If you’re looking for an escape, Spokane Falls Community College drama students are ready to whisk you away on a virtual trip to Madagascar. Their production of ”Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” will be available to stream Friday through Sunday.
Choosing the show was fairly simple, said Ashley DeMoville, director of drama at SFCC. First, “Madagascar” was available with the streaming rights. Second, “we just wanted something fun for the community and for the students. After the year that everyone’s had, we just wanted to play and do something exciting that was light.”
The musical has the same plot as the first “Madagascar” animated movie: Alex the lion lives at the Central Park Zoo with friends Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo.
They enjoy their regular meals and the adoration of the public. But Marty isn’t content with life at the zoo, and an escape ends up with the friends – and a bunch of penguins – on a cargo ship heading to Africa.
The show speaks to the current times, DeMoville said. “Some of the themes of the show have to do with feeling caged, wanting to be out in the wild, wanting to be free,” something many people are feeling after a year of spending lots of time at home.
While they made no changes to the script, the production gives nods to life in 2020 and ‘21. One of those is the opening number, “It’s Showtime,” which features all the animals performing for crowds at the zoo. On screen, the animals look like they’re on Zoom. “I never would have thought that once I’m free of filming over Zoom, I’m still putting it in that world,” DeMoville said.
Other parts of the production look more like a traditional show with the characters interacting on stage. But that had its limitations. COVID-19 protocols meant that everyone had to be masked and keep their distance.
Singing was a particular challenge for the cast. While singing, they had to wear masks and keep even farther apart than usual – 9 to 12 feet. Then, they were only allowed to be in the room singing for 45 minutes before everyone had to leave to air out the room. To make it work, the singing was prerecorded, as was the dialogue, and DeMoville is editing it together with the video.
Throughout the process, the students learned to be flexible, she said. “What we’re doing is not a traditional movie, and it’s not a traditional filming of a staged show. We’re innovating,” she said. “Being able to stretch their creative muscles in that way has been phenomenal learning.”
One thing they enjoyed: being able to try a song, then fix it. “On stage, you get the feedback from the audience, which of course you can never replace, you can’t duplicate in the world we have now,” she said. “But being able to have multiple shots has been a lot of fun for them.”
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