Join the cast of Madagascar, the popular 2005 DreamWorks animated film and its sequels, as they break out of the zoo in Central Park and head out on a tour of the eastern United States, now through May, including a stop at Radio City Music Hall, April 15-24. Their sightseeing expert, AKA set designer is David Gallo, who collaborated with outdoor outfitter Gregg Barnes (costumes), environmental specialist Mike Baldassari (lighting), and audio tour guide Walter Trarbach (sound design) on the 90-minute Madagascar Live, a family-oriented musical starring actors and puppets who cavort on Gallo’s fun-filled sets.
“Designing Madagascar Live was like recreating a full-length film on stage, recreating cinematic moments in a wonderful way,” says Gallo, who likens designing this madcap adventure to a show like Little Mermaid or Shrek. “It’s a very large show for a touring production.” Gallo designed multiple locations ranging from the Central Park Zoo to Times Square, a New York City subway station with a working subway car, a giant ship, and his vision of the island of Madagascar. “The animals escape from the zoo and get onto a train that pulls into the station,” explains Gallo. “The train is on a stage-wide platform, 8’ deep and 9’ high that rolls around. There are scenes on top as well as vignettes below. There are flats that look like the side of a subway car and traveler tracks. The doors pop open and the characters pop out.”
Gallo usually opts for one large set piece in each production he designs, and in this case the platform is used in many configurations, including the animals in rates aboard a big ship, with scenes played on various levels of the ship, which sets off for Kenya. “The penguins take over and change the course of the ship to the Arctic Circle,” Gallo explains. “But the animals end up in Madagascar instead. You have to remember that these are hard-core New Yorkers who find themselves back in the wild.”
Once they hit Madagascar, things start to get wild, from the plotline to the scenery, with multiple scene changes indicated by a series of painted drops and scrims, including a waterfall scrim with glitter for the cascades. “There are 16 full-stage drops, plus scrims, headers and borders,” notes Gallo. “This is not the kind of technology used anymore on Broadway.” Joe Forbes and Scenic Art Studios did the painting (there is none better, says Gallo), while Beyond Imagination built the scenic pieces.
Gallo’s sets are bright and colorful, adding visual pizzazz to the mayhem on stage. “By the end, the animals have resolved their conflicts, Alex the lion and Marty the Zebra are best friends, and they all live happily ever after,” Gallo concludes, adding that the tour has been successful to date: A feather in the cap of DreamWorks Theatricals for their second entry to the theatrical market (after Shrek The Musical). Stay tuned for more on the design of Madagascar Live.