Karim Zeroual leads the cast of the UK tour of brand-new Madagascar the Musical as the hilarious King Julien when it visits Newcastle Theatre Royal (Wed 10 – Sat 13 Jul 2024).

Best known for anchoring CBBC and reaching the final of Strictly Come Dancing in 2019; we spoke to Karim about taking on the role of everyone’s favourite eccentric Lemur!

How do you feel about taking on the iconic role of King Julien?

I’m hugely excited and it feels like a real honour. I’ve not seen the stage show before, although I know and love the films, so it’s quite nice to bring my own twist to the role. I have been honing in on what King Julien might actually be like as a human – which may sound a bit ‘method’ but I’m trying to get some insight into what he is like and why, and how he has pulled together this ‘crew’ where whatever he says goes! There is a sense of responsibility in bringing to life a character that everyone knows so well and loves which is a little bit scary too, but I think I’m doing a good job so far!

King Julien is such fun to play. Theres a lot of room for playing with the character and improvisation which is great. I also get to perform arguably the most iconic song from the show – Move it Move it. It’s a real laugh, it kind of feels like a mini rave on stage! I feel very privileged to have this part and to be honest I think it’s really well suited to me…

Are you telling us there is a little bit of King Julien in you?

I’m not sure I want to say it, but I think there actually is you know! I’m quite small and can be a little flamboyant and a bit cheeky and naughty, so I think some traits yes, maybe just a hint! I also play Zeke at the start of the show. He is a zookeeper who introduces all the animals. That feels a bit like a home from home for me, as it’s something I have done for all my career as a presenter which is really nice. Playing a human role, I’m able to show a little bit more of ‘me’ – although in character. It’s great to play these two separate parts, one which is more like me and the other where I’m really in character and hardly recognizable.

Without giving to much away, is it true you are having to test your dancing skills again – only this time on your knees?

Yes, I have kneepads and I’m sure by the end of the tour I will build a bit of resilience and have the toughest knees in the world of musical theatre!

When King Julien appears it’s a real ‘moment’ which marks a gear change in the show as the Zoosters find themselves thrown into this crazy new world of Madagascar having been used to the creature comforts of the Zoo. They’re surrounded by these non-conforming animals who are just wild! It’s hilarious as the rest of the cast tower over me playing a mad, delusional lemur who thinks and behaves as though he is king of the universe.

Is King Julien your favourite character in the show?

He is amazing and I have some great lines and fun scenes but honestly all of the characters in the show are brilliant. They are all so individual and all bring something totally different to the stage, much like the characters in the film. Each character has something really special about them no one really outshines anyone else. I do have to say though, the Penguins are hilarious! What do you enjoy most about touring?
I’m most excited to be on the stage performing live and hopefully really getting the audience going! I love TV and have done it for a long time and it’s one of my many passions, but there is no feeling like being on stage and having that immediate reaction from an audience.

To be able to take this incredible show up and down the country is awesome. We get to visit some fantastic places and the lovely thing about touring is that each audience in each city is like a brand-new show for us. You get a whole new buzz every time.

Who do you think will enjoy Madagascar?

It’s a family show but I think there is something for everyone. There are some cheeky parts and King Julien definitely has some of those moments. Also, everyone knows and loves the film, every generation still knows it, and it’s always popping up on the TV and streaming services! To see some of these iconic characters played out in real life is just fantastic. The concept and characters never seem to get old.

Aside from getting to Move it Move it with King Julien why do you think people should come and see the show?

This show has everything; superb singing, dancing, acting, alongside the most beautiful costumes and amazing puppetry, it’s colourful, it’s bright and it’s funny and the talent on the stage is incredible. If you want a good night out, a laugh and to leave the theatre with a smile on your face this is for you. It’s a show for all the family whether audiences bring their Grandma, Great Grandma, Kids, Nieces, Nephews or a group of friends, I’m sure audiences will have a great night.

You can join Karim and his Zooster Friends Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, Gloria the Hippo and those hilarious, plotting penguins as they bound onto stage in the musical adventure of a lifetime. Filled with outlandish characters, adventure galore and an upbeat score, you’ll have no choice but to “Move It, Move It!”

Madagascar: The Musical plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Wed 10 – Sat 13 Jul 2024. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

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