, growth, and excitement and it will blow you away.

Madagascar: A Musical Adventure Jr. follows these 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.

Bringing the popular characters of Madagascar to the RancheHouse stage was done with Cochrane’s young family population in mind, explains director Adrienne Fossheim, who has been instructing drama and performing arts at Bow Valley High for five years.

“One of the reasons is the demographic of Cochrane is kids. There are so many kids and families and we want to reach out to them with a really fun show.”

There are about 65 students involved in every aspect of the production, from the ones you see on stage to those providing vital backstage and technical support. Along with high school staff and volunteers, they’ve been working hard since September to make these performances memorable.

Certainly, hard work, but it’s clearly a labour of love for the students.

Standing high above them all are the students playing Melman. They’ll be performing their roles on 18” stilts.

Jared Somerville, the Sr. Melman, will be a towering figure on stage. He’s 6’3” without the stilts and will nearly be 8’ tall when he straps them on.

“I’m really high up there,” says Somerville. “When I first started I was a little bit scared but you get the hang of it.”

Yet when the musical casting call was announced he knew it was the role for him.

“I just knew I had to try for Melman because back in my football days that was my nickname because I was the tallest guy,” says the grade 12 student.

Jett Devost is the Jr. Melman says the stage has a “Melman safe zone" specially made for their part in the show.

“We have enough time to get on and off without interrupting the performance.”

Riley Paffrath and Liam Richardson, both grade 11 students, are two of the penguins who will be getting yuks for their antics.

“We’re kind of the comic relief so we can go out there and just be as funny as possible and we get to do some improv,” explains Paffrath.

“Us and two other boys joined performing arts together and we’ve been having a good time doing the different shows,” he continues. “It’s a bit different and a friendlier show this year and we’re having a good time with it.”

Richardson is loving performing arts.

“It’s almost like family because we meet up so much. We are such a close-knit group and everybody supports each other. You really see the love during the shows.”

Grade 10 student Sophie Harris is playing the Jr. Marty (Zebra) and says it’s a blast to embrace this cool character that’s a hopeless optimist.

“The biggest challenge is being able to sing as well as I possibly can. I’m trying to push myself to be the best I can be while embracing this character.”

Grade 12 student Tianna Davidson is technical director and has performed in a previous Bow Valley production.

“There’s a lot involved, but it’s lots of fun and I really enjoy it,” she says. “My tech team is amazing.”

Assistant director Megan Pitman is in her third years in performing arts and she juggles many tasks to help the actors feel their best on stage. She says there seems to be less pressure with this production after last year's “Grease” one of the longest running Broadway musicals of all time that later became a hit movie.

“I feel like we have so much more fun backstage. Everyone is cheering even if they aren’t on stage. Everyone is doing dances behind the scenes when they aren’t on, everyone is singing and everyone is having so much fun even behind the scenes. I think that differs a lot from last year. It’s so awesome to see all the happy faces. It’s a team effort.”

For some, it’s opened the door to pursuing post-secondary studies in performing arts.

Grade 12 student Mackenzie-Lee Bussey is the head choreographer and was part of a competitive dance team when her family resided in Fort McMurray. She hadn’t danced for a few years when Fosshiem recruited her.

“I love my role so much,” she says. “Through this year I discovered that I want to do theatre with my life.”

Jacob Hill, also a grade 12 student, didn’t take part in performing arts until he was encouraged to join in grade 11. He had a support role last year and it was enough to catch the bug and work hard to land a lead role this year.

“She (Fossheim) has influenced my love for this so much that I’m actually going to Lethbridge to pursue fine arts and dramatic acting so that one day I could also become a drama teacher or maybe even get on Broadway,” says Hill.

The Madagascar production has opened a new door for Bow Valley performing arts students. For the first time, there is both a junior and senior cast. By doing so, it allows everyone to take the stage, plus there’s a built-in mentorship for the junior cast, explains Fossheim.

“I really believe in building those opportunities within the program,” she explains.

The senior cast takes to the stage on Wed. Feb. 6 opening night, then reprise their roles for two performances on Friday, Feb. 8. The Junior Cast will be performing on Thurs. Feb. 7.

On the final day, Feb. 9, they will join together for two performances.

Tickets and more details are available at the Bow Valley High School office and at the door. They are also available through Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/madagascar-a-musical-adventure-junior-tickets-53653601366 (service fee applies).

There are only 200 tickets available for each show, so act quickly. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students/child.

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