If it's possible for a relatively small provincial city to have an over-abundance of youthful talent, happily this one's guilty of it.

Need proof? Then high tail it off to Madagascar, not the island off Africa's coast but its on-stage facsimile Madagascar - A Musical Adventure Jr, whose cast of 58 kids and teenagers will leave some more seasoned players looking over their shoulders; a new generation of all-singing, all-dancing performers are in our midst.

That some are as young as 10, none older than 18, is a tribute to the amazing talent pool director Natasha Benfell, choreographer Joshua McGrath and vocal director Connor Hignett have tapped into.

The plot's not complex. New York's Central Park Zoo inhabitants Alex the Lion (Mitch Jones), Marty the Zeebra (note the double "e", true to the American way) played by Awatea Waiariki-Thompson), hip hop hippo Gloria (Iesha Thomas) and Melman the Giraffe (Tamahou Smith) yearn for their wild natural habitats, as do a posse of penguins.


They escape, are tranquilised then crated up for deportation to a Kenyan reserve but fate intervenes. Our animal heroes pitch up on Madagascar where Alex finds he's not the only king of the jungle, his opposite number's lemur leader King Julien (Joshua McGrath, choreographer turned lead player).

All these top of the bill performers are brilliant, McGrath outstanding.

The fun and games are off to a roaring start, the New Yorkers aren't happy chappies and they're hungry – seaweed sticks simply don't cut it with their carnivorous palates. The plot twists and turns but as with all good stories everything works out well in the end.

Even the most hard-bitten theatre aficionado would find it difficult to fault these youngsters' professionalism and all-round abilities, chorus line and backing dancers included.

With the exception of Waiariki-Thomas and Thomas who cut their performing teeth in Rotorua Musical Theatre's mid-2018 Dreamgirls production, few have previous musical theatre backgrounds; more than one has a disability. Your reviewer only knows this because Benfell confided it post-performance.

So is this technicolour show really as good as we've intimated?

The pride stamped across Benfield and parents' faces says it all. Madagascar Jr the Rotorua way is very, very good indeed, a definite sure-fire summer holiday winner.

A footnote for littlies' minders: Madagascar Jr's running time won't keep them out of bed too long and they'll be so enraptured you won't hear a grizzle out of them.

The details
What: Madagascar - A Musical Adventure JR (Junior version).
Where: Energy Events Centre.
When: January 10-20.
Cost: Tickets $15-$20 available from Ticketmaster.co.nz.